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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Politics and cars

What, one may ask, is wrong with the pursuit of automobile safety, fuel economy and pol­lution control? Only this: mandatory regulations that prohibit choices between better and cheaper cars force the average household in too many parts of the United States to drive second-hand, third-hand or simply very old cars that are drastically less safe, less fuel efficient and also more polluting than the prohibited cheaper new cars would be. Trump’s position was and is entirely forthright: he opposes the regulation of economic activities in principle unless unquestionably and very urgently necessary, as the control of climate change is not – depending on your definition of “urgent”. That was the clearest choice of all between Trump and Clinton, whose stance implicitly favoured $60,000 Tesla cars for the sake of the environment, as well as solar and wind power of ever increasing efficiency to be sure, but still now more costly than coal or gas.

Edward N. Luttwak, in the Times Literary Supplement.

Or to coin a phrase, it’s the car prices, stupid.

(I should add that my quoting this item does not mean I endorse all of the author’s views here, such as his seeming dislike of free trade.)

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21 comments to Politics and cars

  • Luttwak is basically a twit who as far as I known only ever wrote one good book. When it comes to military analysis, something he likes to talk about, he has a proven track record for abject failure (essentially predicting ‘Gulf War I’ for the USA against the mighty Iraqis was going to be Kasserine Pass writ large).

  • I should add that my quoting this item does not mean I endorse all of the author’s views here, such as his seeming dislike of free trade

    I occasionally quote Mao 😉

  • llamas

    @ PdH – will all due respect, I disagree with your assessment. I’m a big fan of his book ‘The Pentagon and the Art of War’, which I have quoted here on multiple occasions. While it is now definitely long in the tooth, it still accurately describes why the US military is always on the back foot in both doctrine and materiel.

    V/R

    llater,

    llamas

  • I’ll call it “Trickle-down nannyism” through which the wealthy get subsidies for new Teslas, and the poor are compelled to drive the death traps.

  • I should add that my quoting this item does not mean I endorse all of the author’s views here, such as his seeming dislike of free trade

    I occasionally quote Mao 😉

    “This tea is terrible.”
    Perry de Havilland (London), quoting Mao

  • bobby b

    Of course, the renovators of the Grenfell Tower were allowed the liberty of cladding the building in the cheaper composite material with the frozen gasoline core instead of having to follow a more onerous and expensive building code provision.

    So it’s not a completely one-sided argument.

  • Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy – Mao Zedong

  • “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” is usually the Mao quote I use.

  • newrouter

    “What, one may ask, is wrong with the pursuit of automobile safety, fuel economy and pol­lution control? Only this:” After a certain point: diminishing returns. That point was about 1990.

  • Richard Aubrey

    So, eventually, driving will be too expensive. The lower orders will have to live in giant apartment buildings in town. As they should. See Brave New World.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Bill Whittle and the Right Angle guys (the old “Trifecta”) have a UT discussing the fact that the “Millenials” don’t seem all that excited about driving cars themselves. The three gents remind viewers that there was a time when teenagers couldn’t wait to get their driver’s licenses; whereas now, they say, many don’t see the point of it and don’t bother.

    So goes their claim. Personally, I wouldn’t know, but that’s interesting if true.

    .

    (It seems to me that the boys are not always quite as reliable of late as they used to be. Maybe it’s just me, but once in awhile I cringe.)

  • Stonyground

    I passed my driving test when I was seventeen. My daughter is now twenty and is still not quite getting around to it. She seems to see it more as a necessary chore rather than something that she really wants to do.

  • Alisa

    Driving used to be the way for teenagers to get away from parents, their nagging, impositions, demands, etc. (what was once called ‘discipline’, I guess). These days parents know better(?) than to nag, impose, demand, or discipline. So most kids have nothing to get away from, they have all the comfort and all the freedom they want (or very close to it, compared to only a few decades ago). Plus, socially they have less and less need for physical contact with their peers – for several reasons, the internet being not the least of those.

