Richard Wolff on the Auto Industry

Richard Wolff on the Auto Industry


Let me turn now to the automobile
industry, a topic we return to often
because so much of the last century of
American history has been shaped around
the private automobile. Let’s begin this
way: the private car is the largest
single cause of air pollution in our
society. What comes out of the tailpipe
of that car is what pollutes our air
more than anything else. The automobile
is the largest killer of Americans, in
car accidents. [It’s] way more deadly than Wars
or any other cause. And I won’t even go
into the injuries that it causes. And I
won’t even go into the use of fossil
fuel and the use of all kinds of
resources to make all these cars. But it
was always a most inefficient way to
move people, or to move produce, or to
move anything, the private car. It would
have been much cheaper, per person per
mile of transport, to have a really good
rail system, a really good street railway
system, a really good bus system. And we
know exactly how more efficient it would
be because most other countries in the
world rely on those systems more than we
do here. And that’s not because Americans
are peculiar, it’s because the private
automobile, producing something that
would sit in your garage, or your
driveway, or somewhere, most of the time
and only be used occasionally, costing
you a fortune to fuel it, to insure it,
and to buy it in the first place,
this was profitable for car companies.
And that’s why we have that system. It’s
even famous that the car companies used
their profits early in the 40s and 50s
to get rid of street railways, to
hamstring politicians so they wouldn’t
fund the railroads the way they once had
so that the railway could be a
competition. No, we have the private car
because it was profitable, even though it
was wasteful of resources and deadly. But
now that the capitalist system in the
United States is in hard times (well, you
may not have noticed that if you’re in
the top 5% but for the rest of us…)
all of that has to stop. That’s why we
have car sharing now.
We’re gonna call it a nice name because
it’s crazy to have the car sitting in
the driveway. It’s much more efficient to
share them. Even more efficient it would
be, to have public transportation. But we
would have to defeat the profit-driven
private car companies beyond what we
have done so far to get to anything like
a rational way to not waste resources in
moving people and objects around our society.

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