We’re Almost There Already Anyhow

  • August 16, 2023

You have probably heard the mantra of the World Economic Forum (it sounds as if we’re all part of it, doesn’t it?) about how in the near future, you will own nothing and they will be very happy.

For all-too-many, that is already the reality. It has been for at least a couple of generations now, probably.

Debt rather than ownership has become a way of life. If you owe, they own you. How many are already owned?

How many Americans could refuse to obey what their employer – acting as the adjunct of the government – told them they had to do in order to remain employed? Knowing that if they weren’t employed, they would very quickly be unable to pay what they owe? As distinct from figuring out a way to live? The answer is obvious. Most of these owned people would do as they were told.

They did do it. They wore a “mask.” They rolled up their sleeve. They would probably have fetched a stick, too – if their employer had told them to.

And for the sake of what?

A new car?

That is one of the ways they have come to own so many people.  The average price paid for a new car is now about $50,000 and while much of that cost can be blamed on the pushing of even more expensive EVs – which has pushed the cost of cars in general even higher – a lot of the blame is owned by the people whose lack of aversion to being owned has resulted in the cost of cars in general going up rather than down.

There ought to be a variety of new cars on the market priced around $10,000 or even less. Or – rather – there’s no good reason there ought not to be. The “car” is a very mature technology. It has been around for more than 120 years – like the incandescent light bulb, which was very inexpensive until it was forced off the market for exactly that reason.

With cars, it has been more subtle. The cost of the average new car is higher than ever in part because of compliance costs; i.e., the cost of designing a car to the specifications decreed by the federal government – which somehow acquired the power to issue such decrees. Readers of this column already know all about that. The other part, though, is the transformation of the car into the luxury car. Even the economy car – which doesn’t exist anymore.

It is absurd to speak of an “economy” car that has climate control air conditioning, a multi-speaker stereo, power windows and locks, a standard automatic transmission, cruise control, aluminum wheels and so on. Yet all new “economy” cars come standard with most or all of the foregoing equipment – which used to be optional in economy cars. Which is how they were kept . . . economical.

It is probably why you don’t hear about economy cars anymore. Instead, there are entry-level cars.

Is this generation more able to buy luxury cars? Are people richer – or poorer – today than they were in 1976, say. When it was possible to buy a new economy car for around $2,500? That was the base price of a new Chevy Chevette that year. It did not come standard with any kind of air conditioning, or power windows and locks, etc. But it was an economy car – and for that reason, it could be owned by almost anyone over the course of three years, which was the duration of the typical new car loan back then.

An economy car like the ’76 Chevette could be probably be made – today – for considerably less than $2,500 (about $13k in today’s devalued currency) because of reduced manufacturing costs and so on. But would people today want to buy a new car like the ’76 Chevette – even if they could for $10k or less, today?

Not when they can finance a $25k car that does have climate control AC, power windows and locks, cruise control, a multi-speaker stereo and an LCD touchscreen. The availability of easy debt also enables them to forget about the compliance costs they’re being forced to pay, in addition.

It’s kind of like withholding. People don’t miss what they never had. But imagine if compliance costs were line-itemed. The replacing of sturdy exposed (and chromed) metal bumpers on account of “environmental” regs that have made chrome-plating exorbitantly expensive with fragile, easily torn plastic bumper covers that are very cheap to sell at a high price – and very expensive to replace when they are torn. Back up (and now, front-up) camera systems. The cost of 4-6 air bags. The cost of replacing fuel injection with direct injection, which is only being done to comply with federal regs at a cost those who pay it do not see.

Would they buy all that if they didn’t have to?

The irony is that it is because they did buy it, they do have to buy it. Or rather, they have to finance it. Debt has made all of this luxury and compliance possible – and it would not have been possible if enough people had refused to buy into it.

If they hadn’t, not all new cars would not be luxury cars and the average priced paid for a new car would not be around $50,000. There would still be cars available that average people could own in three years’ time.

And those people wouldn’t be owned.

. . .

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