Category Archive 'Nanny State'
29 May 2019

Why New Cars Cost Too Much and Suck

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1939 Lincoln Zephyr front end.

Jeffrey Tucker explains that, after Big Government got done ruining the gas can, it went after automobile design.

Your car looks like a box. So does every other car. It’s boring, even shocking when you consider how awesome cars used to look. What’s gone wrong? And to what extent has the design mess contributed to the decline of American auto manufacturing?

A recent letter to the Wall Street Journal comes close but misses the point. “Blame the Death of Design for U.S. Autos’ Decline” reads his headline. Speaking of Cadillacs and their declining sales, he writes: “The 1957 coupe looked like nothing else on wheels then, and it’s still stunning six decades later. The [new] XT6 and boxes of different sizes, identified with variations of letters and numbers, are the problem. A distinctive, prestigious and beautiful vehicle is the solution.”

This seems right. You drive around today and can barely distinguish one wheeled box from another. We look through websites at concept cars and wonder why they never seem to exist. And whatever happened to the Golden Age of design?

The problem with the letter is that it only scratches the surface. The real problem is more fundamental. Designers did not somehow lose imagination over the last 25 years. The designs of new cars are boring because regulations forced this result. …

[I]’s not a choice. No manufacturer can make a car like this anymore. Step back from the situation and think about it. In the 1930s, phones were awful, and you were lucky to have one at all. No one today would give up a smartphone for one of those old things. Same with shoes, computers, televisions, ovens, and so much more. No one wants to go back.
We Want Old!

With cars, it’s a different matter. Our sense of nostalgia is growing, not receding. But we don’t even have the choice to go back. There will be no more pretty cars made and sold in the United States. The government and its tens of thousands of micromanaging regulations on motor vehicles will not allow it. …

It hasn’t happened all at once. It’s been a bit at a time, taking place over four decades in the name of safety and the environment. The whole thing began in 1966 with creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, followed by the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of others. Every regulator wanted a piece of the car.

Each new regulation seems like it makes sense in some way. Who doesn’t want to be safer and who doesn’t want to save gas?

But these mandates are imposed without any real sense of the cost and benefits, and they come about without a thought as to what they do to the design of a car. And once the regs appear on the books, they never go away. They are stickier than code on a patented piece of software.
The Rise of the Boxes

As the years marched on, the homogenization process rolled forward, with each generation of cars looking ever more like each other. You can even trace the problem by looking through the history of the Mazda Miata: this slick two-seater roaster eventually became a shrunken version of all the other cars on the road: swollen nose, rear, and beltline.

Try as they might, manufacturers have a terrible time distinguishing their cars from each other’s. Car homogenization has become something of an Internet meme. It turns out that all new cars more or less look alike. I had begun to notice this over the years and I thought I was just imagining things. But people playing with Photoshop have found that you can mix and match car grills and make a BMW look just like a Kia and a Hyundai look just like a Honda. It’s all one car.

Truly, this cries out for explanation. So I was happy to see a video made by CNET that gives five reasons: mandates for big fronts to protect pedestrians, mandates that require low tops for fuel economy, a big rear to balance out the big fronts, tiny windows resulting from safety regulations that end up actually making the car less safe, and high belt lines due to the other regs. In other words, single-minded concern for testable “safety” and the environment has wrecked the entire car aesthetic.

And that’s only the beginning. Car and Driver puts this as plainly as can be: “In our hyperregulated modern world, the government dictates nearly every aspect of car design, from the size and color of the exterior lighting elements to how sharp the creases stamped into sheetmetal can be.”

You are welcome to read an engineer’s account of what it is like to design an American car. Nothing you think, much less dream, really matters. The regulations drive the whole process. He explains that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards with hundreds of regulations — really a massive central plan — dictate every detail and have utterly ruined the look and feel of American cars.

