Category Archive 'Regulation'
13 Feb 2020
Then they mean to take away your car, Jack Baruth predicts.
Iâ€™d be willing to bet that very few of you know who Richard Aborn is. He was the president of Handgun Control, Inc., in 1993 when the Brady Bill was passed. Prior to the billâ€™s passage, the NRA and others said that it would be the â€œcamelâ€™s nose under the tentâ€ of firearms legislation. This is a reference to an old saying that you canâ€™t just let the camelâ€™s nose into a tentâ€”you end up letting the whole camel in, whether you want to or not.
Anyway, when the Brady Bill was passed, Mr. Aborn grabbed a reporter and said, â€œ[The billâ€™s detractors were] right all along in fearing the waiting period was a camelâ€™s nose under the tent. Brady has now passed and it is time to reveal the rest of the camel!â€ At the time, I thought that was a little, ahem, bold of the man to say. Regardless of how you feel about gun control, you can probably agree with me that you shouldnâ€™t spike the football before the referee puts his hands up. But Mr. Aborn no doubt figured he was on the right side of history in this matter.
Across the Atlantic, the legislators both elected and unelected believe themselves to be on the right side of history when it comes to the privately-owned internal-combustion vehicleâ€”more specifically, when it comes to the demise of same. The UK just announced that it would ban the sale of gas or diesel cars by 2035, â€œor earlier, if possible.â€ When Neil Peart wrote Red Barchetta, that date was a robust 60 years away. Now itâ€™s closer in our windshield than the introduction of the second-generation Toyota Prius is in our rearview mirror, so to speak.
This astounding regulatory decision, made by people who canâ€™t gauge the UKâ€™s relative impact on the climate vis-a-vis Chinaâ€”or maybe they just read 1984 as an instruction manual, not a warningâ€”sickens me. Thereâ€™s only one thing to be said in its defense: at least itâ€™s kind of fair. Contrast it to the Europeans, who are doing something even nastier: their 2021 emissions standards require a fleet average of 58 mpg or thereabouts. You couldnâ€™t do that with an all-Prius fleet. Heck, not even the Plymouth Horizon Miser could hit that mark.
What the EU expects the automakers to do is simple: continue making Ferraris, AMG Benzes, and whatnot for the super-rich while forcing everyone else into an electric vehicle. So while British showrooms will force the same misery on everyone, kind of like the way everyone in London had to hide in the same shelters during the Blitz, the Europeans will make sure that the most privileged among us get to keep doing what they want while the average man or woman in the street gets stuck with a glorified golf cart.
(If you like, and if it fits your political worldview, youâ€™re also free to see this as a way to make the dirty plutocrats subsidize clean electric transportation for the proletariat through extra markup on their G-wagens or Range Rovers or whatever. Thereâ€™s room for all views here, except perhaps for those held by the people who weld enormous scrap-sheet metal fenders on old 911s for no reason.)
The delight with which the politicians are rolling out these regulations would make Richard Aborn blush.
10 Feb 2020
The Nomenklatura live conveniently in Atherton, Portola, or Pacific Heights, but the proletariat get to catch 2:30 AM buses to work from the 110Â° every day Central Valley. Protocol:
It’s 2:30 a.m. in the Central California farm town of Salida, and the only sound is the tech bus pulling into an unmarked lot surrounded by barbed wire. Men and women in work boots board in the moonlight. Next stop is 11 miles away in Manteca, and then it’s another 55 miles to Fremont on the San Francisco Bay, where â€” an hour and a half hour later â€” the 4 a.m. shift at the Tesla factory starts.
Welcome to life on Silicon Valley’s new frontier. When tech companies first introduced private shuttles for their employees more than a decade ago, they served the affluent neighborhoods in San Francisco and the Peninsula. Now the buses reach as far as the almond orchards of Salida and the garlic fields of Gilroy.
Tech companies have grown tight-lipped about the specifics of their shuttle programs in the wake of high-profile protests in San Francisco. But Protocol was able to locate enough stops for company shuttles to confirm that some tech shuttles now drive all the way out to the Central Valley, an agricultural hub once a world away from the tech boom on the coast.
