Alfred Sloan (more 1), the head of General Motors, from the 1920s to 1950s led the National City Lines conspiracy of American automotive manufacturers who increased demand for their product by purchasing most of the USA's urban light rail systems, degrading their services and closing them down. The 1930's Roosevelt administration subsidized car interests by building roads as welfare job programs following the economic theory that permanently inflating consumption could end the Great Depression and prevent a recurrence (more 2). This bias gave the conspiracy political protection and along with war manufacture (more 3) by the end of WW2 had made G.M. the biggest private enterprise in human history and the dominant influence on the whole US political economy. G.M. carpetbaggers then led the destruction of world public transport systems by riding the Lend Lease and Marshall Plan wave of postwar U.S. global influence.
Debts gave the American rulers influence over postwar British governments whose transport policies increased road funding and degraded British Rail services; moves definitely inspired and probably orchestrated by General Motors. In 1963 a report called the "Reshaping Plan" initiated the widespread closure of railway stations and railways, this became, and remains, the foundation of U.K. transport policy. Its authors were a clique of industrialists around Transport Minister, Ernest Marples who owned a road construction company, Marples Ridgway, which he gave to his wife when accused of conflict of interest. Blatant vested interest control of public tax resources is consistent with G.M. hegemony.
In 1981 Greater London Council initiated a public transport system, Fares Fair, which reduced public transport fares by levying a special rate increase. A lesser Council legally challenged it on grounds that they only got busses not trains as well; rejected by the courts they easily raised the substantial moneys for an appeal to the House of Lords. The inequality could have been resolved by reducing that area's rate surcharge; but the Lords completely proscribed Fares Fair on the grounds of fiduciary duty, thereby proving ruling class vested interest in car culture by grabbing any opportunity to repress its competition. In the year after "Fares Fare" ceased "there were an extra 6,000 serious accidents a year on London's roads"; a definition of fiduciary duty appropriate for a public authority (which included all demonstrable ramifications for public well-being) would count this effect and reinstate a "Fares Fair" kind of system; but this hasn't yet happened.
In 1996 some Tokyo residents, who blamed their respiratory illnesses on too many motor vehicles, sued Tokyo's government transport authorities and automotive manufacturers (more 4). All these organizations had accepted U.S./G.M. investment and management advice and practices after WW2. In 2002 the government entities were convicted but the automakers were let off on grounds that "the concentration of automobiles in Tokyo causing air pollution must be understood as part of larger urban problems that cannot be controlled by the industry."
General Motors had factories in Australia and by the 1960's the governments of NSW, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland were destroying their tram networks; but Melbourne's tramways chief Sir Robert Risson (note 4) (more 5) effectively opposed this destruction. The uniqueness of the tram network in little Melbourne (pop. 2-3 million) from 1960-1990, only excelled in Moscow, testified to the global ubiquity of post war car culture ideological hegemony. But car interests got their way with a 60,000 seat football stadium, the main airport and 3 universities in Victoria with no nearby rail or tram access.
In Australia almost any use of a company car is a tax deduction while any deduction at all for using public transport or bicycles is explicitly refused. In NSW money received by a Council from closing a road and selling the land may not legally be used except for acquiring land for new roads or for carrying out road work. This last option provides the loophole in this funding ratchet and one can cannibalise sold roads to maintain extant ones and direct new revenue elsewhere; still proceeds of public transport land sales are immediately convertible into road funding.
The duration of the court cases shows the legal system's bias. The Fares Fair case, with Lords' appeal, terminated Fares Fair inside 3 months. The National City Lines case took 25 years to decide against the car companies and their ends were well and truly effected by then, they secured paltry penalties by attrition of Justice Department staff. The Respiratory Illness case took 6 years and wore out the plaintiffs with attrition of their funds, their health and some of their lives.
In summary; the laws, law establishments, policies and regimes of the United States and Japan, Britain and Australia (and probably most other countries) are biased to favour car interests and repress non car interests. Some causes for this are free market action but the following non-democratic non-market forces generate the hegemony: 1) Government protects capitalism by inflating consumption and ignoring planned obsolescence, the management regimen of sick-mindedly wasting finite resources and inflating energy demand and pollution that will in time prove catastrophic both economically and ecologically 2) car vested interests, as incumbents, dispense patronage and receive sycophantic and inertial support 3) outright venal corruption of politicians, government departments and courts by the car industry historically led by General Motors.
Posted 2009-07-15, © Justin Moore.