Reverse Frog?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Some time back, before I got consumed with the endeavor that took me away from blogging earlier this week, I skimmed over an HBL posting whose title (repeated above) was a riff on the parable of the boiled frog. The basic point was that cultural change can occur imperceptibly, and that, over a span of decades it is possible to discern some improvements to American culture.

An article from Jewish World Review indirectly reminded me of that point because the prospect of gleaning some indication of cultural change is what induced me to read it. That didn't happen, though: There are many reasonable explanations, good and bad, for such a decision on a personal level, and nothing jumps out at me as a dominant cultural reason to draw a conclusion one way or another.

Still, the fact that fewer sixteen-year-olds are applying for driver's licenses lately is interesting. Among the good reasons for putting off this rite of passage that could be a sign of positive cultural change (if it were widespread enough) reminds me of myself when I was a kid:

Melody Hornbeck, 17, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., said she wasn't ready to get her permit at 15.

"I was mature enough to tell myself I wasn't mature enough to drive," said Hornbeck.

She said a friend of hers rear-ended another car while fiddling with a cell phone headset.
I saw too many kids ahead of me in school start driving and stop doing well in class, and I didn't want to get caught up in all the distractions that seemed to go with driving. So I waited a year, although that put me in the driver's seat at sixteen anyway, since the driving age in agrarian Mississippi was 15 in those days.

On the other hand, I am concerned that this trend could be an indication that people are starting to undervalue the independence that driving symbolizes. Part and parcel of such a trend would be that it reflects an upswing in worst-case thinking.
"A lot of teens are very scared to drive," said Craig Emerson, owner of Abbott's Florida Driving School, which offers lessons in Palm Beach and Broward counties. "We haven't seen a complete drop-off but more are waiting."
Fortunately, part of this concern seems to stem from the unfortunate habit many people seem to have developed of texting while at the wheel, so there is some hope that we aren't raising a generation of "safety" ninnies.

I see the article as inconclusive on its own, but still worth a look.

-- CAV

PS: Oh, yes. The endeavor I mentioned above was, by all indications, successful. But I'll have to leave it at that for now.


Dismuke said...

Perhaps they are becoming good little Leftists who see driving as something primarily for backward bumpkins who drink the sort of coffee served at truck stops and gas stations. And, if you think about it, if you don't drive, you have no need to go to a truck stop and gas station and, therefore, do not have to intermingle with the sort of creatures who patronize such places.

Virtuous people aspire to belong to the self-proclaimed "creative class" and choose to live in "urban villages" located in "walkable cities" where they can get around by bicycle and where everybody regards automobiles as an evil scourge on humanity and supports local legislation making ownership of one as difficult and costly as possible. Such "urban villages" only feature small, specialty, mom and pop retail establishments with high prices and limited selection and are thus unblighted by the nearby presence of an evil Wal-mart and the sorts of people who patronize it. And people in those "urban villages" tend to live in tiny, tiny apartments which would be considered substandard in terms of size in even the poor areas in places such as Texas where everybody drives and they get to pay rents for those tiny apartments that would, in Texas, pay for the mortgage on a sizable house. But nobody complains about the hit to the standard of living because they are in an oasis surrounded by fellow virtuous "creative class" beautiful people who do not drink the sort of coffee served in truck stops and gas stations.

Perhaps that is why they are not getting drivers' licenses. YIKES!

Gus Van Horn said...

This made me laugh out loud, as it is completely true!

"And people in those 'urban villages' tend to live in tiny, tiny apartments which would be considered substandard in terms of size in even the poor areas in places such as Texas where everybody drives and they get to pay rents for those tiny apartments that would, in Texas, pay for the mortgage on a sizable house."

More than double the rent for less than half the space!

While it's nice not having to fool around with a car here in Boston, I do always make sure I am not confused with such individuals when I discuss the convenience I now enjoy.

HaynesBE said...

RE: delayed drivers licences.
What I have seen amongst my kids and their friends, the kids are less motivated partly b/c their parents are willing to drive them everywhere. Many are intimidated by driving...some of which may be a reflection of over-protective parenting. It may not be all irrational: traffic is a lot heavier than when I was 16. Additionally,
there's lots of restrictions which may make it driving less--like not being able to drive anyone but yourself for 1 year after getting your license and an 11:00 curfew.

Several parents I know don't want to pay the high cost of insuring a young driver. In California, until you are 18, not only must you take Driver's Ed, you must also fork out $360+ for a "professional" driving lesson before you are allowed drive with your own kid!

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for your input on this. We certainly have a multifactorial thing going on here, but I hadn't considered the idea that some states, like California, even regulate the process of teaching kids how to drive! (I suspect this of having shades of anarcho-tyranny, with the law-abiding having to make the choice you mention and a combination of the less responsible and the more rebellious simply ignoring the law. (What a great choice this forces on those who want their kids to learn how to drive: Throw money away or risk teaching your kids disrespect for the law.)

Over-protective parenting is a bad cultural factor, and, sadly, it doesn't surprise me much to hear about it as a contributing factor. That problem is so bad that I've heard a new term coined for it in another context entirely: "helicopter parents."

Inspector said...


That is absolutely, exactly what I fear this trend is based on. I mean, you really hit the nail on the head in describing what I was thinking.