“That just tells you the story of the Bay Area,” said Russell Hancock, president and CEO of regional think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “We’re going to be in these farther-flung places, and that’s our reality because we’re not going to be able to create affordable housing.”
Tech shuttle sprawl speaks to the unique pressures that the industry has put on the region. High tech salaries have driven up housing prices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and the East Bay, forcing white- and blue-collar workers alike to move farther away from their jobs. The crisis is compounded by anti-development politics that make it hard to build new housing and patchwork public transit systems that make it difficult for commuters to get to work without driving.
The mismatch between jobs and housing has become so extreme that Google and Facebook have proposed building thousands of apartments or condos on their own campuses.
In the meantime, those companies â€” plus Tesla, Apple, Netflix, LinkedIn, Genentech and others â€” are trying to solve the problem with long-distance buses. They all now offer shuttle service to at least the extended suburbs of the East Bay, according to interviews and reports Protocol consulted. Their longest routes now stretch north across the Golden Gate Bridge, south to the surf town of Santa Cruz, and east to the Central Valley â€” a total service area approaching 3,000 square miles.
18 Nov 2019
You got lucky and stumbled upon a fabulously valuable treasure of gold, then you learned that you were unlucky enough to live in a time and place so hedged round everywhere with rules and regulations that you could never even try to recover that treasure. All you can do is tell your sad, sad story to the SF Chronicle
One night five years ago, fisherman Giuseppe Pennisi was lying in bed with his laptop propped up on his barrel chest, reviewing video footage captured from his 76-foot boat, the Pioneer. The boat is a bottom trawler. It scoops up fish with a net that bounces across the seafloor at depths of more than 4,000 feet. A tinkerer, Pennisi likes to keep GoPro cameras attached to the net, allowing him to study the footage and improve his technique. That night, around 2 a.m., he noticed his camera slide past something unusual.
Along the murky seafloor, fish and rocks come in rounded shapes and soft colors, muted grays and greens. His eyes were attuned to this drab underwater landscape, which is why he had been puzzled by brief flashes of light on the video screen, shiny surfaces glimmering by. Then he saw it: a rectangular object, sharp-edged and pale, almost white, with a tinge of yellow.
It was September 2014, and Pennisi, who goes by Joe, was 50 years old, with four decades of fishing behind him. He had sailed on commercial boats since he was 7; his father and grandfather had towed their nets in the same waters for more than a century. He had never seen anything like the object in the video. Still, Joe sensed immediately what it might be. His net often got caught on the rotting underwater husks of old ships wrecked just beyond the Golden Gate, and he knew that some of those ships â€” Spanish galleons, Gold Rush-era steamers â€” had carried treasure.
He rewound the video, peered forward and froze the frame with the yellow rectangular object. It looked for all the world like a gold bar, an ingot. For a few minutes, he stared at it while his wife, Grazia, slept beside him.
Then he started to scream.
18 Jul 2019
Brett Stevens points out that the Administrative State adds an awful lot of costs.
Take a detour now to a grocery store. For sake of argument, let us say that you are buying a single lime. Maybe you need a mid-day margarita after all of this government drama; maybe you are seasoning fajitas. Either way, you just need to pick up a lime.
It costs $0.79 for a single lime. This is for a fruit that grows on trees even within your region, which in theory should be harvested by cheap illegal alien labor, and delivered with our ultra-efficient transportation system. Why is is so expensive?
The following approximate estimates tell you approximately where your $0.79 is going:
Sales tax (6.25%). Since this is a food item, you do not pay sales tax, but if it were anything else, you would pay an additional six cents. This would go to your local tax authority, of which four cents would go to the schools which have decided that they must admit illegal aliens, offer psychological care, have police officers on staff, have speech therapists, and add many more administrators to cover paperwork arising mostly from court cases which cause schools to handle students carefully.
Taxes passed along (20%). The businesses which grow, transport, resell, and ultimately sell these fruits all pay taxes. They calculate those taxes into the cost of every item. This includes gasoline and road taxes, property tax, and income tax.
Insurance (5%). Lawsuits take up a lot of money, and it costs about $250k just to defend against one, and much more to take the case to its conclusion. Every lawsuit payout gets added on to what insurance charges businesses, and they pass it on to you.