RTWT

In Washington, there are very big buildings with tens of thousands of employees sitting around all day with nothing to do but write new regulations. And there are lobbyists for auto companies offering suggested regs, intentionally designed to build deep moats around their businesses and to nobble the competition. Then come the insurance company bean-counters, determined to reduce their companies’ liabilities at any cost to your convenience or choice. You may get killed by defective air bag, but the statistics show that overall they save insurance companies money. And, after them, come the crazies and crackpots determined to save the trees and polar bears by taking away the internal combustion engine, one nut or bolt at a time.

27 Mar 2019

Boy, Does Britain Ever Need Brexit!

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The EU Nanny State will be fucking up every new car sold in Europe after 2022.

Telegraph:

Every new car built after May 2022 will be fitted with anti-speeding devices to alert drivers when they break legal limits, as well as in-built breathalysers to cut out engines when drink drivers get behind the wheel.

New vehicles will need to have an Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) limiter as standard after the European Parliament agreed on new rules in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

The alert system will ensure drivers observe speed limits through GPS and road sign recognition cameras.

EU governments and MEPs agreed on 30 new safety standards for cars, vans and trucks. The bill is set to be rubber stamped in a forthcoming vote of the European Parliament.

RTWT

23 Jul 2016

France To Ban Gauloises and Gitanes

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CamusSmoking
Albert Camus

The Guardian reports:

The news was enough to have French smokers choking on their morning cigarette: France is considering banning some tobacco brands because they are just too cool.

Among those threatened are Gitanes and Gauloises, beloved of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge Gainsbourg, who was said to puff through five packets of filterless Gitanes a day.

The ban, which could also cover the Lucky Strike, Marlboro Gold, Vogue and Fortuna brands, is the logical conclusion of a new public health law – based on a European directive – which stipulates tobacco products “must not include any element that contributes to the promotion of tobacco or give an erroneous impression of certain characteristics”.

Reporting the ban, Le Figaro said that while the directive was “relatively vague”, it clearly covered anything suggesting “masculinity or femininity, physical slimness, youth or sociability”.

Alarmed cigarette companies have written to the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, demanding a meeting “given the seriousness and urgency of the situation” and asking for clarification and the chance to appeal against any ban before the new health code article, currently being considered by the council of state, is published in 10 days’ time.

I can remember the young Strobe Talbot, then editor of the Yale Daily News, stalking around campus in trenchcoat & beret, smoking a Gauloise.

04 Jul 2015

Fourth of July

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LymeCannon
I may have found the actual cannon Mark is talking about.

Mark Steyn, back in 1999, was already lamenting the wussification of American July 4th celebrations.

[W]e’re fighting not just a jurisdictional challenge but a vast cultural tide, determined to ensure that every activity should be 100 per cent guaranteed safe, even if that means it’s no longer any fun.

Take, for example, that staple of every Fourth of July parade: cute little girl scouts waving to the crowds as their float passes by. The Swift Water Girl Scout Council, which oversees all girl scout troops in the state, has ruled that at this weekend’s parades the girls will have to be seated and buckled in on their floats, to comply with New Hampshire’s recent law requiring children to wear seat belts. “I can’t say nobody would ever enforce it,” said the Police Chief of Manchester, the state’s largest city. “But they’d look awful stupid.”

The girl scouts’ director is unapologetic. “If the float stopped quickly and the children are not secured, the children could have an accident,” said Jane Behlke.Since the scouting movement began there has been not a single girl scout parade float tragedy in New Hampshire, although one year in Merrimack Mr Peanut – a giant peanut – did lose his head (something to do with a low bridge). But nowadays the nuts who’ve lost their heads are the regulators. On Independence Day, where’s the spirit of independence?

It wasn’t always like this. Once the whole point of the Fourth of July was that it should be wild and dangerous. There’s a cannon on my town common that the boys used to fill with powder, stones and sod, and then touch off. Unmounted, it bucketed around, flipping somersaults and very occasionally shattering windows.

In 1939 Sarah Holt and Minnie Linton, who ran the guest house, refused to donate any money for gunpowder. Come the big night the guys dragged the cannon down to their front door and fired at the house for hours on end. The game spinsters told the guests that the boys were just a little high-spirited.

