“The people of the United States are in a sense becoming a nation on a tiger. They must learn to consume more and more or, they are warned, their magnificent economic machine may turn and devour them.” — Vance Packard, The Waste Makers (1960)
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:
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.