I became fascinated with America’s need of the automobile this summer. I always knew we were addicted to the automobile, but I never really realized how much until I lived in Việt Nam for awhile.
Many foreigners are amazed at the size of our stores – and the variety of goods that are inside those stores. But, there are only a few of these stores. In Hué, every block has at least one little “Mom and Pop” store. Its is easy to walk to, and if you can’t find what you need, there is another store very nearby. Just outside the gate of our campus in Hué are three little stores – each doing quite well, thank you. Americans trade off availability in order to have a large number of choices of items to buy.
Of course, there being fewer stores, a person needs an automobile to get to the store. Americans don’t go to the market on a daily basis – they go only a few times per month because they have the ability to store food at home. Few Vietnamese have refrigerators or large pantries – so they shop every day. The little Vietnamese neighborhood stores would be impossible in America because we enact zoning laws to keep businesses out of our residential neighborhoods. Zoning also is a de facto means of forcing our reliance on the auto.
The result? Lots and lots of cars - - and because of the way our society is set up, we really do need an automobile. The little motorbikes of Việt Nam would be run over in no time by the fast moving and larger automobiles.
So what happens to all these autos?