More on the Electric Edsel

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Well, here’s a surprise – the Chevy Volt electric car isn’t selling.

Only 3,200 of these $41,000 “economy” cars have found buyers so far – most of them probably in the Hollywood hills, where it is trendy for the rich to show green (Leonardo DiCaprio owns a $100k Tesla electric roadster).

But out in the real world, the idea of a $41k “economy” car doesn’t parse. Yes, the Volt is a brilliant piece of engineering. But that’s neither here nor there if it costs more to operate than a standard economy car, which is ultimately the only criteria that matters as far as the marketplace viability of electric cars.

This is so obvious that you’d think it might have also occurred to the people running GM. It probably did – but the reason it doesn’t matter to them is that the Volt (like the Tesla) is a taxpayer-funded money machine for GM. Even if they never sell enough cars to make an honest profit, there’s already been a huge profit to GM in the form of massive federal subsidies and of course, the massive bailout of GM itself back in 2008.

Why not throw money at the electric car boondoggle? After all, it’s not GM’s money.

And that is the nut of this tragedy. And it is a tragedy, because we should be developing (or at least looking into) alternative means of transport. The idea is not bad. The problem is the distortions created by government meddling – by corporatist-statist polices that throw enormous resources at projects that make no sense.

You know, like a $41,000 “economy” car that costs as much to buy as a fully loaded BMW 3-Series but which can’t match the day-to-day performance of a $15,000 Toyota Corolla.

Consider:

It is 1890 and horse travel is becoming problematic. The horses poo all over the place, making a disgusting mess in crowded urban areas – and they’re just not practical for speedy, efficient travel in a rapidly industrializing nation. Did the government start throwing billions (well, millions in those days) at politically connected big businesses to develop an alternative?

The answer, of course, is no.

Inventors thought about the problem and tinkered. The internal combustion engine (gas and diesel) was invented – and perfected. It became reliable – and soon, affordable. Henry Ford and others like him came along. Cars replaced horses. And – a key fact – impractical cars such as the early steam-powered and electric cars – were dropped in favor of practical cars like the Model T, which put the country (not just the elites) behind the wheel.

There was no federal subsidization of steam or electric cars, so when it became clear these kinds of cars could not compete in the market with internal combustion-powered cars, they were abandoned. For the most part, people stopped trying to make them because – revelation – very few customers were interested in buying them.

If we had a free market today, the Volt would never have been built – because it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that no potential buyer concerned about the cost of transportation (note, not gas per se) is going to be the least bit interested in laying out $41,000 to buy a vehicle that will take years – perhaps decades – of driving to become cost-competitive with any standard-issue gas powered economy car.

Instead, we have a billion-dollar electric car boondoggle. And not only won’t they (GM and Tesla) take the hint and quit, they’ll keep at it – demanding more tax dollars, more subsidies, more rebates to “encourage” sales of these otherwise unsalable electric Edsels.

Meanwhile, all the money that has been sucked out of the private sector is no longer available to let a latter-day tinkerer – a latter-day Henry Ford – develop an electric (or other alternative) car that might actually make sense. One that people might actually buy because it is more efficient, more cost-effective, than a current gas-powered car.

And not only that.

Thanks to Everests of federal (EPA, DOT) red tape it is almost impossible for anyone other than a “major automaker” – that is, a corporate cartel – to lawfully build and sell a car of any kind at all. There is a reason why we only have a relative handful of car brands – all of them massive combines – because only massive combines have the economic resources to do things like destroy 100 brand-new cars in crash tests to prove to Uncle that they comply with the ukase Uncle has set forth. Oh, and also to get huge handouts from the government to prop up inefficient business models and let them build pie-in-the-sky engineering demonstrators without any real consideration of their practical or economic viability.

If government got out of the motors business I have no doubt we’d not only have 70 MPG conventional cars that cost less than $10,0000 we’d also in short order have commercially viable electric cars as well as cars powered by sources we haven’t even heard of yet. There are countless ingenious backyard inventors out there. There is probably almost nothing they could not achieve, given the opportunity – and if they were allowed to proceed.

But the octupus of government stands in the way, richly rewarding the impossible -and the incompetent – while strangling anything that might actually work in its crib.

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  52 comments for “More on the Electric Edsel

  1. Desertrat
    August 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    The erroneous notion of environmental purity is the greatest turnoff for me, for all that these thingummies make no economic sense.

    Strip mine for the nickel ore, with damage to forest downwind from the mine. Ship it to China for processing where the processing is done without environmental protection for workers or for thousands of nearby residents. Then ship the processed nickel to the final battery manufacturer.

    Same sort of thing for lithium or any other material.

    We’ve merely moved negative environmental impacts offshore.

    Were sales in the millions, would there be no significant enlargement of demands on the electric generating infrastructure? Hmmm?

    • BrentP
      August 20, 2011 at 5:57 pm

      The environmental movement is about establishing a centralized political and economic order which manages every aspect of our lives. There is no other possibility at this point. Sure there are people at the ground level who want to help the environment but at the top it’s the same old politics with an excuse that goes back to when the first high priest demanded tribute and obedience or the spring floods would not come.