Indeed, the only reason my town has a jailhouse is because of the Fourth of July in 1892, when some fellow drank too much cider, went nuts and started trashing the place. After which they built a two-cell jail in case it happened again. I believe it’s the only jail in New England with wooden bars.

Recently, unable to find my 1995 tax bill, I asked to see the town’s copy. The selectman said they had run out of space at the town offices, so they were storing them in the jail. “My God,” I cried, aghast. “You’ve turned the town jail into a stationery cupboard!”

And there, in a nutshell, is the story of the modern western world: not enough wild independent spirit, just more paperwork.

The whole thing.

26 Apr 2015

Danish Man Kills Himself After the State Euthanizes His Dog

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danzanto
The late Dan and Zanto

Opposing Views passes along a story that makes your blood boil.

A man in Denmark was so devastated when authorities seized and euthanized his dog that he took his own life.

Dan, whose last name has not been disclosed, was 27 years old.

Dan was given just eight days to prove that his dog Zanto was not one of the breeds banned in Denmark, and under Danish law, the burden to prove dog breed is placed upon owners. When he was unable to do so, authorities removed Zanto and arranged for him to be killed. Soon after Zanto was taken, Dan was reported to have overdosed on pain medication.

His dog, Zanto, had been euthanized in adherence with Denmark’s Breed Specific Legislation on Pit Bulls. Danish legislation titled the “Dog Act” also dictates that police are required to euthanize dogs that “savage” a person or another dog, but Zanto hadn’t attacked anyone. He was simply considered an illegal breed.

The Dog Act bans the ownership and breeding of 13 breeds of dogs, including the Pitt Bull Terrier, Kangal, South Russian Shepherd Dog and American Bulldog. Some breeds have been illegal since 1991, but legislation in 2010 brought the number to 13.

30 Dec 2013

“This Isn’t a Free Country Anymore; This Is a Country in Which You Get Things for Free”

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Try walking into a government building these days, and you’ll meet them.

In one of his best essays, Dan Greenfield, last year, explains how far we have come from the free country invented by the framers. Today’s America is a socialist, paternalist, dirigiste, thoroughly-regulated bureaucracy and police state, in which your personal habits and bank account are public property and in which you need to be searched regularly.

The average American still holds the fanciful belief that, if he isn’t annoying anyone, he should be left alone. To the people running his country, this is as bizarre and unworkable as Phrenology or the Geocentric theory or handing out universal health care without also compelling everyone to buy it.

This is not a nation where people are left alone anymore. This is a nation where they are hounded from the moment they are born until the moment they die by the arms of a regulatory state run by men and women weaned on Cleaver, Alinsky, Fourier, Marx, Wells and countless others. This is a nation where, accordingly, being left alone is the greatest of luxuries.

It takes a lot of money to be left alone. Regulatory space is much more expensive than physical space, and buying it requires investing in lobbyists, fundraisers and lawyers. If you make the right payoffs, then you can buy the privilege of being left alone, exempted from regulations, going uninspected and protected against the agents of the state. But once you do that, you are no longer neutral. You have bought yourself the privilege of not being considered the problem; instead, you have become part of the solution for the people you are paying off.

The Americans bushwacked by ObamaCare, the scam artist’s dream of a tax paid to a third-party in exchange for benefits accrued to a fourth party, still thought they had the freedom to take the middle, to despise meddling politicians in both parties, ignore most things the government did, while living their own lives. They had seen their savings devalued, their homes seized, their lives bedeviled by a thousand regulations, but they still thought that it was possible to take a middle-ground, to reject the solutions by asserting that they are not the problem.

They did not understand that in Cleaverland, in Alinskytown and in Obamaville—no one opts out. Either you volunteer of you get drafted. Raise your hand or you will be called on anyway. Not volunteering to be part of their agenda means that you are the problem.

You, sitting right there in your chair, watching these words move across your screen, are the problem. A problem 311,591,917 human souls strong. You eat too much or you don’t pay enough taxes, you drive your car too often, you haven’t bought solar panels for your roof, you browse extremist websites when you should be browsing government informational sites for tips on how to do or not do all of the above. But most of all… you still don’t understand what a great problem you are for the people running this country into the ground between the Atlantic and the Pacific. They keep trying to solve you, but you don’t go away.