Regulations (10%). Voters love regulations. â€œWell, itâ€™s in the law then, and thatâ€™s that!â€ Each regulation written creates bureaucrats on the government side, and in every business that has to deal with them. Their salaries get passed onâ€¦ to you.
Affirmative action (20%). Companies get sued when they do not have enough sexual, religious, and ethnic minorities hired. Government can in fact seize the company. As a result, they hire lots of these people, mainly because any time you hire someone for what they are instead of their abilities, you get incompetents, so you have to double- or triple-staff each position.
All of these costs, created by government and its machinations, get socked to you at the end of the day. Now think about the total cost per shopping trip, times number of shopping trips per year. Think about how everything â€” mortgage, healthcare, internet, car â€” includes similar cost breakdowns.
Then add the taxes you pay: property, sales, income, and the various hidden taxes like registration fees, licensing, and fines.
Where does all this money go? Government becomes an industry if allowed because it is external to society, managing society as a means to an end, which is a combination of government and whatever ideology powers it.
Our economy has become contorted by government, which is now one of its largest industries, if you add up both direct and indirect costs like bureaucrats, consultants, lawyers, and politicians.
29 May 2019
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. Itâ€™s boring, even shocking when you consider how awesome cars used to look. Whatâ€™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. â€œBlame the Death of Design for U.S. Autosâ€™ Declineâ€ reads his headline. Speaking of Cadillacs and their declining sales, he writes: â€œThe 1957 coupe looked like nothing else on wheels then, and itâ€™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.â€
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]â€™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, itâ€™s a different matter. Our sense of nostalgia is growing, not receding. But we donâ€™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 hasnâ€™t happened all at once. Itâ€™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 doesnâ€™t want to be safer and who doesnâ€™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 otherâ€™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. Itâ€™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 â€œsafetyâ€ and the environment has wrecked the entire car aesthetic.
And thatâ€™s only the beginning. Car and Driver puts this as plainly as can be: â€œIn 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.â€
You are welcome to read an engineerâ€™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 â€” really a massive central plan â€” dictate every detail and have utterly ruined the look and feel of American cars.
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.
07 Jul 2018
Herbert Spencer, “Over-Legislation,” Westminster Review, p. 28:
Though we have ceased to assume the infallibility of our theological beliefs and so ceased to enact them, we have not ceased to enact hosts of other beliefs of an equally doubtful kind. Though we no longer presume to coerce men for their spiritual good, we still think ourselves called upon to coerce them for their material good: not seeing that the one is as useless and as unwarrantable as the other. Innumerable failures seem, so far, powerless to teach this. Take up a daily paper and you will probably find a leader exposing the corruption, negligence, or mismanagement of some State department. Cast your eye down the next column, and it is not unlikely that you will read proposals for an extension of State-supervision. Yesterday came a charge of gross carelessness against the Colonial Office. Today Admiralty bunglings are burlesqued. Tomorrow brings the question, â€œShould there not be more coal-mine inspectors?â€ Now there is a complaint that the Board of Health is useless; and now an outcry for more railway regulation. While your ears are still ringing with denunciations of Chancery abuses, or your cheeks still glowing with indignation at some well-exposed iniquity of the Ecclesiastical Courts, you suddenly come upon suggestions for organizing â€œa priesthood of science.â€ Here is a vehement condemnation of the police for stupidly allowing sight-seers to crush each other to death. You look for the corollary that official regulation is not to be trusted; when, instead, Ã propos of a shipwreck, you read an urgent demand for government-inspectors to see that ships always have their boats ready for launching. Thus, while every day chronicles a failure, there every day reappears the belief that it needs but an Act of Parliament and a staff of officers to effect any end desired. Nowhere is the perennial faith of mankind better seen.”
23 Jun 2018
I was looking through the archives of my blog, looking for a book reference I’d forgotten, when I found this old column from Fred on Everything which demands republishing.
Fred Reed looks at what has become of the American character.
