It is fashionable among religious and political liberals to bemoan the existence of automobiles, particularly because their environmental impact. I do it all the time. Of course, if you’re like me, you’re familiar with various counter arguments that tell us why cars are not so bad as all that:– we know that suburban sprawl began long before the automobile age, and so doesn’t require automobiles — and that having automobiles was better than using horses for transportation purposes, since the exhaust put out by horses in cities is arguably more noisome and a greater public health issue than automobile exhaust, and the maltreatment of horses when they were used primarily as transportation is arguably an ethical problem as serious as that of sprawl.
However, I don’t see many of us paying attention to what might be called the cultural argument in favor of cars. This argument is presented quite well by Agatha Christie in her autobiography:
Oh, the joy that car [the first car she owned] was to me! I don’t suppose anyone nowadys could believe the difference it made to one’s life [to own a car for the first time]. To be able to go anywhere you chose; to places beyond the reach of your legs — it widened your whole horizon. One of the greatest pleasures I had out of the car was going down to Ashfield and taking mother out for drives. She enjoyed it passionately, just as I did. We went to all sorts of places — Dartmoor, the house of friends she had never been able to see because of the difficulties of transport — and the sheer joy of driving was enough for both of us. I don’t think anything has given me more pleasure, more joy of achievement, than my dear bottle-nosed Morris Cowley.
Yes, I hate suburban sprawl, and I dislike having to commute to work by car,– but I too, like Agatha Christie, love to drive. And I have found that it is no use to me personally to address the first two points without acknowledging that last point. What about you?