Monday, August 23, 2010

Voluntary . . . For Now

The social engineers who run Boulder have come up with a clever new way to encourage environmentally-correct lifestyle choices: residents are being asked to leave their cars at home and find alternative means of transport on certain days, based on the color of their vehicles:

Boulder to use car colors to discourage driving

Got a blue car? The city of Boulder wants you to consider commuting sans car on Mondays.

Red car? Take a break from driving on Wednesdays. White? Thursday is your designated day of the week to leave your vehicle at home.

On Labor Day weekend, the city plans to launch a campaign to encourage residents to "do their 14.3 percent" to cut down on the number of cars on the road -- reducing air pollution, cutting carbon and road rage -- by making a commitment to go car-free on the day of the week that's correlated to your vehicle's color. Those that stick to their car-less commitments can win prizes from the campaign's sponsors.

"We want to attract people to something other than driving for one day a week or more in a fun easy way," said Cris Jones, a transportation planner with the city's GO Boulder program.
Participation in the program -- called Driven to Drive Less -- will be voluntary, and so is the day that participants choose to take a break from being behind the wheel. (There's no penalty for red-car-owning participants who commit to being car fee on the white-car day.)

The connection to car colors -- and the program's whimsical Web site, -- is part of an intentional drive by the campaign's designer, Sukle Advertising, to give a light-hearted feel to the car-cutting movement."

But the problem with such "voluntary" efforts is that they have a troubling tendency to become mandatory if the public refuses to respond to the initial, milder attempt at conditioning. "Light-hearted" can turn heavy-handed if the social engineers don't get the results they want, using good-natured cajoling or peer group pressure. And even this purely "voluntary" approach is creepily coercive in a politically-correct bastion like Boulder.

Just imagine the social stigma that you would suffer, and the shame you would feel, and the looks of opprobrium you would get, for driving your blue SUV to the office on a Monday, or pulling into Starbucks on Wednesday in your red sports car (unless it's a Tesla Roadster, of course.). This city-sponsored bifurcation of drivers into two camps -- those who supposedly care about saving the planet and those who don't -- might even encourage episodes of road rage, as those who decline to conform become targets of verbal abuse, shaming or worse from the eco-authoritarians in their midst. Sounds like a way not of uniting people, around a common goal, but of dividing them, based on nothing more than the color of the car they drive.

Most such attempts at social conditioning have a darker side. If the social engineers can't get the results they want using a carrot, sooner or later they reach for the stick.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should ban all cars in Boulder...and delivery trucks...and fire, and ....