Americans tend to regard their national character as comprising such things as freedom, independence, individualism, and self-reliance…
In fact we no longer have these qualities and probably never will again. Generally we now embody their opposites. Modern society has become a hive of largely conformist, closely regulated and generally helpless employees who depend on others for nearly everything. The cause is less anything particularly American than the technology that governs our lives. The United States just moves faster in the direction in which the civilized world moves.
Character springs from conditions. Consider a farmer in, say, North Carolina in 1850. He was free because there was little government, self-reliant because what he couldn’t do for himself didn’t get done, independent because, apart from a few tools, he made or grew all he needed, and an individualist because, there being little outside authority, he could do as he pleased.
All of that is gone, and will not return. Freedom has given way to an infinite array of laws, rules, regulations, licenses, forms, requirements. Many make sense, may even be desirable in a complex world, don’t necessarily make for a bad life, but they cannot be called freedom. Various governments determine what our children learn, whether we can paint the shutters, who we must sell our houses to, who we can hire, what we can say if we want to keep our jobs, where we can park, and whether and how we can build an outbuilding.
People who live infinitely controlled lives become accustomed to such control. Obedience becomes natural…
Individualism has withered under the pressure of the mass media and a distaste for eccentricity. Self-reliance died long ago. We depend on others to repair our cars, grow our food, fix the refrigerator, and write our operating systems. The habit of reliance on others has reached the point that even the right of self-defense has come to be regarded as wrong-minded…
Most poignantly, we are become a nation of employees, fearful of losing our jobs. Prisoners of the retirement system, afraid of transgressing against the various governing bodies before whom we are helpless, unable to feed ourselves, we are at least comfortable. We are not masters of our lives.
Dense populations and the complexity of machines and institutions lead inevitably to regulation, which leads to acceptance of regulation and therefore of authority, which becomes part of the national character. This we see. In my lifetime the change has been great. In rural Virginia in the Sixties, you could walk down the road with your rifle to shoot beer cans, swim in the creeks without supervision and life guards and “flotation devices” approved by the Coast Guard, and generally be left alone. Now, no. Regimentation has grown like kudzu. We obey. The new generation knows nothing else..
At the moment we see a great increase in regulation in the guise of preventing terrorism. Other pretexts could have been found and, I suspect, would have been: fighting crime or the war on drugs or something. The result might have been a drift rather than a headlong rush toward control. But sooner or later, technology determines politics. The computer, not the Constitution, is primary.
I suspect that the concern about terrorism is just a particular manifestation of a growing obsession with safety. Not too long ago, Americans were a hardy breed—foolhardy at times, but the one comes with the other. Now we see attempts to eliminate all risk everywhere. Cities fill in the deep ends of swimming pools and remove diving boards. We require that bicyclists wear helmets, fear second-hand smoke and the violence that is dodge ball. Warnings abound against going outside without sun block. To anyone who grew up in the Sixties or before, the new fearfulness is incomprehensible.
The explanation I think is the feminization of society, which seems to be inseparable from modernity. The nature of masculinity is to prize freedom over security; of femininity, security over freedom. Add that the American character of today powerfully favors regulation by the group in preference to individual choice. Note that we do not require that cars be equipped with seat belts and then let individuals decide whether to use them; we enforce their use. The result is compulsory Mommyism, very much a part of today’s America.
Does technological civilization inevitably lead to totalitarianism? Certainly the general fear, in combination with technology, makes a sort of soft Stalinism easy. Just now we move toward national ID cards, smuggled in by linking records of drivers’ licenses. Passports, scanned and linked to data bases, provide a record of our travels. Security cameras proliferate. Some of them read the license plates of all passing cars. Email can be monitored, phones easily and undetectably tapped. Now the government is experimenting with X-ray scanners for airports that provide near-pornographic images of passengers. Whether these will be used for dictatorial ends remains to be seen. Historians may one day note that surveillance, when possible, is inevitable.
What then is the national character today? I think we are first an obedient people. We submit. We are comfortable with authority, and seem to be most comfortable when we are told what to do. We prize security, safety, and predictability. Increasingly we accept being treated like convicts at airports and elsewhere. We want to be taken care of. We can do few things for ourselves. We expect government to decide much that was once regarded as outside of government’s ambit. And we are to the marrow of our bones incapable of rising against the creeping tyranny.
