Will Trump Dial Back the Regulatory Apparat?
If the Clovers are in a panic, it is probably time to get happy. And they are very panicky, indeed. About (cue Emperor Palpatine voice) a great many things. One of which is the prospect that Darth Trump – as they view him – might actually dial back the regulatory apparat that has given us cars designed by federal bureaucrats who function very much as Soviet-era political officers did – looking over the shoulder of field commanders (engineers, in this case) and second-guessing if not dictating their every move.
Trump may be agreeable to the idea that cars ought to be designed by engineers – responding to the wants and needs of the people who buy them.
Not bureaucrats, not self-appointed “advocates” such as the recently departed Clarence Ditlow.
Wouldn’t that be something?
We’ve become so used to Washington Motors that it’s almost reflexive to accept that it’s the rightful job of a small gaggle of bureaucrat/political officers in agencies such as the EPA and NHTSA to tell us what features we’ll have in our cars – whether we want ’em or not, need ’em or not.
Which we’re compelled to pay for, too.
Bu why should this be so? By what right do these bureaucrat Zampolits dictate vehicle design parameters?
Especially with regard to “safety.”
What comes out of a car’s tailpipe may cause harm to someone else. If so, then a morally defensible argument can be made that such emissions must be limited or reduced so that they do not cause harm.
But driving a lightweight car without air bags harms no one. At most, the driver – the owner – of the car might suffer injury (or greater injury) if he crashes. But if he does not crash, he isn’t injured and even if he is injured, that is his concern – not a DC Zampolit’s.
Assuming, that is, you reject the nauseating idea that it is the right and proper business of the government to parent grown adults.
Trump appears to grok the quaint American idea (well, it used to be the American idea) that grown-ups have the right, in a free society, to not be led around by the nose by other adults, for their “safety.”
This is sound morality – and economics.
“Safety” – which can be defined by such things as a given car’s ability to protect the occupants in the event of a crash, the crash-avoidance technologies it offers, etc. – is a value. One of the many idiocies purveyed by the DC Zampolits is the idea that people must be forced to buy things of value to them.
Well, what about Volvo?
The company (now in trouble, incidentally; comments as to why follow below) built itself into a global presence on just that.
Without forcing people to buy in.
Volvo emphasized big, heavy cars that could handle barrel rolls and kissing oak trees head-on at 40 MPH better than just about anything else on the road. Volvo was the first to offer three-point (lap and shoulder) seat belts, too.
Which people who valued such things freely bought.
It is risible to believe – and this is the bedrock premise of the regulatory Zampolits – that absent the state’s forcing them to, people would not buy cars like Volvos or seat belts.
They inarguable fact is, they did.
The problem – the thing the Zampolits do not want discussed – is that not everyone values things equally. Some people value other things more. Like lower cost, or lighter weight or higher fuel efficiency.
Why is this – free choice, freely expressed – verboten?
Back when we still had a mostly market-driven car business, you could choose to buy a Volvo 240… or a VW Beetle or Datsun B210. The Volvo was a tank and so exceptionally “safe” in terms of its ability to protect the occupants from injury in the event of a crash.
The Beetle and B210 and cars like them were smaller and lighter – and if you wrecked, you’d probably not be as likely to walk away from it uninjured as would have been the case if you’d been driving the slab-sided Volvo. But in exchange for that greater potential risk, you enjoyed the actual benefit – to you, as defined by you – of a lighter, more fuel-efficient and more fun to drive car.
You had the choice – and so did everyone else.
This is intolerable to the Zampolits.
They insist everyone drive a (de facto) Volvo. That no one be allowed (consider the effrontery) to drive something not “safe” – as they define it. Thus, all new cars are Volvos. Federal regulations have made them so. There is no longer the option to choose a not-Volvo, something that emphasizes other values.
Which is why Volvo is struggling now, incidentally. When every car company is forced to sell “safety,” it is no longer much of a selling point. Porsche would be having a hard time, too, if the federal Zampolits upchucked mandates that decreed every new car be capable of accelerating from zero to 60 in less than 5 seconds.
Maybe they ought to – at least we’d have some fun, then.
In addition to being tyrants, the Zampolits are also killjoys – but that’s another rant.
Getting back to Trump.
He ought to call a press conference and announce that, henceforth, it will no longer be the role of federal Zampolits to decree vehicle “safety” standards. This will not mean the green light for the car companies to build defective cars; that would be causing harm and causing harm is the sole legitimate reason for the government to weigh in.
It will simply mean that – as it once was – buyers (market demand) will determine how cars are designed, the features they offer. Engineers will design accordingly. Some cars will emphasize their superior crashworthiness, or technology that makes a crash less likely. Those buyers who value such things highly will be able to vote with their dollars, accordingly.
But other people – who value different things – will no longer be “nudged” (another exceptionally obnoxious term favored by Zampolits) to the Zampolits’ way of thinking. Car companies would be free once more to cater to the needs and wants of everyone – not just the Zampolits.
Think about it. Why – in a free country – should you be prohibited from buying a basic, $6,000 car not equipped with air bags, or other such, but which meets your needs for low-cost, A to B transportation? Such cars are not hypothetical. They are available. The Renault Kwid, for example.
Just not here. Because the Zampolits disapprove.
Well, screw them. It is none of their business what other people choose to buy or drive, provided what they buy and drive doesn’t hurt someone else.
Trump got elected because millions of people are dying for someone to tell the Zampolits to go to hell.
Or at least, go away.
If he delivers, he’ll go far.
And more important, we will too.
He has been covering these topics for 25-plus years as a columnist and author, including several years as an editorial writer/columnist for The Washington Times and contributor to newspapers and magazines around the country, including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News and Free Press, American Spectator and many others.
His books include Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs. His latest book, Doomed, will be available next spring.
Eric lives in rural SW Virginia - as far as he could get from Northern Virginia without actually leaving the state.