      A rich country like China is exempt from even the most basic common sense pollution control because to establish the new economic order productive people in the west must be impoverished. That comes from a two pronged approach where productive work is sent to China and quality of life is diminished through everything from the paranoia of “terrorists” to pushing the costs of goods very high with regulation. They will make excuses why Chinese cannot afford basic 1970s pollution controls. They are crap. China has trillions of dollars saved from US trade. They could EASILY afford to buy pollution control equipment to get to a 1980s level of clean. Of course those products would come from the US and europe, which would help the economies targeted for destruction.

      On the horse poo… At the college I went to the library had a treasure which they did not recognize at the time. Down in a corner of the basement, open stacks, were bound magazines going back to the late 19th century. Not micro film, the actual publications. I would read the articles on the views of technology from those times. The car was seen as a solution to the pollution problems of the time. Horse dung was a very serious problem.

      • Boothe
        August 20, 2011 at 10:49 pm

        Unfortunately Brent, the situation hasn’t changed much: horse dung is still a serious problem. Our government spews it all the time, along with the bovine variety…..

      • Gil
        August 21, 2011 at 2:48 am

        I thought there were people whose job was to scoop up the dung and send it to farms for fertiliser. You know like gong farmers. Then again, why complain about pollution? The Industrial Revolution saw dung being replaced by soot and smog yet such pollution was necessary for the transition to modern living standards. China could impose pollution controls but that would be a deadweight cost to businesses and pointlessly slow their economic growth. After all, Libertarians would be the quickest to argue getting people out of poverty via economic growth is the first and foremost objective. It’s similar with the Amazon – its destruction is due to farmers trying to feed people and raise their standard of living. To Libertarians saving the Amazon means keeping people half-starve and poor for the sake of certain flora and fauna that interest fat Westerners. I hear James Cameron is trying to start an actual “Avatar”-style war against farmers and developers.

        Clover

    • August 29, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      selling my car.. getting an elctric trike.

  2. Gil
    August 21, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Really? If the free market would have done things wonderfully differently then there’d be cheap V8 suepercars for all. Who, if they are wealthy, go for the little run-around car over a supercar?

    Clover

    • August 21, 2011 at 10:12 am

      So, let’s see: It would be a bad thing if ordinary people could afford “supercars” with V-8s?

      Did you know that the pre-war era V-8 Ford Model A was a “supercar” in its day – and that the average man could afford to buy one? (This was when we still had a mostly free market when it came to cars.) And in the 1950s and ’60s, average working and middle class people could afford large cars with big V-8s,too – cars that today are almost entirely beyond the reach of working and middle class people.

      And how do you account for the huge sales success of the old VW Beetle, incidentally? You, of course, dropped that subject as soon as the facts were pointed out to you in several earlier posts.

      No Clovers

      • Gil
        August 21, 2011 at 10:18 am
        • August 21, 2011 at 10:47 am

          I’m not sure what your point is here…

          But:

          While the Beetle was conceived under the auspices of the Third Reich, it was never sold to the masses while the Third Reich existed. In fact, only the elite (and the military) ever received them, even before the war began.

          It was only after the war – after the end of the Third Reich – that the Beetle became a mass-market car. It was freely chosen – and very much desired – by millions and millions of people, running the gamut from college kids to affluent professionals. It knew no “class.” And it was not mandated or even “encouraged” by the government. Keep in mind, too, that it was a major seller at a time (1960s) when big cars with big V-8s were commonly available and affordable – and gas was cheap. Yet people still bought them in droves.

          Most everyone who is over 45 today either owned a VW at one time or knew someone who did.

          So, again – your original statement/claim that absent the coercive actions of the government small cars would not exist or that most people would not buy them is demonstrably false.

          No Clovers

          • Boothe
            August 22, 2011 at 12:39 am

            I too remember many people with bugs or VW buses growing up. My best friend’s dad had two beetles (one hard top and one rag top) and a bus. We went to town to go shopping, on church field trips and weekend jaunts in that bus and it never missed a lick.

            My mom and dad always bought small cars. My grandfather said it didn’t make sense to have all those extra holes to pour gas into and replace spark plugs in. Consequently, my dad was a big four cylinder fan. We had three Opel wagons, a Hillman Huskie, a Sunbeam Alpine GT (cool little car, looked kinda like a Datsun B210) and a couple of Ford Pintos. One of the Opels was brought back from Germany by a G.I. and had all the controls and instrument cluster labeled in German. I was young, but I still remember that!

            My first car was my dad’s retired ’69 Toyota Corolla wagon (>175K when I got it). I ran that car hard and even replaced the head gasket on it on the side of the road when I was 17. Right now my primary driver is an 1800cc Miata. So I’m not sure where the clover gets off thinking we will all buy big V8’s and guzzle gas unless the gubmint intervenes.

            I see a lot of compact and sub-compact cars on the road (and I spent 5 years traveling all over the U.S.). Many people are much more economy minded than performance minded, but obviously if you have no self control (and apparently clovers don’t) you impute your character flaws to everyone around you. If we could get the clover’s address, maybe we could all pitch in and buy him a copy of Logic for Dummies…..

