George Will is a leading conservative who wrote a very interesting article today on "Why Liberals Love Trains." His main point, other than he thinks that "high speed rail" is a colossal waste of money that will build systems that too few people will ever use, is that liberals' endless love affair with high speed rail, and indeed mass transit in general, reveals their underlying motivation to control people's lives by moving them away from the independence of individualism (going wherever and whenever you want in your car) and into the dependence on the collectivism, designed by liberal government experts (showing up on time and going where the mass transit authorities have decided are good places to go).
I have always thought that liberals' mass transit fetish was kind of silly, very rarely works, always costs more than projected by factors of 2 or 3 or more, and very rarely gets enough ridership to pay for itself. And I always stood in puzzled amusement as I saw them push ever harder for more and more grandiose mass transit schemes.
Will's criticism gets right to the heart of the difference between conservatives and liberals, however. The top value to conservatives is liberty and independence, and the top value to liberals is compassion and caring about others.
To Will, high speed rail is a way of taking peoples' liberty, independence, freedom of movement away from them. To liberals, Will's objection must seem like an insensitive lack of caring about providing low cost transportation to those who have less money, or perhaps as a lack of caring for the devastation that autos wreack on the environment, or perhaps a lack of caring about terrible traffic congestion in metropolitan areas.
To me, high speed rail is a huge expenditure of money during a time when the government is already spending too much money and needs to cut spending, not increase it.