Too bloody true, alas!
05 Jan 2018
North American Moving Services 2017 American Migration Map.
Gosh, is there anything states shown in red losing the most population have in common, and anything the states shown in blue gaining the most population have in common?
Via: Seattle Sam.
30 May 2017
My solution: a 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser. I’ve mounted a 1930s Alvis Hare mascot on the hood.
Eric Peters warns that buying your next car new could be a terrible mistake.
tâ€™s a great time to buy a used car as far as the deal youâ€™ll get.
Itâ€™s a smart move, because of the hassle youâ€™ll avoid.
Maybe not right away but down the road â€” probably just after the warranty coverage expires.
Whatâ€™s happened is weâ€™ve crossed a kind of engineering Rubicon. It has happened over the past two or three years â€” and there is probably no turning back, not unless regulatory reasonableness returns â€” and that doesnâ€™t look likely. If anything, it is likely to become less and less reasonable.
The car companies have had to resort to design and engineering measures just as desperate and extreme as the financial measures to which they are resorting to fluff up sales. But in the case of the design and engineering measures, it is to placate federal regulatory ayatollahs, who continue to demand, among other things, that new vehicles achieve ever-higher fuel economy â€” and lower â€œgreenhouse emissionsâ€ â€” irrespective of the cost involved.
It is why, next year, BMW will append a four-cylinder/hybrid drivetrain to all 5 Series sedans â€” and eliminate the six-cylinder/non-hybrid versions.
It is why every new-design car has a direct injected (DXI or GDI) engine rather than a port fuel injected engine. Automatic Stop/Start systems are pretty much standard equipment, which you canâ€™t cross off the options list.
The latest automatic transmissions have eight â€” or even ten â€” speeds. Turbochargers, sometimes two of them, are the new In Thing.
Bodies are being made from aluminum rather than steel.
And, of course, there is â€œautonomousâ€ driving technology â€” cars that semi-steer and park themselves, accelerate and brake on their own.
None of these things materially improves the performance â€” or even the economy â€” of the vehicle in a way thatâ€™s meaningful to the owner.
A car with DI and an eight-speed transmission might give you a 3-4 MPG uptick on paper vs. the same basic vehicle without these technologies.
Thatâ€™s not nothing, of course.
But it doesnâ€™t cost nothing, either.
Not much is said about the fact that the car costs more to buy because it has these technologies. You â€œsave on gasâ€ â€” by spending more on the car. The same logic used to peddle hybrids.
Itâ€™s interesting that this other side of the equation is almost never discussed and that the ayatollahs who smite us with their regulatory fatwas â€” so seemingly concerned about how much weâ€™re spending on gas â€” never seem much concerned about how much weâ€™re spending to cover the cost of their fatwas.
Up front â€” and down the road.
These turbocharged, direct-injected, stop-starting cars â€” with their eight and nine and ten speed transmissions and aluminum bodies â€” deliver the goods (MPGs) when new. Enough so that the car companies achieve â€œcomplianceâ€ with whatever the latest federal fatwas are, at any rate.
But what happens as they get old?
Iâ€™ve written before about whatâ€™s already happening. About relatively young cars â€” less than ten years old, sometimes â€” becoming economically unfixable (that is, not worth fixing) when, for instance, the uber-elaborate transmission fails.
You have an otherwise sound car: an engine that will probably run reliably for another 100,000 miles, an un-rusty body and paint that still looks great. The overall carâ€™s not a junker â€” but the transmission is junk. So you have it towed to the shop, expecting to get the tranny (not Caitlyn) rebuilt. And the guy tells you they donâ€™t do that anymore. Rebuild â€” or repair.
You must buy a new (or â€œremanufacturedâ€) transmission, because theyâ€™ve become too complicated and time-consuming to deal with on a work bench. You are faced with spending $5,000 on a replacement transmission for a car thatâ€™s worth $8,000.
Older cars made with economically sane five and six-speed transmissions remain economically repairable. But they do not make them new anymore. Not many, anyhow.
And not for much longer.
It is not just that, either.