There is no neutrality when dealing with people who reject the very concept of neutrality. Who draw everyone into the long columns of their spreadsheets and catch everyone in their spider’s web. There is no middle ground with people who don’t believe there is a middle ground, who believe that every human on earth is part of the problem and can only opt out of being the problem by joining up with them and following their directives.

That is what we are up against. We confront the Great Solvers of the Human Problem who are determined to arrange everyone and everything to their liking. They began by controlling everything that people did. Now, they have moved on to controlling what people don’t do. If you live, if you breathe, if you stir, move your muscles, track moving objects with your eyes, then there are obligations imposed on you.

ObamaCare is one of the final declarations that there is no opting out. Even if you don’t drive, own a home, own a business, own a dog, or do one of the infinite things that bring you into mandatory contact with the apparatus of your local, semi-local, trans-local, national or global government, you are committed to a task from maturity to death. Your mission is to obtain health insurance, and, in a system in which you become the ward of the government as soon as you taste air, it is the price that you pay for being alive.

In a free country, you are not obligated to do things simply for the privilege of breathing oxygen north of the Rio Grande and south of Niagara Falls. But this isn’t a free country anymore; this is a country in which you get things for free. And there is a big difference between those two things.

11 Nov 2013

Government Knows Best

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Jonah Goldberg discusses how the base philosophy of American government has changed. We are now ruled by people, like Barack Obama, who believe that they know better than we do ourselves what’s good for us.

Several times now, the president has endeavored to explain that it’s not that big a deal millions of Americans are losing their health-insurance plans against their will. The people who had plans they liked didn’t understand that the plans they liked were no good — they were the actuarial equivalent of trans fats, don’t you know? The fact that the people who held them liked them, thought they were good, and wanted to keep them doesn’t count for much, because the government knows best.

The president can’t say it as plainly as he would like, because to do so would be to admit not only that he lied to the American people, but that he thinks the complainers are ignorant about their own needs and interests.

The president’s more intellectually honest defenders have said exactly that. “Vast swathes of policy are based on the correct presumption that people don’t know what’s best for them. Nothing new,” tweeted Josh Barro, politics editor for Business Insider.

Barro’s fairly liberal, but I’d be dishonest if I said that he was wrong from a conservative perspective. The difference, however, is that conservatives tend to see government as a necessary evil, and therefore see policymaking with some humility. Liberals tend to see government as a necessary good, and see ordering people to do things “for their own good” as a source of pride, even hubris.

From a conservative perspective, telling people how to run their lives when not absolutely necessary is an abuse of power. For liberals, telling people how to run their lives is one of the really fun perks of working for the government.

You can see the frustration on the president’s face. It’s almost like the ingrates who refuse to understand that his were necessary lies for their own good are spoiling all his fun.

07 Oct 2013

“This Isn’t a Free Country Anymore; This is a Country in Which You Get Things for Free.

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Dan Greenfield views Obamacare as a major landmark on our establishment elite’s route from Problemtown to Solutionville, and they are taking all of the rest of us along for the ride whether we like it or not.

You, sitting right there in your chair, watching these words move across your screen, are the problem. A problem 311,591,917 human souls strong.

You eat too much or you don’t pay enough taxes, you drive your car too often, you haven’t bought solar panels for your roof, you browse extremist websites when you should be browsing government informational sites for tips on how to do or not do all of the above. Most of all, you don’t understand what a great problem you are for the people running this country into the ground between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

They keep trying to solve you, but you don’t go away.

There is no neutrality when dealing with people who reject the very concept of opting out of a solution. There is no middle ground with people who don’t believe there is a middle ground, believing instead that every human on earth is part of the problem and can only stop being the problem by following their directives.

