Systematic Waste

Corporate capitalism operates — normally and increasingly so — by selling people more stuff than rational design requires. The automobile is a linchpin of the system. It is also the most wasteful mass-distributed product in human history, by a wide margin. This picture, from the Muenster, Germany city planning office illustrates depicts the amount of stuff (and, hence, space) involved in using cars versus buses or bikes:

waste depicted

It would have taken an massive, intentional, coordinated effort (ala Vance Packard‘s rocket blasts of excess goods) to have squandered more energy and materials than has been wasted on automobiles-ueber-alles in America. It’s going to be understood as one of our country’s many huge criminalities, if we somehow figure out how to survive its coming implosion, which promises economic and military chaos.

Hall of Shame: The Automobile

It would take an intentional effort to invent a mode of getting around town that is more wasteful and expensive than the personal auto.  Corporate capitalism, of course, is quite literally addicted to cars’ ongoing reign over life in the United States, for the self-same reason: their lusciously profitable wastefulness, fragility, expense, and marketability. This undiscussed institutional addiction promises genuine (and not happy) history-ending consequences, barring radical democratic rebellion in the next decade or two by still somnolent ordinary Americans — rebellion that will have to far, far transcend this kind of self-congratulating ostrich behavior:

a common conclusion...

Presently, I am completing a book on this core crisis within our culture, which is the reality I call “the consumer trap” and James Howard Kunstler calls “the long emergency.” (Note: These are one and the same disasters.) My book is forthcoming in about a year from Monthly Review Press, and will be titled Automobiles Ueber Alles: Capitalism and Transportation in the United States. Stay tuned here for more tidbits from that effort.