Big government fears. I occasionally see a bumper sticker that reads, “I love my country. It’s the government I fear.” This sentiment is apparently widespread. Gallup asked Americans what posed the biggest threat—big government, big business, or big labor? A record 72 percent said big government. Interestingly, since the Occupy movement began in 2011, the percentage of people saying big business was the greatest threat actually went down. That shift causes me to ask, only half-jokingly: Should some conservative organization fund another Zucotti Park-style demonstration, since the more America sees of these guys, the less we like them?
Autonomous cars? If sophisticated airliners can operate virtually autonomously with autopilots and radar, why not cars? The answer is they can, but regulators will likely delay implementation. On Nov. 19, David Strickland, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told a congressional committee that autonomous vehicles are not ready for public highways. Industry leaders, including Nissan and Daimler, say they will have autonomous vehicles ready for market by 2020. Open highway cars could be ready as early as 2016. But regulations do not evolve as fast as technology, and it will likely be at least 2025 before we see fully autonomous vehicles on the road.
The end of traffic? Speaking of transportation, David Levinson, a University of Minnesota professor and the brains behind the blog “The Transportationist,” says that by 2030 traffic will be a relic of history. He predicts the urban skyscrapers that today are office buildings will be apartments. More people will be working closer to their homes, and almost all of us will be working at least some of the week from our homes, allowing us the freedom to stay off the roads. He also believes autonomous cars will calm traffic and reduce the number of congestion-causing wrecks.
Disrespecting the cloth. According to a new Gallup survey, respect for the clergy has reached an all-time low. For the first time since Gallup started doing the survey in the 1970s, less than 50 percent of respondents said the clergy have “high” or “very high” moral standards. Given some of the recent megachurch scandals, it’s easy to see why many Americans might be disillusioned with the clergy. They come to the mistaken conclusion that these high-profile crashes are representative of the whole. It's also interesting that respect for clergy was at an all-time high (at least according to this survey) in 1985. Soon afterward, the televangelist scandals hit, and the ’90s saw explosive growth of megachurches. The vast majority of clergy in America live quiet, diligent, and sacrificial lives, but the antics of a few are apparently affecting the way Americans think about them all.