We confront the Great Solvers of the Human Problem who are determined to rearrange everyone to their liking. They began by controlling everything that people did. Now, they have moved on to controlling what people don’t do. If you live, if you breathe, if you stir, move your muscles, track moving objects with your eyes, then there are obligations imposed on you.

ObamaCare is one of the final declarations that there is no opting out. Even if you don’t drive, own a home, own a business, own a dog, or do one of the infinite things that bring you into mandatory contact with the apparatus of your government, you are committed to a task from maturity to death. Your mission is to obtain health insurance, and, in a system in which you become the ward of the government as soon as you taste air, it is the price that you pay for being alive.

In a free country, you are not obligated to do things simply for the privilege of breathing oxygen north of the Rio Grande and south of Niagara Falls.

But this isn’t a free country anymore; this is a country in which you get things for free. And there is a big difference between those two things.

Read the whole thing.

10 Aug 2013

The Left Is After Football

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Football practice at Yale, early last century.

Timothy Birdnow argues that the left’s recent efforts “to make football safer” are really expressions of their reflexive determination to eliminate competition and aggression and to emasculate America.

The liberal sports media has jumped on board. …), and, ironically, they may well kill the very sport that puts food on their tables. They can’t help it; a scorpion stings because it is a scorpion.

It is in this current climate of pacifism (and that is the purpose of the campaign: to turn football into a more pacific game, thus removing another layer of America’s masculinity) that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed a law mandating insurance for student-athletes.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

    The law says that a school’s minimum policy will cover $3 million in aggregate benefits or five years of coverage – whatever comes first – for injuries that total medical expenses over $50,000. The law includes public and private schools and state officials estimate that the cost of the coverage will be no more than $5 a student. Currently, some schools carry insurance for athletes, but it hasn’t been mandatory. The Illinois High School Association provides students with this catastrophic insurance for state tournaments.

First, one must ask why this is needed, since it will soon be the law of the land that everyone be covered by health insurance. I was under the impression that ObamaCare was designed specifically to fix this sort of problem. Why are schools in Illinois being made to pay for catastrophic health insurance when Mr. Obama, the product of that state’s political genius, has already addressed the issue? …

This will kill many sports programs in poor school districts and likely in the lion’s share of private or parochial schools. Would a struggling Catholic school spend money needed for actually educating students on sports insurance? It will become a choice between teaching and athletics for many schools.

Of course, such would suit the educational commissars just fine. There has been an increasing effort by the Progressives to straitjacket young children. Sports are one outlet they have targeted, with an increasingly regimented and organized approach to what were once thought of as children’s games. Michelle Obama may say “Let’s Move!,” but she wants all movement under her watchful eye. Gone are the days of sandlot football, of a bunch of kids getting together for a stickball game or a spontaneous game of field hockey. Children now devote much of their time to thumb exercises as computers replace the athletic field. When children are allowed to play, they are wrapped up like mummies lest they get a bruise.

All this teaches a lesson to the children: private, individual action is dangerous and should be avoided. Life must be lived within the guardrails, carefully planned and safeguarded by society.

Even more distressing to the left is that sports started as a means of training for soldiers. That is why football is so appealing to America; it is a he-man sport, a vestige of the old America, where an association of free men stand together in battle. Yes, team effort is required, but there is also plenty of room for heroics, and the individual may make a huge difference.

But at football’s core is a physicality bordering on violence, and to the left, that is anathema — an atavistic impulse that must be squeezed out of our children.

So instead of a healthy game of tackle football at recess, liberals substitute Ritalin and maybe a good heated game of tag.

Consider the war against dodgeball. Progressives fret that it is traumatizing children and have been systematically banning the game. Why? Nobody ever gets hurt from dodgeball, but Progressive educators still want it gone. That is because of the actual acts performed in the game: one physically tries to hit another. The goal of the left has been to make physical aggression taboo; thus, dodgeball, which teaches children to be physically aggressive, must go.

Read the whole thing.

26 Mar 2013

Cheering For the Nanny State

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Bowdoin’s aspiring Platonic Guardian Sara O. Conly recently published a great big book arguing in favor of Nanny State paternalism over Liberty. Not surprisingly, we now find her defending Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban in the New York Times.