          • August 22, 2011 at 10:41 am

            Your point about Clovers imputing their character weaknesses to everyone else is key to understanding Cloverism, generally. It took me awhile to realize this, but when I did, the previously baffling small-minded pettiness of the typical Clover made complete sense to me.

            On the cars you mentioned: The Sunbeam Alpine – memories! I had a buddy in high school whose father had a Tiger. Remember that one? Instead of the four it had a 289 V-8 so it was very much along the lines of the original Shelby Cobra. Though, Elvis help you if wanted to change the spark plugs!

          • Beetle Fan
            August 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm

            I drove a 60s Beetle hand-me-down as a teenager in the late 90s. Even into the 90s, parts for that car were CHEAP. Most repairs cost $20 in parts, max, and I could do the service myself.

            Not so, now, with a newer car. A couple hundred bucks per repair, and no chance of doing it myself.

  3. SojournerMoon
    August 21, 2011 at 4:53 am

    In some ways they have their science backwards.

    They are trying to solve a problem. Instead of considering all solutions and permitting development along multiple lines of possible thought until all but the best potential solutions are eliminated, they choose a single, or a small number of, potential solutions and declare them the winner and then proceed to force that solution to work.

    This is, of course, the central planner approach vs. the free market approach. To the central planner, it doesn’t matter that they are forcing a square peg into a round hole. At least they have a “plan” and are “doing something” no matter how ill-considered that something is.

    In a free market, all the potential solutions are tried simultaneously. Each entrepreneur has huge incentives to choose wisely and be efficient with their limited resources when investigating potential solutions. No one knows what the ultimate solution will be, or that this solution will be the ultimate solution or simply another step along the path of progress.

    One-hundred twenty years ago, gas, steam, and electric all appeared to be potential solutions. They had to be tried on the open market, in competition against each other, to not only see which one worked, but to also determine what demands the consumers had in the first place. While internal combustion has been the best solution for over 100 years, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will continue to be for the next 100. Perhaps it will. Perhaps it won’t. Arbitrarily determining the “winning” technology before the race has even started, or is permitted to start, is foolhardy.

    The Germans picked the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryans as the winners at the Olympics and put all their resources into training them up for competition as if they were a sure thing. Then a young man from Alabama named Jesse Owens came to town and kicked their butts, winning 4 gold medals.

    What was the response to his obvious superiority, according to someone close to Hitler? “People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games.” In other words, interfere artificially with the rules of the game to force the desired outcome.

    Also known as a centrally planned economy.

    • August 21, 2011 at 10:30 am

      Exactly.

      The Clover approach is always the “know-it-all” (and “one-size-fits-all”) approach. And it’s spectacularly absurd to constantly have to listen to shyster lawyers like Obama – people who literally would not know how to do an oil change on their own – dictate to engineers and inventors what they’ll be doing – and how they’ll be doing it. This never ceases to amaze me.

    • jaxvid
      August 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm

      “The Germans picked the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryans as the winners at the Olympics and put all their resources into training them up for competition as if they were a sure thing. Then a young man from Alabama named Jesse Owens came to town and kicked their butts, winning 4 gold medals.”

      I don’t know what this has to do with anything in your post. Most Germans are blue eyed blonds so they don’t have to be “picked”. The German team won more medals they any other nation so it was clearly a “victory” by their standards. Jesse Owens was good but there was nothing unusual about blacks winning sprints, it had been done in the Olympics many times before.

      Sprinting is just one measure of athleticism and trying to disparage Hitler by saying he felt blacks were better athletes because of their jungle heritage is the same attitude shown by every sportswriter and football coach in america.

  4. That One Guy
    August 23, 2011 at 6:09 am

    It’s said that the modern federal government aviation cartel was born when Knute Rockne was killed in a plane crash and there was an outcry from the masses for the government to “do something” to make air travel safer. Isn’t that how it always goes?

    The FAA has proven unable to prevent plane crashes. But one thing they have been able to severly cut back is innovation. I don’t know if this is true, but when the Concorde was retired a commentator pointed out that it was the first time in history a mode of transportation had been taken out of service without being replaced by something more efficient. I thought that ominous at the time, and when you pointed out the obsession with forcing to the forefront automotive technology that was abandoned nearly 100 years ago as impractical I fear that Uncle Sam could be spreading this contagion across all industry.

    We still fly around in tube-and-wing aircraft powered by engines that, although far more advanced, still are merely offshoots of designs first flown in the 30s and 40s. It’s easy to see that the wet blanket that is the FAA has greatly hindered civil aviation technology compared to the golden age of aviation pre-WWII, just the same as government meddling has retarded advancements in automotive technology.

    • August 23, 2011 at 9:08 am

      It’s worse than just standing still; we are going backwards. It takes longer to fly cross-country now than it did in 1970. In 1970, commercial aviation was vastly more sophisticated than it was in 1950. We’d gone from piston-engined aircraft that flew below the weather to almost-supersonic jets like the Convair 880 and Boeing 707 that cruised at 40,000 feet. Then came the Concorde and the prospect of Mach 2 commercial air travel. I was a kid in the ’70s and at the time, it was taken as a given that by the time I became an adult in the 1980s, aircraft such as Concorde would be common and subsonic busses like the 747 would be on their way out, just as Constellations and DC-8s had been replaced by 707s, etc.

