What I found most astonishing is that President Barack Obama and California Governor Jerry Brown believe that high-speed rail is the wave of the future. It’s half-century-old technology: Japan’s Shinkansen went into service in 1964, when Obama was three years old and Brown was finishing up at Yale Law School. The really advanced technology is the driverless car, as the editors of the Economist recognized by putting it on their cover last week. High-speed rail can take you from station to station, which makes some sense in relatively small countries like Japan and France, with densely populated urban areas close enough together geographically that train travel can compete with air travel. Metro Tokyo and metro Osaka contain nearly half the population of Japan and are served by elaborate mass transit systems. California with its widely dispersed metro areas with relatively skimpy mass transit is a whole different animal. High-speed rail can take you only from station to station; the driverless car will be able to take you from where you are to exactly where you want to go (with a stop at the cleaners, if you like). But a certain kind of liberal likes to herd people like sheep into designated rail lines and then shepherd them into high-rise apartments, even though most Americans prefer free standing houses.