Last week, I reviewed the last of the Mohicans â€” as far as full-size trucks. The 2017 Toyota Tundra. It is the only current-year, full-size truck you can still buy that does not have a direct-injected engine. This means it will never have a carbon-fouling problem â€” as Ford and others who have added DI to their engines, to squeeze out an MPG or three more, to please Uncle, have regularly been having.
Actually, itâ€™s you â€” if you own one of these DIâ€™d rigs â€” who will have the problem.
And be paying to un-crud your direct-injected engine, which may involve partial disassembly of the engine. This is not like changing the oil. Nor will it cost you $19.99, either.
Fordâ€™s solution to the DI blues? It will be adding a separate port fuel injection circuit to its direct-injected engines next year. So, the vehicles will have two fuel injection systems. Youâ€™ve just double your odds of having a fuel system problem at some point.
The point here is itâ€™s not just one thing; it is a synergistic multiplicity of things that are bringing into actuality the Planned Obsolescence people used to grumble about â€” but which was mostly not the case. Until just the past several years, most cars were usually economically repairable well into their senior years. It made sense to put, say, $2,000 for a rebuilt (four or five-speed) automatic into a car worth $8,000.
But with all the complex, fragile, non-serviceable, and hugely expensive-to-replace-when-it-fails stuff they are grafting onto cars to make them Uncle friendly, they become not worth fixing long before the cars themselves have reached their liver-spotted years.
The truth is that probably every car made since about 2015 is a Latter Day Throw-Away. It will run beautifully for about ten years. Just a bit longer than those $500/month payments we were making.
I reached the same conclusion after buying my last BMW. It came with no dipstick. (You get to rely on the computer, which is useless and wrong anytime your battery is low, the temperature is too cold, the wiring gets wet, &c., &c.) It also came with no spare tire. Instead, we got run-flat tires which set off flat-tire warnings all the time on dirt roads, which had terrible traction on wet roads, and which were good for 10K miles. I’m used to getting 50K miles on normal Michelins.
There is, each year, more and more expensive crap built into automobiles, and fewer and fewer choices left to the unlucky car owner. I never wanted seat belts to begin with, let alone air bags.
Personally, I intend to go even farther back into automotive history than the author advises. My next car is going to have no computer at all, but will have a distributor and carburetors, and be much easier to work on.
02 May 2017
John Singleton Copley, A Boy with a Flying Squirrel. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Atlas Obscura informs us that a once common custom was obliterated by a change in fashion which then became cemented into Progressive Era regulation.
In 1722, a pet squirrel named Mungo passed away. It was a tragedy: Mungo escaped its confines and met its fate at the teeth of a dog. Benjamin Franklin, friend of the owner, immortalized the squirrel with a tribute.
â€œFew squirrels were better accomplished, for he had a good education, had traveled far, and seen much of the world.â€ Franklin wrote, adding, â€œThou art fallen by the fangs of wanton, cruel Ranger!â€
Mourning a squirrelâ€™s death wasnâ€™t as uncommon as you might think when Franklin wrote Mungoâ€™s eulogy; in the 18th- and 19th centuries, squirrels were fixtures in American homes, especially for children. While colonial Americans kept many types of wild animals as pets, squirrels â€œwere the most popular,â€ according to Katherine Grierâ€™s Pets in America, being relatively easy to keep. …
While many people captured their pet squirrels from the wild in the 1800s, squirrels were also sold in pet shops, a then-burgeoning industry that today constitutes a $70 billion business. One home manual from 1883, for example, explained that any squirrel could be bought from your local bird breeder. But not unlike some shops today, these pet stores could have dark side; Grier writes that shop owners â€œfaced the possibility that they sold animals to customers who would neglect or abuse them, or that their trade in a particular species could endanger its future in the wild.â€
Keeping pet squirrels has a downside for humans too, which eventually became clear: despite their ownersâ€™ best attempts at taming them, theyâ€™re still wild animals. As time wore on, squirrels were increasingly viewed as pests; by the 1910s squirrels became so despised in California that the state issued a widespread public attack on the once-adored creatures. From the 1920s through the 1970s many states slowly adopted wildlife conservation and exotic pet laws, which prohibited keeping squirrels at home.
