31 July 2009

It's times like these that I think Democracy is a very dark joke.

The more I think about it, the more this car scrapping nonsense gets under my skin. It's got at least six different features that crop up in all sorts of stupid schemes, all rolled into one.
  1. A transfer from tax payers generally to favored interests, in this case auto manufacturers and dealers.
  2. Populist handouts of other people's money.
  3. Sweeping costs under the rug, both
    • Monetary costs, so that people notice the check they get from the dealer but fail to notice the bill they (or their children) will get in the future, and
    • Environmental costs, because people fail to notice pollution for Midwestern assembly lines but notice pollution from the tailpipe in the car in front of them
  4. Simplistic modeling of the costs and benefits, such that things like the actual mileage that the to-be-scrapped car will travel is ignored, an improvement in fuel efficiency from 4.0mpg is declared to be as advantageous as a bump of 9.9mpg, not to mention ignoring the costs of building the new car.
  5. We've known you can't get wealthier, in the aggregate, by destroying things since 1850. What's the point of learning, of making new arguments, of proving points, of intellectual progress, if people keep on making the same knucklehead errors generation after generation?
Wrap all that up into one program and all I can think of is that the planners behind it must be either very stupid or think that I am very stupid. I'm not sure which of those possibilities bothers me more.

5 comments:

  1. I wouldn't take you as stupid. The goal of the program is to remove cars from the road at great cost the government sees as undesirable and replace them with cars it approves of. It's a symbolic political stunt. The cost to government is irrelevant.

    As a SUV user for work, the acceptable SUVs are SUV like bodies on car frames with hybrid engines. Even the Chevy HHR (think Mini Cooper) is listed as a SUV.

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  2. I drive one of those pseudo-SUVs: my CR-V is essentially a tall Civic. I didn't get a hybrid because I don't have the money, and I only drive about 10 or 12 miles per day on average, mostly on highways, so there's no way it would have been worth it. My actual mileage in my CR-V is 23.9mpg; the Chevy HHR has an EPA estimate of 24.

    As to your first point, it is a stunt, and that's why I don't like it. The "cost to government" is very much relevant, because it's not a cost born by government, it's a cost born by you and I and other taxpayers. It's $3 Billion out of the pockets of us and our children so that Congress can look like they're doing something.

    I'm sympathetic to the supposed environmental goals of car-scrapping, but it just doesn't come close to achieving them because it ignores the energy needed to produce a new car. If you really want Americans to burn less fuel there's a simple and honest and efficient way to do that: a Pigovian fuel tax. That induces people to drive less, to drive more efficiently, and to trade up to a more efficient car if it suits them (although you'd need a comparable tax on the energy required to produce the new car). The problem is that the voters will look at that and think it's a spoonful of vile medicine, whereas they look at the car-scrapping program like a slice of free cake despite the expense and ineffectualness.

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  3. 2 things. I meant irrelevant in the sense that the clowns that created the program could care less about the cost. Of course the people are getting screwed.

    The other thing is I have a 94 Ford Explorer. I was doing a 50 mile commute. My mileage was 17 a gallon. I put on an unrestricted air intake and a free flow exhaust and my mileage went to 22 a gallon. Government regulations make today's cars less fuel efficient.

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  4. Ah. Well sorry for misunderstanding you there. I feel a bit rude now.

    Good job refitting the Explorer.

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  5. Quite alright. We take these costs personally while our elite look down on us commoners and say they are of good stock; let them bare future generations to pay for our wanton indulgences.

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