Automobiles, Motorcycles and Libertarian Politics
Borrowing – bowdlerizing – a line from Shakespeare: First thing we do, let’s kill all the regulators.
Well, maybe not kill them.
Firing them would be enough.
Or even just threatening them with being fired.
Like on Trump’s Apprentice reality show – except for real. Because now it’s President Trump – or soon will be. And if The Donald, as he likes to style himself, intends to make America great again, the best way to do that is to put Americans back to work again. And the best way to put them back to work is to get the regulatory apparat off their backs.
It is hard to do anything in this country anymore except pay taxes.
Henry Ford would likely never have made his Model T – or any of the preceding models – if he’d had to deal with the DOT and EPA. Let alone OSHA. Most people have no idea that it is necessary to destroy a dozen or more cars in crash tests to establish compliance with federal side-impact, offset barrier and roof crush mandatory minimums before one may legally sell a single car. This alone amounts to hundreds of thousand of dollars in costs. A huge corporation can afford this (and can write it off, too).
A latter-day Henry Ford just starting out can’t.
Which is why there aren’t any latter-day Henry Fords. Or at least, none whose names we know. Their efforts – if they haven’t give up – are confined to tinkering that never goes beyond their own garages.
Because if they tried to sell anything not Uncle-approved, they’d risk being SWAT teamed. This happens to little girls selling lemonade curbside, because it’s illegal to do it without the government’s permission ( which of course also costs money).
It’s even worse when it comes to making cars. And has been, for a long time.
The last time someone tried and almost got away with it was just after World War II, when Preston Tucker had an idea for a better Model T. His car was just as revolutionary in its own way as the T had been some 40 years earlier.
And interestingly enough, it touted – wait for it – safety. Decades before the government – according to the Official Fairy Tale – intervened to make sure we had it, because the evil car companies wouldn’t offer it otherwise.
The Tucker pioneered such things as shatterproof windshield glass and a roof that could support the weight of the car in the event of a rollover; it even had a headlight that tracked with the wheels in the curves, something not offered again until recently and without Uncle jabbing his regulatory bayonet into anyone’s backside.
The Tucker was a brilliant car – perhaps too brilliant. Enter Uncle. Arm and arm with GM – which at the time controlled almost 50 percent of the entire U.S. car market (Chevrolet alone had a market share around 25 percent – more than all of GM’s remaining divisions combined enjoy today). The company was targeted for having committed all kinds of regulatory sins – and quickly crushed.
You may have seen the movie.
Things are much worse today. The regulatory apparat has consolidated its power and now micromanages and decrees almost every aspect of vehicle design and – Trade Secret – the established players are in on it. They have embraced the regulatory apparat.
For two reasons:
First, it makes them money. Every cost added by government is passed on to car buyers, plus mark-up. You didn’t think (as an example) that air bags and so on are added at “cost” … did you? There is big money to be made, both up front and down the road. The car costs you more to buy – and it costs you more to fix. Which, by the way, is also why it costs you more to insure. Yes, they (the insurance mafia) are in on the con, too.
Second – and this may be even more important to them – it inures them from upstart competition; from having to sweat latter-day Henry Ford like Preston Tucker and who-knows-who else (whose names we’ll never know, because of the opportunity cost of the regulatory apparat).
If Tucker himself were was alive and decided to have another go at it, he would have to destroy almost his entire initial production run of cars (he made about 51) before the government would allow him to sell any of them. No small start-up can afford this.
Which is why there aren’t any.
This includes Elio, incidentally. The company that’s been developing a low-cost three-wheeler… or trying to. The car is actually developed. The problem is it’s not Uncle approved. Which means it can’t be sold.
Trump could fix this at the stroke of a pen. Or, rather, by calling a press conference.
He could tell the assembled: I can find nothing in the Constitution giving the Congress – much less an unelected bureaucracy that never received any mandate from the voters – legal power to dictate how cars ought to be made. This is something for the market to determine, based on the votes of the buying public’s dollars.
Is it that such outlandish an idea?
Trump is president because he is outlandish. Hew could be a great president by being outlandish. Which in these Red Giant days of the empire, would be to weigh-in for the liberties of ordinary people to buy what they want, not what Uncle tells them they must have.
Whether does so will tell us a great deal about the man and what he actually stands for. Will he side with the established players – who have gone over to the Dark Side and embraced the regulatory apparat? Or will he do the unthinkable and let the market work – and buyers decide?
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