Fair shake of the Samoan road rules
Few readers will be aware of a recent news conference at which Prime Minister Rudd fielded questions from ABC and Fairfax News reporters. Oddly enough, all the questions related to the recent change in Samoa from driving on the right hand side of the road to driving on the left hand side of the road. Mr. Rudd opened with a general statement on the move and then took questions.
Prime Minister: Ladies and gentlemen, I think you can all agree with me that only those who drive on the left have Samoa’s best interests at heart. I have written quite a long essay for the journal Left is Best in which I detail how neo-right hand driving fundamentalism has impeded all attempts at reforming Samoa’s transportation system. Those of us who are committed to left hand driving are fortunately free of all ideology, we know things even also they are meant to be known. We are not in the grip of a selfish ideology that forces people to veer right. No, ours is an altruistic one that gives people free rein to go left, as they are naturally inclined to do, though of course for some few 47 percent or so of road users sanctions are necessary to force them left because they seem inexplicably incapable of seeing what is in fact best for themselves.
And let me here enter into the history wars. Firstly, let me proclaim my goal to end all this divisive examining of whether left hand driving or right hand driving is better or worse and to urge you all to look forward not back. Then, secondly, having made that perfunctory pronouncement, let me tell you that any fair-minded examination of the record makes it abundantly clear that all left hand driving favouring historians are completely and without exception correct and that all right hand driving favouring historians are not only incorrect, they are probably also morally deficient, possibly evil, and without doubt in need of re-education. Once that has been accepted, I think we can put all these divisive history wars behind us and come together to make driving on the left a big success.
Finally, I should also note that the huge amounts of government money that had to be pumped into the economy to make left hand driving a reality was the only way to save the economy. The fact this giant stimulus program resulted in some monies being spent on building roads that were unneeded, on digging up others that were needed, and on funding others still that were going to be built anyway without the stimulus monies is wholly and completely irrelevant. So too are concerns that we will be burdening future generations with massive debt and hence higher interest rates, crowded out private investment, and possibly even lower productivity. That’s the beauty of counterfactual claims. None of our critics can actually prove what would have happened if we had been more careful with our spending in moving over to left hand driving. Sure, New Zealand spent almost nothing compared to us. But they have a right hand driving leader. The Americans have a left hand driving leader, and he is as profligate as we are.
ABC reporter: Mr. Prime Minister, don’t you think you’re being a little unfair in your characterisations? I mean, you seem to ignore the fact that there are drivers even further to the left than you and that your particular advocacy of left hand driving policies shuts out their concerns. Luckily that’s why my organisation is here, to represent those unheard views. But what do you have to say to that?
Prime Minister: That’s a fair shake of the road rules Ms. Impartial reporter. Remind me to invite you to my next 2020 Road Users Summit. We need that sort of balance. The last one was just a tad one-sided, but it was at least left-sided, so that ensured all its recommendations were motivated by moral goodness and left hand driveness, not a discredited neo-right hand driving fundamentalism.
The Age reporter: Can I take it, Mr. Prime Minister, that you agree with me that the last 15 or 20 years of right hand driving road rules in Samoa, before the recent switch to the left hand side that you are applauding here today, were a time of moral shame, of wasted productivity, of lack of investment, of wicked regulations, and of roadism?
Prime Minister: That’s a tough one Mr. Impartial reporter. But I think that my answer to that tough, balanced question is ‘yes’.
SMH reporter: When can we expect to see the improved productivity you assure us this switch to left hand driving will bring?
Prime Minister: In due season. But I see, ladies and gentlemen, that my time is up. Thank you all for your fair-minded questions. And when you leave, please exit to the left in the usual way.