THE INVENTION OF THE AMERICAN VACATION
THE AUTOMOBILE 1914-1932
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HENRY FORD
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Be One With Nature

Donald Worster in his Hydraulic Societies described the assimilation of a new technology using the example of irrigation. His formula can be applied to the automobile as well. The new technology is introduced to the commercial market and is accepted to a degree. In this case the automobile had been on the European commercial market for three years before America's adoption. Worster calls this the plateau stage. The second stage is centralization. In the case of the automobile, entrepreneurs like the Duryea brothers, Lozier, and Henry Ford adopt the innovation and create large assembly companies. The companies create a centralized production which stimulate the invisible hand of the market. However, in the case of the automobile, unbeknownst to entrepreneurs, there was a huge demand waiting for the availability of the good. The demand for automobiles for the upper class was steady, but the price was too high for anything lower. Henry Ford's further centralization of production enabled the supply to expand to the middle and lower classes. However, motorists were still driving on dirt roads. Worster's third stage is the infrastructure trap. By this he means the adoption of a new technology so widespread that it is difficult to succeed in a society without it. The infrastructure trap began with AAA harping municipalities for road improvements. A Road Aid Act was passed in 1916 and 1923 which led to the construction of US 1, US 40, and US 66. Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal efforts furthered these improvements. Some may argue that the infrastructure was laying dormant, as the courts' corporation laws had the flexibility to encourage mass industrialization.

Destroying Nature
The Ford Sport, Red.

At the time the pace of adoption could not have been fast enough for consumers. However, today, the United States faces the overwhelming problem of environmental destruction due to car exhaust, expanses of pavement, and gasoline shortages. Because of the infrastructure trap and the paradigm outsurrounding it, convincing an American not to own a car is borderline insanity. Even after spending days per year sitting in gridlock, Americans are slow to release their grip on leather steering wheels. The loss of independence and individuality associated with public transportation is more than difficult to permeate. The mass exodus from cities at nightfall or during holiday seasons is impenetrable. Vacationers pack cars full of material goods to "get away from it all". To the beaches or Disneyland, the motorists line up along superhighways to bear the traffic just to get to that place of "anywhere but here." Why this obsession with the automobile? It echoes a paradigm much older than Disneyland.


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