Giving up a little liberty is something we agree to when we agree to live in a democratic society that is governed by laws.

The freedom to buy a really large soda, all in one cup, is something we stand to lose here. For most people, given their desire for health, that results in a net gain. For some people, yes, it’s an absolute loss. It’s just not much of a loss.

Of course, what people fear is that this is just the beginning: today it’s soda, tomorrow it’s the guy standing behind you making you eat your broccoli, floss your teeth, and watch “PBS NewsHour” every day. What this ignores is that successful paternalistic laws are done on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis: if it’s too painful, it’s not a good law. Making these analyses is something the government has the resources to do, just as now it sets automobile construction standards while considering both the need for affordability and the desire for safety.

Do we care so much about our health that we want to be forced to go to aerobics every day and give up all meat, sugar and salt? No. But in this case, it’s some extra soda. Banning a law on the grounds that it might lead to worse laws would mean we could have no laws whatsoever.

In the old days we used to blame people for acting imprudently, and say that since their bad choices were their own fault, they deserved to suffer the consequences. Now we see that these errors aren’t a function of bad character, but of our shared cognitive inheritance. The proper reaction is not blame, but an impulse to help one another.

That’s what the government is supposed to do, help us get where we want to go. It’s not always worth it to intervene, but sometimes, where the costs are small and the benefit is large, it is. That’s why we have prescriptions for medicine. And that’s why, as irritating as it may initially feel, the soda regulation is a good idea. It’s hard to give up the idea of ourselves as completely rational. We feel as if we lose some dignity. But that’s the way it is, and there’s no dignity in clinging to an illusion.

La Conly’s argument (in both her book and this editorial) really boils down to the claim (based on behaviorist social science, no less) that people are incompetent, make bad choices, and have difficulty recognizing their own best interests. Therefore, Conly says these other people over here, the ones who attended Princeton, who have important official titles and positions, know better what is good for everyone; and you ordinary people over there, you dimbulbs and dufi, should be willing to surrender (just a little) liberty here and some other liberty there, when those wiser and better, and more prestigiously and officially placed, than you decide that it is time to lay down the law and tell you what to do, for your own good.

Speaking philosophically, I went to Yale (which outranks Princeton all day long), so I get to point out to Professor Conly that in reality, the behaviorist social sciences prove that our Mandarins, politicians, and experts are just as fallibly human as everyone else, and are also subject to errors produced by biases toward short-term satisfaction and unrealistic optimism, particularly –in their case– optimism about their own capacities, objectivity, and motivations. Platonic Guardians tend to think that they are being disinterested and only trying to maximize everyone’s well being, while all the while they are busily gathering greater powers and control over the lives and fortunes of others to themselves. The best political philosophers are those, like Jefferson and Madison, who recognize the fact that no one enjoys the kind of superiority of perspective which entitles him or her to prescribe to someone else what he ought to do inside his own private sphere of liberty.

25 Mar 2013

Mayor Bloomberg: “There Are Certain Times We Should Infringe On Your Freedom”

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The Washington Times makes clear that Hizonner is not actually referring to cases of civil war or national emergency either. He means, in fact, whenever we (the bien pensant class of busybodies) are convinced that we know best what’s good for you.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday: Sometimes government does know best. And in those cases, Americans should just cede their rights.

“I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom,” Mr. Bloomberg said, during an appearance on NBC. He made the statement during discussion of his soda ban — just shot down by the courts — and insistence that his fight to control sugary drink portion sizes in the city would go forth.

Read the whole thing.

We need to find a way to expel Michael Bloomberg from the Republican Party.

12 Mar 2013

First Michael Bloomberg Came For….

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When the Mayor of New York provokes ridicule for his authoritarian overreach from representatives of the Confucian culture of Taiwan, it is clear that he has gone way too far. Happily, a New York State Supreme Court Judge agreed with the Taiwanese perspective yesterday, and blocked enforcement of Mayor Bloomberg’s soft drink edict.

Via Bookworm. Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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