And Some Votes Against
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Last weekend, I wrote about the mostly car-free German community of Vauban and I received lots of great responses both by email and on our blog (http://www.iconoclast-investor.com). Thanks to everyone who wrote in, the letters gave me a lot to think about and some even made me laugh. Today, I'm going to share some of those responses with you and I invite you to submit a response of your own if you haven't yet. If you missed last week's issue, you can read it here: http://www.cabot.net/Issues/CWA/Archives/2009/05/Car-Free-World.aspx
Now, for something to ponder during your long Memorial Day weekend ...
"Cheap energy flattened and shrank our world. Mandating a green utopia (Vaubanizing) may provide a fine model, but it won't ramp up until energy gets very expensive. If gasoline were $20/gallon and it cost $2,000 per person for a round trip flight to visit your parents at Christmas, the world would begin to adapt organically, rather than by fiat or from idealism. We WILL be cursed by our descendants for squandering the bison, the rainforest, and the oil."
"This would be a great idea if we were not so scattered. In our area, even the buses do not go where we often need to go, so a car is almost a necessity to get around. Wish our city fathers were more alert to what we really need."
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
"Your dream place where most people walk or ride their bicycle to work, shop, church, etc., exists on a large scale, just visit the Netherlands and you will see how that works.
"The key is land use planning, infrastructure friendly to pedestrians and cyclists as well as a good and reliable and affordable public transportation system and an overcrowded road system that takes the fun out of car use.
"Go and have a biking vacation, you will love it.
"Sub-urban sprawl is not allowed in general."
(Thanks for the reminder, I've been to the Netherlands twice and enjoyed it very much!)
"The problem is getting from our current culture to the new one. It has to be done by degrees.
"Firstly, private car ownership should be gradually made more difficult; costs, driving tests etc.
"Secondly, there would have to be a more flexible, accommodating public transport system (including taxis). This should take care of all requirements.
"Eventually, private car ownership will be banned (a difficult proposition for Americans). At that stage, a superb transportation system will be in place.
"The benefits will be
a) Cleaner air,
b) More positive social intercourse,
c) Less deaths by accident,
d) Less crime,
e) Healthier lifestyle.
"How does that sound?"
"I live in west Texas 50 miles from everything, that includes gas, post office, church. It is hard to imagine not driving."
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"I'm 75 and I think this is a very good idea. It is tough in big cities because of the safety issue. Too many nuts driving cars. All of the stated benefits are legit. Let's face it, Americans are lazy. Americans are vain. Most Americans will choose the easiest way, given a choice. I do see many of my neighbors out walking early in the morning though. Maybe there is hope. I believe it is going to take an economic crisis of some sort to make us do it though."
"For the younger people that place is almost heaven, but and this is a large but when you age or have health problems it is not as much fun to walk to where you need to be."
"A nutty environmental fantasy. Even Catalina uses golf carts for local transportation. It is also a small, tight community with very limited amenities. America didn't become great by living like ants in a nest. Bicycles are great for kids and athletic types but a hazard for the older people and automobile drivers. They don't stay in their lanes, thinking the white line is to be driven on instead of the outer limit of their lane. There is plenty of oil to be had if we really want to get it. We don't need to become slaves to the social designers."
"Great idea--but with problems for some of us. Since I'm retired, commuting to work is not a problem. However, my source of wood is something that requires that I own a truck. Heating with wood is a great way to save money as well as use a renewable fuel. However, it also requires hauling the wood from my woodlot to my home (or buying it in which case negates the savings).
"There is also the issue of hobbies. In my case--hunting and fishing. Actually, the bulk of my driving is used for bringing home wood or traveling to places to hunt and/or fish. Sorry, public transportation is not an option and, since my destination is often over 50 miles, biking and/or walking is also out. Not only that, but walking around my hometown while carrying a gun is frowned upon.
"Looks like I will be "car bound" for what is left of my life--but thanks for the fine idea anyway.
"I do bike in the summer to get groceries and for exercise."
"Anyway, while the residents of Vauban may not need cars to go to work, to shop or go elsewhere in their town, I bet many of them own cars. Germans love to drive almost as much as they love to vacation. And they often use cars to get to their vacation destinations. I know; I lived in Germany for a year, and visited it at least a dozen times."
Chevy Chase, Maryland
"Excellent article on Vauban. Small cities like Vauban exist everywhere. I am from Germany. In cities like Houston (were I live now), it definitely would not work because everything is so spread out. One city I know where something like that exists is
Beaver Creek, Colorado. In Frankfurt, Germany, even in the suburbs, they have the grocery stores in the neighborhoods, that's some of the people's social time when they see their neighbors shopping for what they need for the day. Going downtown they take a street-car or U-Bahn underground transport."
"In America, we shop for best value even if it means driving to Wal-Mart or Costco. The notion of taking public transport to the center of a small town and paying inflated local merchant prices will not work here. This is a non-starter in free market economy."
Tall Timbers, Maryland
"I am disabled, thank you for thinking of me in your commentary, and have never been able to drive a car (I became disabled at 14). I had wanted to be able to drive ever since, but now that I've seen people coping with ridiculous gas prices, seen what my older sister does to our cars, seen the luck that my family has with cars, seen what destruction cars can cause (our first dog got hit when she was 6 months old), not only am I not sure if I would trust myself with 1,500 pounds of steel; I don't think I want to drive. Maybe I'll live somewhere that I can take public transportation (like Vauban) or just take taxis everywhere (Green taxis, too!)"
In case you didn't get a chance to read all the issues of Cabot Wealth Advisory this week and want to catch up on any investing and stock tips you might have missed, I have links below to each issue.
Cabot Wealth Advisory 5/18/09 - Draco vs. Machiavelli
On Monday, Timothy Lutts responded to a reader's letter by clarifying the difference between the words draconian and Machiavellian in relation to market manipulation. Tim also wrote about what's right with America and why he's optimistic about the future. Tim finished by writing about two emerging markets stocks. Featured stocks: Tata Motors (TTM) and NetEase (NTES).
Cabot Wealth Advisory 5/21/09 - Art, Stocks and Money
On Thursday, Paul Goodwin wrote about an "incognito" art sale held by the Santa Monica Museum of Art every year and how it relates to the various ways people approach investing. Paul steered away from investing for a bit to tell you about the benefits of donating blood. Back to investing, Paul closed by writing about an interesting Chinese jewelry stock. Featured stock: Fuqi International (FUQI).
Until next time,
Editor of Cabot Wealth Advisory
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