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The Contender
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Sedan chairs could provide the financially elite with the ideal urban travel solution

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/12/2010 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,921 times Debate No: 11166
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (7)
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Sedan chairs have been used in Europe and Asia from times of antiquity to convey people around narrow and crowded city streets. Traditionally, the passengers in these human-powered vehicles occupied elevated positions in society and this was reflected in their ornate decoration.

Chinese Sedan Chair

Ottoman (Turkish) Sedan Chair

Georgian (English) Sedan Chair

Sadly, though, these beautiful sedan chairs became a vanishingly rare sight as the thoroughfares in cities became wider and thus more able to accommodate horse-drawn carriages and, later, chauffeur-driven limousines.

Now those same city streets have become seriously congested and this means that aristocrats, oil barons, film stars, tycoons, Russian oligarchs, hedge-fund managers, Arab playboys and other VIPs are obliged to sit in traffic-jams alongside ordinary members of the public.

On many occasions these days, investment bankers with multi-million dollar bonuses burning holes in their pockets have to waste their valuable time queuing in traffic on their way to World of Beluga Caviar or Diamond-Encrusted Faberg´┐Ż Eggs ‘R' Us and the landed gentry are delayed on their way to Stately Home Depot or D´┐Żbutante's Ball Mart (or whatever stores the mega-rich shop in).

From a legal perspective, posh personages in their Rolls-Royce Phantoms and Bugatti Veyrons do not have any more right of way on public highways than the hoi polloi in their Hyundai Accents and Ford Fiestas.

So, in order to make quicker progress in cities such as New York, Tokyo and London where the traffic often moves slower than walking pace, the only solution is to take to the pavements (sidewalks).

Naturally, the upper classes would not be expected to walk amongst the proletariat and, in any case, would wish to travel in a vehicle – and one befitting their superior status.

Now, since no motor or horse-drawn vehicles are permitted on the pavements the only conveyance that could legally be used to transport these prosperous people would be a sedan chair.

These sedan chairs could whisk VIPs swiftly and stylishly through the crowds to chosen destination, totally bypassing the traffic jams and thus providing a contemporary and environmentally friendly inner-city transport solution for the socially elite.

Fortunately, one visionary London-based firm, Eggleston's Ethical Enterprises, which has a reputation for providing innovate products to discerning travellers (1) is about to launch a sedan chair service in the Capital.

The firm aims to ferry their esteemed clientele of financiers, celebrities, politicians, tax exiles and ennobled landowners around the city in traditional sedan chairs carried by fully liveried footmen (2) and I believe that this Company should be applauded for their efforts and be rewarded with the success they so richly deserve.

Thank you.

(1) Eggleston's Ethical Enterprises Pak-a-Spak™ Rucksack

(2) Eggleston's Ethical Enterprises Sedan Chair


I'd like to thank my opponent for this opportunity and a compelling debate topic, which has brought up some interesting points.

The return of old ideas has always been a popular solution for several problems humanity faces. If we were to return to the "old ways," perhaps we'd have less pollution, less obesity, less energy problems... However, drawing on the past is not always helpful and can prove why we've moved on in the first place. Just as sedan chairs moved aside for the carriages and, later, limousines for the upper-crust, so the current mode of transportation will develop and move forward. Reintroduction of the sedan chair would prove retroactive in a time where technology and progress reign supreme. A change from our current system is a necessity, yes-- but moving backwards is not the answer.

Sedan chairs, also known as palanquins, are typically connected with visions of royalty and the elite being transported through a crowd of awestruck subordinates (1, 2). In today's city traffic (3), it can be impossible to move through the masses on foot or bicycle, let alone a largely decorated chair carried by anywhere from two to eight people. To introduce these into highly congested and hectic areas such as city streets would be a crowded and inefficient way to travel. Maneuvering around blockages and barriers would be close to impossible in such a vehicle in the cities it would be most needed in (4). One could put it this way: the cities that have the problem of congestion and crowded car traffic are exactly the ones where implementation of a sedan chair system would be impossible because of similar pedestrian traffic problems.