      No dice.

      And now we don;t even have the capability to put a man into low Earth orbit anymore.

      America’s apogee was probably about the year 1970s – and since then we’ve been falling backward in almost every meaningful way. We have lots of cute little gadgets, it’s true. But we should have had a man on Mars by now.

      Long ago, in fact.

      • methylamine
        August 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm

        That’s the predictable result of having a parasitic government spawning ever more larvae into the American gut, sucking our sustenance through petty regulations and laws.

        But the REAL culprit is central banking and fiat currency. If you read through all the obfuscatory machinations that hide the real origin of money, you find that money is created out of thin air by the private banking cartel of the Federal Reserve, then lent with interest to the government. It’s a mathematically impossible situation; the principle is created and immediately engenders interest, but the money to pay the interest is not created. It leads to the very devastation we’re suffering now, because every year more must be borrowed simply to keep the money supply constant after the interest from last year is drained.

        In other words, we’ve been paying interest on a complete fiction: the dollar.

        This is how the banksters steal the world. It is a con, and we’ve been suckered but good.

        Throw in the constant trillion-dollar-a-year destruction of wealth embodied in the imperial military, add the four hundred billion annual interest payment, toss a burning can of trade deficit on the conflagration, and you quickly see how the richest country in the world is now a banana republic in all but name.

        See Greece for an example of the end-game. Having been convinced that they “owe a debt”–on money that was created with the click of a mouse and “lent”–they are now literally selling off their country piece by piece to the banksters.

        • Brent P
          August 25, 2011 at 11:58 pm

          The principle of the “seen and unseen”. Nobody sees what could have been.

          The masses think the regulation protects them. Makes companies do what the market could not and other such nonsense. People willfully ignore that as soon as some buyers wanted airbags automakers were tripping over each other to see who could find places for the most airbags.

          Regulation’s purpose is to stifle and retard. To preserve existing orders or push people back down. Auto regulation is funny. It appears to generate advancement because IMO it’s purpose is to destroy the ability of the masses to drive. But it was started at a time where a few automakers had achieved an effective cartel in the USA and thus were not advancing. What could have been? who knows. The engineers were well diverted into keeping cars on the market.

          I think all we need to do to see how we have been robbed of advancement is to look at the electronics industry. For some reason it has remained largely unregulated by government. Look where it goes and how fast and for how long. Since the 1930s faster and faster and cheaper in -nominal- dollars. Today I got an email advert, $103 for a THREE TERABYTE hard drive. That’s $3.24 in the old 90% silver coin from an era when a computer filled a room.

          War… when I see the cost of war I see why humanity can’t go to the stars. So much squandering of wealth and resources. Speaking of wars, I do believe there are “black” programs with astounding technology. It moved forward slowly, but it did move forward since what we are told was the peak in the late 1950s. Passenger aircraft really is a difficult/risky business compared with military contracts. Aviation suffers from this government disease. It’s like being ‘walmarted’ but worse.

          Fiat money… the banker’s ‘cut’ right off the top. Inflation is a means of stealing the advancement of productivity. This is where the idea of a ‘ideal amount’ of inflation comes from IMO. The ideal amount is where prices stay the same so very few notice the theft. This would allow the bankster criminals to rake off huge sums forever. But like most of their mindset and personality they aren’t satisfied with that. They need to have everything and need more faster and faster. Social darwinism. Everything for them, nothing for everyone else.

          • August 26, 2011 at 10:09 am

            War – and welfare (as the reasons why humanity can’t – hasn’t – gone to the stars).

            The Gibs Muh Dat State erupted in full blossom under LBJ and was watered by Nixon and every president/Congress since that time. Apollo was killed so that 80 IQ cretins would be able to spawn with abandon and have dey chilluns, gnomesayin’?

            Had the effort continued, we’d certainly have put a man on Mars by now – probably decades ago. We’d have a permanent colony on the Moon.

            Instead, we stopped with the Space Pinto (launched in 1977) and now we don’t even have that. But we do have legions more Gibs Muhs out there with dey paws out.

          • Brent P
            August 26, 2011 at 11:32 pm

            The space pinto… lol Design was started in ~1972, first put into orbit in ~1981. Initial conception was likely decades before NASA started on it. Compromised from the start IMO. Politics over engineering. Should have been replaced before 1989, and that would have been SLOW.

            We are now in a culture where the political means rule over the productive means. Engineering (and other wealth creation professions) is not a desirable profession like it was 45 years ago. What is? Banking, Lawyering, and other parasitical (on real wealth creation) professions. Welfare, government jobs, jobs that manipulate wealth and winners often are the ones that best use the political system. The political means. A society that doesn’t create will fail. Too few of us are left creating.

          • methylamine
            August 27, 2011 at 3:23 am

            Interesting points you bring up Brent–war is MEANT to squander wealth for two reasons.
            One, it massively enriches the banking cartel; they lend freely to both sides in all conflicts. Second, it destroys wealth, thereby keeping the middle classes from threatening the elites.