Now let's just hope it's not the case.

Dismuke said...

"While it's nice not having to fool around with a car here in Boston, I do always make sure I am not confused with such individuals when I discuss the convenience I now enjoy."

Actually, I am sort of the same way. Despite my making fun of "walkable cities" I actually would enjoy it if I could walk to many of the places I currently have to drive to. I can't say that I really enjoy driving - it can be stressful and there are too many idiots on the road. And I REALLY enjoy walking. But even in a "walkable city" I certainly wouldn't want to do without a car - you give up way too much freedom and flexibility without one.

I would love to live in a city such as New York and Boston is extremely charming. But I REFUSE to take such a dramatic hit to my standard of living. Everything costs a zillion times more in such cities because they are socialist pest holes.

There's a reason why 80 percent of private sector jobs created in the USA since 2005 were actually created in Texas. And there is a reason why Texans are despised and demeaned by certain types that infest the Northeast and West Coast. They sneer at Texas for the same reason they look down their noses at and despise automobiles, the working class, capitalism, the USA, truck stops and anything else that does not conform to their narrow minded elitist bigotry. Those who aren't outright nasty, hateful nihilists filled with envy are a bunch of pathetic Peter Keatings. And, happily, such people don't have as much influence and tend to be held in disregard here - which is why Texas is faring better in this horrible recession that these same Leftists have thrown us into.

But in one respect, it IS kind of sad because I really DO like the Northeast and New York City. It is sad that some of the coolest places tend to be occupied by the crazies. Texas lacks the scenery and architectural charm that the Northeast has to offer and you are really screwed here if you do not have a car. But at least the people here are less insane - and that makes up for a lot.

Gus Van Horn said...


True, having a car does add flexibility, but Zipcar (for short trips during the week) and rentals (for weekend) make much of that inconvenience go away. It's a hassle, but not as much as having to deal with parking a car here.

Cultural considerations aside, the problem with walkable cities is that they tend to be old, pre-automobile cities and basically weren't designed with cars in mind.


Dismuke said...

"Cultural considerations aside, the problem with walkable cities is that they tend to be old, pre-automobile cities and basically weren't designed with cars in mind."

That's true - and it pretty much has to be that way. Automobile and pedestrians are not a particularly good mix. Pedestrians can be a big time frustration for drivers in areas where there are a lot of them - and make automobile traffic come to a crawl. And being a pedestrian in very automobile friendly settings that do not have much in the way of accommodations for pedestrians can be a very frightening experience.

I think the premise of zip cars is kind of neat. And if you live in a really dense urban area such as Boston where it IS possible to easily get around without a car they can actually have certain benefits over owning a car besides the parking hassle. Cars are expensive. You have to buy them, insure them and you always have maintenance. If you are able to get to work and back and take care of MOST errands without a car, then the ability to pay for use of one for JUST the occasional periods of time that you need one could well be more cost effective in the long run.

This is especially the case with very young people and others who are low income. Here in Texas, an automobile breakdown is a nightmare for working people of limited financial means because it can, quite literally, cost them their jobs. Quite often they drive older cars well outside of warranty - and repairs can be very expensive and, for such people, coming up with the cash to pay for it can be difficult. And, yet, without a car a great many people have no other way to get to their job. Some employers are simply not willing to work with people trapped in such a situation in terms of adjusting their hours so they can perhaps find a ride with someone else or excusing time off to either fix it themselves or what have you. Without a car they risk losing their job - but without their job, they have no means at all to replace/get their car working again.

That is one definite advantage about a place such as Boston - and during periods when the Leftists' damage to the economy is not as bad as others, there are a wide variety of jobs that can be had that one can get to by walking or transit. And you can do transit on a pay as you go basis - unlike automobiles and insurance that require credit checks, up front costs and a monthly payment. That can be a HUGE deal for someone who wants and needs to work and is either poor or just starting out.

So there ARE advantages to walkable cities with transit. And much of it REALLY does appeal to me in a great many ways. In some respects, places like Boston are a holdover from the pre World War II world before the decay started setting in both on inner cities and on the culture as a whole - and that is a world that I find appealing in many, many ways. I can't say that I am much of a fan of suburbia other than I do enjoy houses where you get value for your money and the variety, convenience and great prices that big box retailers provide.

My only problem with "walkable cities" is the sane people have fled to the suburbs and to "flyover country" and the cities tend to be filled with condescending, authoritarian Leftists who seek to set themselves up as everybody else's masters

Gus Van Horn said...

At the end of the year I was flying back and forth between Boston and Houston, I sold both our cars and would need a car for the very last day, when I'd run a few errands, and then go to the airport. I realized that what made the most sense was to get to the airport early in the morning, rent the car from a location at the airport, and return it there prior to my flight.

I ended up taking the bus to the airport. To a Bostonian, this would sound like no big deal. (I can get to Logan in about 20-30 minutes by subway.) But in Houston, it's so spread out that public transit is a joke. That ride took over an hour, and buses were about 30 minutes apart. There's no way you'd want to do that for a regular commute.

Forget about the angry leftists. Most half-way ordinary people from places like Boston simply can't imagine how car-dependent newer cities are.