In addition, with the expansion of cities (5)-- both in land area and population density-- many of the bourgeoisie and upper-middle class citizens are forced to move further and further away from city centers and the central business districts. They are often moving into lush suburbs, especially those with spouses and children. This would create quite the labor problem, if every businessman was expected to be carried 30 miles or more to work and back every day. Americans spend over 100 hours in commute per year by car-- imagine what these numbers would be if the elite expected have people carry them everywhere (6).
This is only taking into account the workdays; if one preferred to travel with his or her family, this would create even more of a fatigue problem for workers.

In addition, many upper-class members of society just wouldn't want to give up the luxury and safety of their lovely climate-controlled, spacious, and ambient Rolls Royce or Bentley or whatever else they're driving these days. People love to show off what has come to be one of the ultimate status symbols, and it is not going to be given up easily... that is, until a new-and-improved model comes along. The average upper-class man or woman does not want to be exposed to the elements or feel unsafe among the proles. Even the Pope, who had been carried on the Sedia gestatoria (7) for years, has moved on and is now housed safely in the Popemobile (8, 9).

Although a sedan chair system might be a useful and quaint way to ferry around the masses in smaller cities, like the bicycle rickshaw taxi systems currently seen (10), it would not be a useful system for the elite in large business centers because of the problems with pedestrian traffic and the social barriers implementation would involve. Instead, it is important to move forward with the elite at the forefront of the new technologies, as they have always been.

Again, thank you for the well-reasoned and thoughtful debate opportunity.

Debate Round No. 1


With many thanks to cult-logic for accepting this debate, I agree that, in general, we should look to future technology for the solutions to our problems.

However, this is not always the best policy. For example, when I was a child I suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, back then, almost nothing was known about this condition so I wasn't diagnosed.

My younger cousins, on the other hand, who also suffer from ADHD, are treated with Ritalin which calms them down. However, this drug has some very nasty side effects and it also wears off after a few hours, which means they can become very badly behaved by bedtime.

My parents, of course, had no way of knowing I was suffering from ADHD when I was a youngster - they just thought I was a very naughty boy. So, instead of receiving the sympathy and drugs that my cousins get, I got the buckle-end of my fathers' belt on my bare behind. It wasn't a very scientific remedy for ADHD, that's true, but it was certainly an effective cure for my boisterous behaviour.

You know, it's so often the case that the old-fashioned remedies are the best and this same principle applies to the urban transport needs of the posh and I disagree with my opponent that sedan chairs would be unsuitable for city streets. You see, this is exactly what they were designed for and which is why they are narrow. Sedan chairs carve their way through the hoards of peasants with the lead footman politely shouting: "Get out the way you miserable little ticks – there's a highly posh personage coming through." And those pedestrians who fail to comply with the footmen's instructions are simply knocked over and trampled underfoot.

Now I know to some people would consider this is unfair on decent, ordinary people going about their lawful business but you have to understand that in capitalist countries the rich are always trampling the poor underfoot, metaphorically speaking anyway.

For example, over half of President Bush's 2004 tax cuts went the wealthiest 10% of Americans and were worth an average of $7.661 to each of them. (1) Moreover, while the rich were spending their tax windfalls, the Bush administration was making savage cutbacks in vital public services used by low- and middle-income families. (2)

More recently, capitalist governments around the world lavished trillions of taxpayers' dollars on greedy, corrupt and incompetent investment bankers tthus enabling them to pay themselves multi-billion dollar bonuses as a reward for causing the massive economic crash that cost the jobs of millions of ordinary people.

Of course, the aforementioned political support of the wealthy to the detriment of everybody else is not fair but since electorates continue to support political parties that which promote such socially inequitable policies, they surely would not object to standing to one side to let an over-privileged posh person in a palatial palanquin get past.

I do, however, accept my opponent's argument that sedan chairs would be unsuitable for those wishing to travel long distances – I would imagine changing lanes on a busy highway in a sedan chair travelling at four miles an hour would be a decidedly unnerving experience! They would also be rather cramped and heavy to lift if occupied by more than one person, especially if the occupants were fat. For these journeys I would recommend the posh use their Lamborghinis or Range Rovers instead.

