Friedman, India and Development

Where Thomas Friedman of the New York Times echoes a blog post of mine from a few months back about cheap cars, development models and India.

We have no right to tell Indians what cars to make or drive. But we can urge them to think hard about following our model, without a real mass transit alternative in place. Cheap conventional four-wheel cars, which would encourage millions of Indians to give up their two-wheel motor scooters and three-wheel motorized rickshaws, could overwhelm India’s already strained road system, increase its dependence on imported oil and gridlock the country’s megacities.

No, No, No, Don’t Follow Us – New York Times

Here’s what I had to say…

Is it necessary that India and China tread the same path as the U.S and Europe? Does India have to make and use cars that are built using technology developed prior to our knowledge of global warming? The same company that gets cautious praise from the Union of Concerned Scientists for its “leadership” role in global warming will turn around and build factories in India that carry the status quo forward for another 30 years. When you’re starting from the foundation, and you know that the plans provided to you will lead to your house crumbling in 20 years, would you use the plans anyway because your contractor provides you with no alternative? The logical answer seems to be no, but is this process logic driven, or enforced by the existing power structure?

The answer should be “NO!!”. But Friedman goes ahead and offers some sensible suggestions via the very excellent Sunita Narain.

Charge high prices for parking, charge a proper road tax for driving, deploy free air-conditioned buses that reach every corner of the city, expand the existing beautiful Delhi subway system, “and then let the market work,” she added.

Good idea. Now, will Friedman turn around and offer the same prescription for the US? Apparently not. If the US cannot kick the car habit, or show other people how to, this kind of lecturing is pointless.

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