12 Apr 2017
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz.
Kevin D. Williamson explains that the big ugly corporations that we particularly hate, by some curious coincidence, really tend to be exactly the ones which are most in bed with the regulatory state.
Capitalism is unpopular for four reasons: banks, health-insurance companies, cable providers, and airlines. These all have something in common.
Airlines are in the wringer this week, with United shaming itself in spectacular fashion: Having overbooked a flight and seated the passengers, the company found itself needing four seatsâ€”not for paying customers but for airline employees who needed to be moved to another airport. When they did not find any takers for their paltry travel-voucher offers, they simply dispatched armed men to the airplane to force paying customers off, in a now-famous case, literally dragging one of them away. …
The FAA Consortium in Aviation Operations Research estimated a few years back that the inability of U.S. airlines to deliver the services they have been paid for and that they agreed to deliver costs businesses something like $17 billion. But that does not really capture the expense. A conference I attended not long ago was scheduled to get under way in the afternoon, but all of those who were speaking or who had other formal roles at the event were contractually required to arrive the evening before. There was plenty of time to fly in on the morning of the conference and arrive well before the opening of the conference, assuming the airlines kept to their schedule â€” but the organizers, who are not fools, were not willing to bet on that happening. I did a little back-of-the-envelope English-major math and concluded that the extra hotel rooms alone must have added a six-figure sum to the organizersâ€™ expenses; if a significant number of the guests followed suit and decided not to bet on the airlinesâ€™ keeping their schedules, then the extra expenditure would have easily exceeded $1 million. There are thousands of events like that around the country every day. …
The airlines are terrible, of course, and every time one of them goes kaput, I do a little happy dance . . . until I remember that all that means is that the equally terrible remaining airlines have less competition. …
Airlines are like banks, health-insurance companies, and cable providers in that they work in very heavily regulated industries with relatively low profit margins, which creates enormous pressure for consolidation. (Notice how many health-insurance companies ditched markets they had previously served after the grievously misnamed Affordable Care Act was passed.) Those industries also are alike in that the relatively few players who remain in the market are heavily constrained by public-sector actors with powers that no private-sector monopoly would ever dare to dream of: the Federal Reserve, Medicare, the FCC, and the motley gangs of bureaucrats that have a hand in the airline business.
n the United States, it is regulation, not deregulation, that prevents foreign carriers from competing in the domestic market, which is not the case in New Zealand, which entered into a number of open-skies agreements to increase domestic competition, something our dinosaur airlines have fought against tooth and talon. And in New Zealand, airlines are obliged to compensate passengers if they bump themâ€”up to ten times the cost of the ticket. No so in the United States.
And that points to one of the biggest reasons people hate banks, cable companies, health-insurance companies, and airlines: There is an in-your-face asymmetry of power. If the airline says your flight is going to be delayed by two hours â€” not because of a hurricane or unforeseeable events but because of straightforward managerial incompetence â€” then you basically have to live with it. You donâ€™t get to say: â€œOkay, but Iâ€™m taking $50 off the airfare.â€ Your bank expects you to accept screw-ups on its part that might cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars if the mistake was yours. (My bank just spent 46 cents to send me a check for . . . 47 cents . . . because apparently I bank with people who cannot quite manage to calculate interest correctly.) Your cable service may go out for hours at a time, but if youâ€™re one minute late with your payment, expect penalties.
That is one major problem with heavily regulated industries in which there is insufficient competition: The managers act as though the business were organized for their benefit rather than for the customers, and that attitude seeps down to front-line workers. The typical airline employee treats the typical traveler as though he simply is in the way. I once was introduced to an executive who informed me that he was in charge of â€œstrategic planningâ€ for a large municipal utility company. I asked him whether his strategic plan was to keep being a monopoly. â€œIâ€™d really be exploring that angle, strategic-planning-wise,â€ I advised. He did not seem to appreciate my counsel.
If I were a better sort of person, Iâ€™d have a little sympathy for the senior executives at United, who must be having a hell of a week. I am not a better sort of person, and Iâ€™d be content to see them flogged in the streets. But thatâ€™s no way to make policy.
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