Now, regarding the use of the Popemobile instead of a sedan chair: the pontiff had to start using a bullet-proof vehicle when it became apparent how many Catholic priests are kiddy-fiddlers – most people don't like paedophiles very much and would naturally want to attack the Pope for covering the scandal up for so long and also for allowing so many children to abused in the first place. For most rich people though, the presence of two burly footmen should be enough to deter any jealous peasants from attacking them in their sedan chairs.

In conclusion, although my opponent has made some useful observations, for moneyed city-dwellers, the sedan chair must surely become their conveyance of choice.

Thank you.



cult-logic forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by wjmelements 6 years ago
Sedan chairs are not "ideal" because they are really slow. Nuff said.
Posted by cult-logic 6 years ago
This would make it decidedly unsafe for the elite to travel in such a manner, especially in large hordes, leaving the middle classes to the streets with their screaming metal death traps known as cars. An unsatisfied middle class in control of giant killing machines, when combined with a pompous aristocrat being towed alone in a quite small, unprotected device, do not make for an ideal situation.

As for the crowding of city streets, it seems as if my opponent has understated the crowding in large cities and dismissed it by saying that these sedan chairs would be narrow enough to easily maneuver. However, even for slim vehicles, it is most difficult to navigate through the crowds. An excellent example of this is bicycles-- in most cities, bicyclists are forced to ride either on the streets or in a bicycle lane (2)-- the sidewalks are just too crowded, and people most certainly do not move out of the way.

Lastly, there has been a dramatic increase in gas prices (3)(4) in recent years, and it is only projected to move higher. This alone will ensure that only the rich can afford to own vehicles and drive them constantly. Cars already serve as the ultimate status symbol for most of America and other developed countries-- with the gas prices increasing as they are, the prominence of the elite will only elevate along with it. Until alternatives will be found, the lower class will be steadily weaned off of vehicles, leaving the streets emptier and only the bourgeoisie left, decreasing any demand for sedan chairs.

Whatever the future situation, it is clear that sedan chairs are not the answer for the elite. Although they might become an amusing, quaint plaything unique to certain city dwellers in parks and recreation centers, their widespread use in the upper classes would be an inefficient, unsafe, and embarrassing way to travel.

Thank you.
Posted by cult-logic 6 years ago
Oh, man, I thought I had another day; my mistake. I'll just post it here, I suppose?

Although my opponent has made thoughtful connections and an interesting argument and, at the moment, it may seem as though belt whipping is superior to Ritalin as a "cure" for ADHD, this does not excuse society from searching for further development. We can never blindly accept the old ways without trying and testing every possible solution, especially in a care like that of Ritalin, which is obviously some improvement over no treatment, or negative reinforcement (which seems to have affected my opponent quite a bit, considering its usage as an example here). In addition, the connection to drugs is one that can have many examples in favor of the "out with the old, in with the new" attitude. Just to name a few, the vaccines and medicine used to treat smallpox, tuberculosis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, HiB, chickenpox, rotavirus, influenza, meningococcal disease and pneumonia (1). Clearly, current conditions must be most unfavorable and significantly inferior to that of the past for any retroactive actions to be fruitful, and at this point, there are still many options open for future development of vehicular transportation rather than regressing all the way back to the era of palanquins.

Although I appreciate the humor in the jibe at former President George W. Bush and "trampling" over the lower classes, this is irrelevant to the issue at hand.
My opponent seems to idealize the actions of the angry proletariat in such a society where they are constantly being "trampled," apparently both literally and figuratively. If they are so trodden upon, as suggested, it seems as if there would be quite a few hard feelings between these arrogant aristocrats and the underestimated proles.
Posted by drkcloud123 6 years ago
This is Completely ridiculous, SEDAN CHAIRS? we should breed bear-sized dogs or tame tigers instead, atleast those might move quicker than your average proletariat. (that and create some space in the sidewalks, damn thing is so congested you can't move without bumping into one and knocking down your diamond encrusted cellphones into the sidwalks)
Posted by brian_eggleston 6 years ago
We moved...
Posted by Cerebral_Narcissist 6 years ago
Wait a darn tooting cotton picking minute!

"Fortunately, one visionary London-based firm, Eggleston's Ethical Enterprises"

I thought you said this company was headquarted in north korea! Hmm...
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