  • Alsadius

    Luttwak is fascinating – he’s obviously intelligent and well-read, but he’s equally obviously an overly opinionated jerk. I enjoy reading his work, but I don’t mistake it for literal truth.

    As for driving, I suspect that’s urbanization talking. Rural kids are still gung-ho to drive, urban kids don’t see the point because urban areas are congested hellholes for people behind the wheel. There’s a lot more urban kids than there used to be.

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    For liberal elitists, expensive cars are a feature, not a bug.

    Such people, like the rest of us, want to be able to get around quickly and conveniently, but doing so is difficult, because the roads are choked with traffic. One solution would be to simply build more roads, but that would likely be an environmental anathema to them. Hence their alternative: impose safety, fuel-efficiency and anti-pollution standards that gradually make cars unaffordable for most, while leaving the roads empty for the likes of them. Problem solved!

  • Roué le Jour

    Stonyground,
    I didn’t pass untill I was eighteen, a bit a late developer, me. I did have a full bike license at sixteen though. Anyway, my son’s in his forties and has never driven. The reason given is that you just get lumbered driving other people about.

  • John K

    Of course, the renovators of the Grenfell Tower were allowed the liberty of cladding the building in the cheaper composite material with the frozen gasoline core instead of having to follow a more onerous and expensive building code provision.

    Bobby:

    As I understand it, all the materials used passed EU safety tests, and it was therefore legal to use them.

    The EU safety tests were flawed as compared to the British Standard tests, because they just tested the individual components, the cladding and the insulation, in isolation, rather than in a realistic scenario. This is now being done, with the result that about 60 buildings so far have failed the test.

    The EU is a massive regulatory regime, which is designed to ensure that everything across the EU conforms to the same standards, and can legally be used anywhere in the EU. Britain could not force a company to use the better British Standard test, so long as they complied with EU regulation. That is one of the very many reasons why I want Britain to leave the EU as soon as possible.

    There is talk of corporate manslaughter charges against Kensington & Chelsea Council and the property management company. So long as all the materials used conformed to EU standards, I cannot see that going anywhere. A law may be flawed, but as long as you comply with it, you can hardly be prosecuted (I hope).

  • She seems to see it more as a necessary chore rather than something that she really wants to do.

    I share that sentiment and have always disliked driving, given that I have lived in big cities for most of my life. I eventually stopped driving completely almost 15 years ago, preferring to pay other to drive me around. I do rather like Uber.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course it was governments (around the world) that got people hooked on cars in the first place – by building “free” roads, and driving private mass transit into the ground with price controls and other regulations.

    If the “car society” is a problem – it is a problem that governments created.

  • bobby b

    Julie near Chicago
    July 29, 2017 at 5:58 am

    “Bill Whittle and the Right Angle guys (the old “Trifecta”) have a UT discussing the fact that the “Millenials” don’t seem all that excited about driving cars themselves.”

    My sons (now in their mid-twenties) and all of their friends insisted on getting their licenses within days of turning sixteen.

    My daughter (also mid-twenties) and all of her friends eventually got around to getting their licenses, but it was entirely not a big deal.

    So I remain convinced that it’s a testosterone thing.

    What has changed, though, is that so many millenial guys these days seem to take on female cultural roles that there are now more guys not really caring about licenses and cars than there used to be.

  • bobby b

    Paul Marks
    July 29, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    “If the “car society” is a problem – it is a problem that governments created.”

    But if so, governments only created it in response to the huge demand from the public.

    What was one of the top symbols of status in the forties and fifties (in the USA, at least)? It was the automobile. Everyone wanted one, and they wanted a big one. People wanted the freedom autos bestowed – the freedom to live where one wanted to live, to go where they wanted to go. At that point, government was doing what it is supposed to do – supplying what the citizenry wanted.

    I can’t fault government for that particular effort.