28 May 2006

Transport: a means not an end

Bangkok is a particularly dire example of a city that has sacrificed much of its quality of life to road transport. In this it's not unique, of course, but it is particularly sad to such large numbers of such exceptionally decent, dignified and (for the most part) gentle people living in the ever-shrinking interstices of such a hideous, brutal infrastructure. Most Thais have no, or very limited access to cars, but that doesn't stop the government building more roads and imposing its own view of development on society.

Perverse subsidies to the road lobby are common the world over; add in the subsidies to oil extraction and consumption and you get the financial cost of our governments' obsession with road transport. Other costs are equally grievous: the deaths, mutilations, noise pollution and air pollution.  

Once this sort of thing starts it's self-perpetuating. The perverse subsidies strengthen the power of the road lobby to oppose alternatives. Busy roads make it more dangerous and expensive to get about in any other way.

How would a Social Policy Bond regime differ? It would not necessarily oppose easier transport links, but it would see that they are not an end in itself. They are at best a means to other ends and a bond regime would target these ends. A bond regime would focus on genuine outcomes: things that matter to people - real people, as distinct from corporations.

As it is though, we get the typical government view of how society should develop: along the lines that favour the big and global at the expense of the small and local.

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