            And agreed–the current push is their massive greed writ large. I believe it’s too much, too fast, and it will lead to the destruction of the current debt-slavery paradigm and probably the downfall of the banksters…I hope.

          • Boothe
            August 27, 2011 at 11:40 am

            What an awesome thread! It is so refreshing to finally find people who “get it”. I work in a field where our livelihood is based on troubleshooting (root cause analysis). It amazes me that when I try to explain what the banksters have done and how the fiat currency Ponzi scheme works, the typical response is: ‘So? We use paper money, so why do I need anything else?’ I’m starting to see a few of my acquaintances wake up, but far too few. As far as the unwashed masses go, when the day of reckoning hits, I suspect that the ones who live through the riots are destined for the camps.

            Left unmolested by gubmint, civilian aerospace technology and air travel would have improved remarkably. TWA treated everyone like first class “back in th’ day” because it drove up their market share and was profitable. Gradually, due to monetary inflation, the popularity of air travel and changing societal expectations, the airlines figured out that they didn’t have to treat us nearly so well and we’d fly anyway. The Greyhound bus became the DC-3 which became the CRJ (without the leg room or comfort). Now with the advent of porno-scanners, full body frisks, extra charges for checked bags and even pretzels instead of peanuts, I won’t give the airlines another dime of my money. Although too many of my fellow countrymen still pour billions into the industry each year, I suspect that their sales volume would be much higher if it wasn’t so expensive and such a pain in the ass to fly now.

            Increased sales are profitable which leads to competition. Competition leads to good customer service, innovation and efficiency in any business. Gubmint subsidies, taxes, price fixing and regulations stifle competition and that’s what has happened in the airline industry. Add to that a system of “homeland security” designed to humiliate and subordinate your customers equally across all vendors and you have further prevented any meaningful competition (it doesn’t matter to me if I fly United or Northwest, if I’m still have to get my junk squeezed by some gubmint goon). Absent government intervention, aircraft would have probably come into being that would make the Concorde look like a DC-3, they’d be efficient and travel costs would have dropped. Instead, the airlines more resemble a public utility now.

            The folks who own the gubmint (the transnational banskster thieves) have no interest in our ability to travel (unless it is required as their servants or employees). Why would they promote advances in aerospace technology for the masses? They see travel, arms, specie and allodial property for the rest of us as threats to their power and wealth. The elite have every interest in keeping these things expensive or even obtainable for the masses. This is about power and control now, much more so than money.

            The same goes for space travel, with the caveat that we may not have had affordable space travel and colonization anyway. That’s less a government control issue and more a profitability issue. I will acknowledge that the modern day disciples of Margaret Sanger who want rid of us “weed people” certainly don’t want us to go “crap up” the moon and mars the way we have spoiled their Pacific horizon view with oil rigs so we can have cheap gas. But absent the forcible extraction of our wealth for NASA, would significant civilian space travel and exploration have already taken place? I doubt it, because so far the risks outweigh any potential profit.

            Now if you get the cost of one tourist’s seat on your recreational spacecraft down below that of a Super Bowl ticket you’ll fill that puppy up. But find an asteroid the size of North Carolina made out of high grade platinum, salvage it, bring it down here, put it on the market and platinum drops to $40 a pound. In all likelihood you just lost your initial investment never mind any profit. We had a space program because the players were able to tax the people and then spend their money to study space from a weapons delivery / world dominance platform. But unless we completely strip this planet of natural resources I don’t see where space travel (other than recreational) will be profitable for a very long time. So with respect to space travel, I have to ask myself: If given a choice, in a free market, would I buy this product voluntarily? No I would not.

          • August 27, 2011 at 12:32 pm

            I’m enjoying this, too!

            Merely discovering that there are liberty-minded, intelligent people out there has been a kind of soul balm for me.

            On space travel: I’ve long thought that there are hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people, who would give almost anything to leave this Earth for a new one, a place to start over – free of Clovers and Cloverism. There’s a profit motive. Seriously. For liberty-minded people, there are few places left on this small planet one can flee to in order to escape the cloying, grasping clutches of the controls freaks and their state apparat. To live in real freedom – to own anything – has become almost impossible. And it is becoming less so all the time, as Clovers multiply and Cloverism spreads.

            I am 45 – not young anymore – but I would chuck everything to get a boarding pass on a ship to New Earth (even if it was Mars) if I knew I’d never have to see or deal with a Clover again….

          • Brent P
            August 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm

            lot’s of profit in space. companies would have spent billions, trillions even to get profits in materials alone. Problem is back the 60s or 70s the governments of the world got together and eliminated private property in space. Thus making it essentially illegal to spend 300 billion to a mine a trillion dollars of minerals out of some asteroid. Well I suppose if a company bribed the right people they could… but I’ve found innovative people aren’t much into bribing. so it just doesn’t happen.

