Leave Our Cars Alone

THAT does it.  This time the government has gone too far.

If there is one thing Americans will fight to the last ditch over it is our beloved automobiles.  Most of us won’t use mass transit, we won’t carpool, we won’t walk, and we won’t ride bicycles.

The new ukase that DC throw away our debilitating tax dollars to attempt to bribe people via vouchers to buy hybrids they can’t afford and will hate in return for allowing their trade-ins to be scrunched into scrap has me close to foaming at the mouth.  Where in the Constitution does it say such loony legislation is legal?   Where does it say the Washington can dictate our choices, gas mileage, and harming our possessions to suit their ideologies?

This is an offshoot of a dictatorial California (where else?) scheme forbidding registration of older cars.  By outlawing perfectly good vehicles, which the drivers pay the penalty of lower gas mileage for, the Greens are destroying wealth and continuing to back us into corners we aren’t going to like a bit–all for their crazy junk science.

Other ideas that have been floated are import duties similar to those in the Netherlands and elsewhere: a 100% import duty on foreign automobiles, a suggestion sure to find favor with Japan, India, Korea, and the EU who would like to keep selling their products to us.  We’re already having grim rumblings about “protectionistic” legislation.  In Egypt a foreign car runs about three times new car value, whatever its age.  “Class” in Holland is an old black Ford sedan!  California already offers a bounty in some instances and has banned other cars from the road.  Still another proposal is demanding that cars past a certain age be destroyed–did those people ever hear of the “takings” clause?  If I cannot drive a vehicle on public roads and/or if I cannot register it and/or if the government demands said car be destroyed, I will be impoverished without compensation.

Yes, we need to heed warnings that the USA has to cut back consumption and wasteful habits–but urging people to buy new cars is not a good way to go about it, nor is destroying perfectly usable machinery.

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” the old Yankee doggerel goes, and we really should pay attention to it, so long as we leave our neighbors alone and do not become joyless Scrooges.  That does NOT mean that we have to do without what we really want, merely that we need to be creative and check our priorities and goals more carefully.

The three biggest purchases most people make in their lifetimes are houses, college educations, and automobiles.  Gary has my article on how to solve the college problem and it will appear in time.

The revolution starts right here, dear bar patrons, because I am going to tell you how to have what we want legally and economically.  My contribution to the war effort where our treasured transportation is concerned will be showing you how you can all drive exactly what you want affordably and a pox on anyone who doesn’t like it.  My family has been doing it for over sixty years and I guarantee that it works.

Life is about using our intelligence, our assets, and our character to get what we want, and no one I know wants to ride around in a motorized dog crate that has to be plugged in every night while the electric meter whirls as though powered by a demented squirrel.  Imagine going to visit friends fifty miles away and having to ask if you can plug your car in during the evening so that you can make it back home!

Think of the danger of frail car substitutes.  A fellow car-lover said that every time he takes his Miata convertible out he gets very nervous finding himself eyeball to hubcap with eighteen-wheelers.  He is the second-best driver I know and his gaudy little roller skate has plenty of power to get him out of trouble.  The same can scarcely be said for ultra-lightweight plastic baby bathtubs with bitty three-banger motors.  Or worse.

This bears directly on the idiotic idea that we crush useful vehicles and send them to China as scrap–well, what did you think the government was going to do with the ones turned in?  Give ’em to Mr. Goodwrench to put on the lot at GovMot?!  Destruction of wealth, the lordly “WE know better than you do,” and totalitarianism is what  the left wing does professionally.  Scrap value is bound to be part of phoney bologna “pay as you go.”  Our steel industry is in trouble, too, so better we don’t sell metal of any sort we need to foreigners, even if we don’t get it back as tanks or 105 shells as happened during WWII.  The casings of large caliber shells–such as a 105–are certainly made of brass, but the payload is steel, with a rotating brass ring that engages with the rifling and a secondary explosive burst that turns that steel into multitudinous shards named after Colonel Shrapnel.  Give me any nonsense and I’ll tell you about anti-tank rounds with sabots on them and kinetic energy.

It is insanity to sacrifice perfectly good parts and cars with a great deal of useful life left in them on the sacred altar of Liberal theology.

One of our great problems as a nation is the “use it once and throw it away” mentality which has turned into machinery which cannot even be repaired for less than a new computer, for example, would cost.  Ask to have a VCR repaired and the man will laugh.  If I needed a new washer I would never think of buying precisely that; I would go find a sturdy older machine that was made out of genuine metal instead of plastic.  Parts are still available, and for far less cost I would have a machine that would work another fifteen years, instead of Sears wanting me to buy an extended warranty for years two through four.  I expect the things I purchase to be good for many years.  I don’t buy junk, and I don’t buy fads.

Part of the answer on “What should the car of the future be?” (coming in the next segment) has to do with how long you expect it to last and how little you anticipate having to put into repairs.  The rest is comfort, safety, sensible but not ludicrous gas mileage, affordability, and vehicles you expect to drive long term.

Having argued the case for diesel fuel and motors, based on lower price, higher mileage, greater availability in times of rationing/long lines/higher prices (diesel is more likely to be available than gas since the trucks must roll or most of us will starve), and the ability to store it for future need, unlike gasoline which is now useless as a means of running motors after six months, let’s go on to the more interesting part of how to choose perfect vehicles.

The first question is how many vehicles do you need?  Almost certainly at least one more than you have!  The classic Cavalry rule is 1.3 mounts per man, rounding up always since one cannot ride a third of a horse or drive a fraction of a car.  Two people need three cars (since one always seems to be in the shop, or having the oil changed, or is the wrong size for the job.)  Three people need four cars.  And good driving records/grades, with the current price of insurance.  Not to worry, since part of the solution is being certain that the guidelines I am going to promulgate ensure that we can both afford and enjoy our vehicles.

What sort and how many cars would it take to make your family blissfully happy?  What would you love to drive and own?  How about a luxurious sedan as a road car and for evenings out, a station wagon or pick up, a car for your teenaged daughter, and something that will get pretty good mileage if you insist?  That’s a nice collection even if it is difficult to park in suburbia.

Could you get all of those and afford to run them?  Of course you can!  The solution is the very cars that the government proposes to destroy.  You know what new cars cost even with desperate dealers offering all sorts of incentives, but with sensible shopping you could have all four for less than the cost of a Hyundai.  Think about how much gas you could buy if you didn’t spend the money on a Honda Accord!   Remember how much better things were constructed twenty or more years ago.

The newest car I own is a ’95 and I’ll match my collection against an oil sheik’s.  Other than being diamond-studded.  I wouldn’t take a 2009 car (well, less than a Ferrari) if you gave it to me on the condition that I had to drive it.

Next time I will make specific recommendations on how to reduce car purchases to a proposition as simple as orthodontia:  when you need it, you need it.  Once you’ve had it, you don’t expect to need it again.  Once you have sorted out the perfect fleet and freed yourself from five-year car notes and safety and repair concerns, you can finish accumulating the 30% of your portfolio which should be in metal and get on to sorting out the various interesting propositions our friends at Agora sends us.

Rebelliously yours,
Linda Brady Traynham

June 18, 2009

The Daily Reckoning