Wednesday, September 22, 2010


What if? Wednesday... The Interstate

What if there were no interstate highways, and we had to find other ways to get around? Would our society be better or worse off?

Much of the American landscape is literally shaped by our highways. Here are some of the things that interstates have made possible or encouraged:

Lower cost food (especially fruit and vegetables) and other perishable products
Big box stores
Fast food and processed foods
Family vacations for most income levels

Worse off. Major thoroughfares and roads are critical to key infrastructure and resource distribution. Rome rose to its prominence in the ancient world because they could build, maintain and police an extensive system of roads. The technological development in Europe was faster and higher than, say, North America, because of the advent of long-distance trade. That made it possible for people to transition from foragers and farmers to traders, and spurred most of the technological innovations of the past two thousand years.

Which is not to say society is without growing pains, but I'd rather have a solid infrastructure and fast transportation than I would not have it.

That said, one of my favorite things to do is drive backroads, eat at small-town restaurants that don't see many outsiders, and really get a sampling of local faire.
Do you realize that if you make "What if? Wednesday" a permanent feature, the only days of the week left without constraint would be Tuesday and Saturday?
Viva la Tuesday!
The only benefit I can see to not having interstate highways is that it would vastly improve the chances of encountering a king whose squire trails behind banging coconuts together.
My husband is king of the back roads. It helps that we can get from our N. Durham home to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and the like faster if we stay off the interstate - especially during rush hour.

We buy mostly local food and the movement is so big here it doesn't cost much more and perhaps we eat a little less.

The interstate is still a necessity for vacations and getting to the airport.
Once helicopters were invented the need for roads pretty much disappeared. I'd prefer an all-helicopter transport system.
I think lower-cost food would still happen with a good rail network. The ubiquity of processed foods is the product of government subsidies that make it cheaper to make twinkies than grow carrots.
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