          • Boothe
            August 28, 2011 at 9:16 am

            I don’t doubt that space travel could be profitable, but I made a couple of assumptions based on the here and now vs. BrentP’s “unseen” / “what could have been” observation. Much like Bastiat’s rock thrown through the baker’s window, NASA spent a lot of our money on research and development in the space program, then on propaganda glorifying the technology that spun off. Of course no consideration was ever given to ‘what might have been’ if that tax money had been left in the hands of its rightful owners. That wasn’t a concern of any of the space program players because they had those billions of our dollars to work with, they had no competition and there was nothing we could do about it. Their only real concern was who got how much of that money in the existing system.

            My first assumption was that we are stuck with current space travel technology which is very energy intensive per pound of payload, hence very expensive. I fully understand that true free enterprise could overcome that hurdle, but it hasn’t been allowed to: the favored corporations of the military / industrial complex developed things bureaucRATs wanted, not what the market wanted. My second assumption was that the transnational thieves hadn’t finished fully exploiting every available natural resource right here on the third rock (like the hydrocarbons in the former Soviet “stans”, the lithium in Afghanistan, etc.). They certainly don’t want any serious competition to the existing system and infrastructure nor the potential for real individual energy independence (no Tesla turbines, thorium reactors, magnetic Wankel motors, cold fusion, etc., will be permitted at this time). Hence space travel for fun and profit will probably remain under the jack boot of the state for the foreseeable future.

  5. Joe Milligan
    August 23, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I enjoyed your article on electric cars and agree with the content of the article.
    However I think we are done a disservice, when the subject comes up, if the speaker doesn’t mention this simple fact:

    Electric transport is a solved problem and has been since the 1880’s. It just runs on a road of steel, not asphalt.

    I like how you pointed out that government interference is the only reason why electric transportation is happening: but it’s also the reason why it isn’t happening. Mass rail transit (which was largely electric) was actively killed in the 20th century, requiring all of us to own 3-4 cars, and therefore prompting all of us to live 20 miles away from work and encouraging sprawl. So the Volt is a solution to a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

    The Volt boondoggle is made all the more ridiculous with the understanding that it’s an expensive government band-aid on an open wound that government inflicted in the first place.

    • Brent P
      August 23, 2011 at 11:44 pm

      Health care insurance companies and others in the health care (sick care) business have made the same deal with the devil that the transit companies made. The result will be the same, government take over.

      • Boothe
        August 24, 2011 at 3:48 am

        And we all know how efficiently and economically government enterprises operate…..

      • methylamine
        August 27, 2011 at 3:29 am

        Amen! It’s why I left medicine in the late 90’s to become a software engineer. My wife’s still in medicine, and it has become a Soviet nightmare of declining incomes, declining freedom, decaying patient care, and diminishing returns. Our health care is barely in the top 1/3 world-wide. It’s #1 in one thing though: COST.

        The medical establishment made a Faustian bargain with the State: protect us from competition, and we’ll do your bidding. Well, the Devil has come for his pay now!

        Good doctors are leaving in droves. We’ll see precisely the same phenomenon that struck Soviet medicine; students who would barely have made it as nurses will now be shoveled through watered-down medical programs and unleashed to wreak havoc on the populace. I saw it already happening when I was in school. Rather than the cream of the crop, half the students were lackluster incompetents–far inferior to the students in my sister’s veterinary program!

        • Brent P
          August 27, 2011 at 4:04 am

          Great minds think alike… In another part of this thread where I brought up the decline in engineering I edited out a point on doctoring. How engineering was disrespected and now medicine is under severe attack. It seems there has been an unrelenting attack on productive people that started in the 1930s, took a break for a couple decades after WW2 and then got rolling again after the moon landing.

          The state can’t get a complete hold on engineering, it can only discourage productive behavior and try to make it so the only jobs are in the war machine. Medicine is different. It can employ the masses to take control. Not to mention the alliance the AMA and others made with the government to use regulation starting many decades ago. The end result of gaining monopoly or close to it with government’s help will eventually be government take over.

          The schools. Anyone who is good at school can be anything they want. School is a skill. People don’t have to have a knack for the subject they choose if they are good at school. The good at school often go to medical school or into engineering. They are glaringly obvious to those with the knack. They can only repeat what is in books, what they were taught. They can’t think, diagnosis, or problem solve on the fly. They are the institutionalized products of prussian schooling. Sadly they usually end up being the managers because they have time to play politics and create relationships while those of us who can do the work are busy doing it.

          • August 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

            Medicine has indeed become Soviet. My grandfather was a doctor (allergist). He had a nurse assistant. She helped him and handled the appointments. That was it. No crew of sour-pussed old hags at the front desk shoving paperwork at you. You saw him, you paid your bill – and that was it. That sort of practice no longer exists, courtesy of all the insurance rigmarole and everything else. Even our dentists’ office has three or four of these front-desk Useless Eaters now. It’s no wonder a 15 minute routine cleaning costs $150. The guy (the dentist who owns the practice) has to amortize three-four $40,000 a year annual salaries for people who have absolutely nothing to do with the actual fixing of your toofs.

