Zen and the Art of Traffic Control

During my time in Vietnam, I was convinced that there were two major threats to life and limb: the Viet Cong and Saigon traffic. Now, I am pretty sure that I was right about the Viet Cong, but Iosue Andreas, The Western Confucian, points out that I may have totally missed the boat on Saigon traffic. Appearances to the contrary, the anarchy of Saigon traffic may have been a lot safer than the highly controlled traffic of an American city. His reflections can be found at LewRockwell.com.


John Kindley Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 4:04:00 PM CST  

LOL. Those are some pretty beautiful reflections, really.

If I had a stronger sense of self-importance, I'd be tempted to think some of my "anarchism" has rubbed off on you :)

Mike Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 9:56:00 PM CST  

I spent two weeks in Vadodara India in November. It had similar, terrifying (at first traffic) - hundreds of motorbikes, scooters, rickshaws, cars, trucks and pedestrians swirling around the roads with no seeming control. In a city of 1 million people there were two traffic lights, both blinking yellow.

Yet in the entire time, I saw exactly two accidents - once was actually a breakdown and one was minor fender bender. The same cannot be said for even small cities (like Ottawa, Canada, where I live) - in two weeks I see a traffic accident at least once per day.



Iosue Andreas Sartorius Friday, January 18, 2008 at 7:52:00 AM CST  

Thank you for the link.

Here's a post of mine shortly after the article was published with reflections like Mike's, sent to me from readers with experiences in various parts of the so-called Third World: Anarchy, or Spontaneous Order, on the Streets of the World.

John Médaille Friday, January 18, 2008 at 10:02:00 PM CST  

John, the problem with you anarchists is that everything is "all or nothing," black or white. You think that because I don't think we need Hilary Clinton to help us cross the street, I must be a latent anarchist.

No, not really. There's a middle position.

John Kindley Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 4:05:00 PM CST  

"John, the problem with you anarchists is that everything is "all or nothing," black or white."

I think that's an uncharitable and unreasonable interpretation of the comments I've made on this blog. It's not "all or nothing" for me. The passage I cited from Thoreau shows that. After a discussion of anarchism re: licensure and your perceived need for an authority that sets the ground rules for the market, you came out with a post implying that you were open to the idea that not only do we not need Hillary Clinton to help us cross the street, maybe we don't need government to set the ground rules for traffic control at all. (Which is generally considered a pretty radical libertarian position.) The analogy one can make to the market seemed obvious to me. Excuse me if I was so pretentious as to imagine you'd come around to the idea that maybe the ideas I was expressing weren't totally groundless and insane.

John Médaille Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 11:30:00 PM CST  

It seems to me, John, that you are being a bit over-sensitive. But if you feel the remark was uncharitable, I apologize. Nevertheless, uncharitable or not, I cannot get over the observation that with the libertarians, everything becomes an absolute: it is not that some or even most taxes are unjust, all must be unjust; it is not that some govmint is bad, all must be bad.

I am deeply suspicious of absolutism in temporal matters. And I am deeply suspicious of political diktats that have no parallel in human history. If any of this was to work, it seems to be we would have seen some samples of it by now. But we haven't, which leads me to suspect that we won't.

Man is a social animal who has always recognized some authority in his community, and had some public purse for the common good.

The value of libertarianism is that it points out the danger of these things; the problem with libertarianism is that it refuses to recognize the virtue of these things.

At least that's my opinion.

John Kindley Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 12:29:00 AM CST  

John, fair enough. I wasn't terribly offended by your comment. I just thought it unfairly represented what I've been saying. Even your latest characterization of libertarianism . . . "it is not that some or even most taxes are unjust, all must be unjust; it is not that some govmint is bad, all must be bad" . . . is contrary to the conception of libertarianism I've been espousing.

I'll be the first to admit that I take a theoretical, philosophical, moral approach to politics rather than an economic approach (though I'll tentatively bring my rudementary understanding of economics to bear), which may tend to come across as "absolutist." I appreciate the advanced knowledge other people have about economics and political details and humbly try to learn from it. I need to augment my understanding in these areas.

People have done historical examinations of seemingly viable and successful societies that were for the most part anarchist. David Friedman's take on Iceland (medieval area, I think it is) and Murray Rothbard's take on colonial Pennsylvania come to mind. (I've read the latter but not the former.) Again, I try to take a principled approach to the direction I think we should go, but that doesn't mean I disagree your conservatism re: the unknown dangers of trying to radically change society overnight (which in any event is not likely to happen, unless our society does indeed naturally fall under the weight of its own corruption a la the Roman Empire . . . but that too was a slow process).

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