Saturday, April 01, 2006

Another Lutheran Crunchy Con

Uwe Siemon-Netto (whose column I'm adding to my columnist list) is another European dissatisfied (just a bit!) with American life.

But having been "on our side" on a number of tough issues, I think he's earned the right to ask us what in the world we were thinking when we let our central cities get so destroyed and our public transportation network atrophy.


St. Louis is an urban jewel – or rather, it could be one had it not been for the shortsightedness with which its once vibrant center was laid waste half a century ago.

St. Louis is privy to two God-given “turnpikes,” the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to which it owes its existence. Long gone are the days when passenger liners traveled these glorious waterways. Why? Why is there no regular passenger service up the Missouri past the fabulous vineyards along its shores and to the enchanting little town of Hermann? Why has America abandoned this civilized and efficient form of transportation that still pays on the Danube, the Rhine, and the Seine?

Let’s not dwell lengthily on the failures of the local officials, business leaders and ordinary citizens who have caused the sad decline of this once wondrous place in the past half-century. They are gone now, and they were by no means alone in their folly. They had only bought into the lunatic Schwärmerei, or enthusiasm, of their contemporaries elsewhere in America and the Western world. Like the Schwärmer in 16th-century Germany, they believed in creating their own little utopias – in this particular case a paradise based on the horseless carriage and the two-garage home in the suburbs, a predictably short-lived paradise indeed.

Read it all here.