            I’m also not very impressed with some of the doctors I have dealt with. About four years ago, l did something that my left knee was not happy about. It hurt constantly and I had to stop running altogether (I’ve been a runner since I was about 14 or so.) Eventually, I gave in (to my wife) and went to see an orthopedist. His almost reflexive diagnosis was an irreparably torn meniscus that required arthroscopic surgery. I sighed – and agreed to the procedure, scheduled for about two weeks later. About two days after the visit to that orthopedist I happened to be at the gym working out when I got to talking with another guy who noticed me limping around. He asked what was wrong and I told him. He turned out to be another orthopedist – only his specialty was sports medicine. Well, he counseled me that in some cases a torn meniscus can heal on its own if there is some blood supply to the affected area and that I had nothing to lose by waiting-to-see. If the knee did not get better, I could always have the arthroscopy. No damage done. But, he explained, once you have the surgey, the cartilage removed is gone forever. It does not grow back. You will have joint issues in the years to come as a result. I took his advice and cancelled the surgery. I babied the knee for a year and it got better. Today it is as good as it ever was and I am back to running 5-6 miles a couple times a week and have no pain/issues at all. I avoided not only several thousand dollars of surgical costs, I avoided being needlessly operated on. What really got me mad – disgusted, too – is that Quack No. 1 never even hinted that the surgery he was pushing was not the only option. In fact, he made it seem it was the only option and that I had better get it done, PDQ.

          • August 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

            American medicine, generally, is also very reactive. Pills and surgery (profit centers) vs. proactive steps to avoid the foregoing. Take a pill to lower your cholesterol – instead of, change your diet, exercise and drop 20 pounds. There’s money in the first, not so much in the second.

            Medicine today strikes me as extremely stifling, controlled and restrictive (insofar as individual doctors having the ability to operate independently of “the system’). It is like a higher-tier DMV, which is what one would expect given medicine is now for all practical purposes an arm of the corpo-state (the corporatist state).

          • Boothe
            August 29, 2011 at 4:22 am

            Methylamine, my wife gave up her nursing license this year because she couldn’t do in good conscience, what the modern “healthcare system” required of her. It’s sad, because she really is a care giver, not an administrator. This Soviet style medicine here in Amerika is truly driving out the best and the brightest. I can only hope that if I reach an advanced state of old age I will still ambulatory enough to go sit down under a nice tree one night when it’s about 5 or 10 degrees outside….I sure don’t want to end up in the gubmint run “healthcare” system; I sincerely hope I haven’t done anything to deserve that.

            Eric, back when I was 28 I had a severe case of sciatica (from lifting 350 blocks into the back of a truck, loading my jet ski by myself, etc., typical youth macho dumbass stuff). The radiologist told me surgery was the only way. My family doctor, who I can only describe as progressive (he was also a homeopath and acupuncturist), suggested that I was too young for getting cut and should seek manipulation instead. I found a good chiropractor, followed his advice and at 52 I’m pain free and still very active. As my mother pointed out to me when I was quite young; surgeons cut for a living, so if you go see a surgeon he will probably want to cut you. After all, that new BMW and beach cottage down at Nag’s Head are expensive and somebody’s gotta pay for ‘em! So what if your back is “vertically fornicated” after the surgeon’s done; he won’t feel a thing!
            Just as BrentP pointed out, it’s all about gubmint control of medicine. The transnational thieves and their gubmint bureaucRAT toady boys know that the Medicare/Medicaid/Obamacare Ponzi scheme is destined to collapse eventually. So to keep the system on life support as long as possible, they need to take centralized control and ration care to the unwashed masses (ala Britain). Once you’ve outlived your usefulness and come down with something nasty and expensive, well “sorry citizen, that particular procedure is not authorized for you” and you’re off the Socialist Security roles for all eternity. That meets with considerably less resistance by the masses than ‘remove your clothes and jewelry and step over to the edge of that ditch……..’

          • August 29, 2011 at 10:49 am

            The only doctor I go near is our dentist. Otherwise, I count on clean living (no smoking, almost no drinking, lots of exercise) and (hopefully) good genes to get me through this life, quack (and Soviet) free. I will have nothing to do with ObamaCare. I will not receive “care,” and I won’t pay for “insurance,” either. This – like refusing to fly if I have to be scanned or groped to do it – is for me a line in the sand. Everyone’s got theirs – I hope. These are two of mine. Also, I will never be disarmed. My right to the means of self-defense is inviolable and I will not ever abide by restrictions issued by Clovers or anyone else. Damn the consequences. I don’t want any trouble; I’m certainly not looking for any. But there are some things I just won’t do – and some things I won’t willingly allow to be done to me.

          • jaxvid
            August 29, 2011 at 9:04 pm

            Couple things, while I agree with most of your views I don’t see what the problem is with occasional visits or annual checkups with a doctor? You tune your car don’t you? You spend a little extra on better oil and parts to help it run longer and better?

            Serious illness can strike anyone and the best deterent is regular check-ups. The cost is not much and the potential benefits are pretty significant. Example: Polyp found and removed–many more years of life, polyp ignored for years—life draining battle with colon cancer.

            As for doctors prescribing pills-yes they do, but they also will ALWAYS recommend better life choices in habits and recommend regular excersize. What are they supposed to do, force people into health concentration camps??? If someone is taking pills because they are too fat how is that the doctors fault. There is no doctor that will not point it out if you have a weight issue. They even offer dietician and weight loss help.

          • Brent P
            August 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm

            Any decent mechanic who can diagnosis a multi-system machine like an automobile would soon see why conventional doctors are something to avoid.

            How they approach the human body’s systems is all sorts of wrong. Hmm.. this part is malfunctioning… just remove it, everything will be fine. You don’t need that rusty brake rotor… Or perhaps they just dump in a chemical to mask the symptoms. A little sawdust and some heavy oil and that car is running just fine. And lastly there’s the total misunderstanding of how things work and why they are there… just remove the air filter, the car will have more power that way.. meanwhile the catalyst is clogged which is the source of the power loss.

            Mass market doctoring is like watching a bunch of low IQ 16 year olds trying to fix up an old Honda Civic.

            It’s just how the training is these days. Someone who’s actually good exists out side the training. The training, the education was something he had to get in order to practice. The diagnosis and problem solving skills had to be there before school and not exterminated by school.

            There are good doctors out there, less and less every day as the good at schools and the money machine takes over, but the good doctors aren’t easy to come by. If car mechanics operated the way many doctors do under present day conditions people wouldn’t go to them at all.

          • August 30, 2011 at 9:46 am

            I’ve got family in medicine and have seen a lot of “inside baseball” stuff – as well as open eyes and ears and an operational brain. We’re generally conditioned to regard doctors as almost omniscient and they, in turn, sometimes pretend to be omniscient. I am more inclined to trust a doctor who says, “well, it could be this… and here are some possible options to consider.” But one often hears, “It is this and here is what you should do.”

            Bear in mind that every generation believes it is enlightened and that every previous generation’s approach to medicine was both barbaric and ignorant. Washington’s doctors were the “state of the art” in 1799 and they turned a bad cold into an early death by bleeding the poor old toothless SOB. What will people 100 years hence think about our “state of the art” quackery?

          • Boothe
            August 30, 2011 at 5:01 am

            jaxvid, traditional Chinese medicine, so I am told, was set up so the physician was compensated only when his patients were well, not when they were ill. Modern medicine has become an industry where pumping people full of artificial chemicals and cutting on them in ever more creative ways has become very lucrative. Consequently, it pays to have a lot of sick people around. Ponder this: have you ever heard of anyone suffering from a prescription drug deficiency?

            As I previously pointed out, I had a very “progressive” family doctor who recommended that I find a good chiropractor rather than go under the knife. When my wife (a now retired orthopedic nurse) injured her back on the job, the attending ER physician (in an effort to avoid a workman’s comp case I suspect) told her that a lumbar vertebrae that was protruding 3/8″ out of alignment was perfectly normal (no exaggeration, it was plainly visible even without the x-ray). He gave her anti-inflammatory pills and muscle relaxers and sent her home. When she couldn’t even put on her own socks and wasn’t getting better I convinced here to see my chiropractor. Having been thoroughly indoctrinated into modern “healthcare” propaganda, she was resistant to the idea. I wheeled her into my chiropractor’s office in a wheelchair. She was able to walk back out on her own after one adjustment.

            I won’t argue that when you’re seriously injured or have a bad illness that modern medicine isn’t the answer. I would have died from Rocky Mountain spotted fever if it weren’t for Doxycycline and a really good, concerned doctor. But the first rather cavalier practitioner I saw gave me the wrong antibiotic and I got worse. But hey, those pills were state of the art and $17 each. The whole prescription of generic Doxycycline was barely more than one of the wrong pills. You can’t make any real money that way now can you?

            As BrentP has so aptly pointed out; it’s more about who’s “good at school” (and can pay for it) not so much who’s good at medicine at the level of healthcare I’ll end up with. Healthcare has become profit driven and not in the free market sense by any means. It’s a protected guild and corporate / government controlled cartel. I suspect the system will soon be used to get rid of a lot of Social Security and Medicare recipients that a burden to the system now (after having paid in their entire working lives).

            Maybe an annual checkup would find some minor thing wrong that could potentially save my life. On the other hand they may miss something critical and I end up prematurely dead anyway. Or maybe like Eric, I have good genetics and I’ll live to a ripe old age with no major medical problems. It does happen you know. So I’ll take my chances with diet, exercise and a healthy moral lifestyle, rather than a system designed to hook me on ‘scrips’ and amputate my checking account.

    • That One Guy
      August 24, 2011 at 4:59 am

      I don’t know, it could just be the stupidity of choosing a route from the airport to downtown that runs through the ghetto but we just recently got a new light rail train in Seattle and nobody rides the thing because it doesn’t save time or money unless your car gets less than about 20 mpg.

      Travel by automobile offers more freedom than travel by rail. I’m not saying that I disagree the government and corporations conspired to kill it; that much I think is beyond dispute. But there is a big push lately to bring it back and it seems nobody wants it because it means they have to rub elbows with bums and drunks for no real saving of time or money.

      • August 24, 2011 at 5:31 am

        When we lived in the DC area, we found the Metro to be more expensive (not by a small margin) and much less convenient than driving – even in DC area traffic. At the very least, you did not have to subject yourself to the “youths” who are the bane of anyone who has to use public transportation in the US.

      • methylamine
        August 27, 2011 at 3:33 am

        Same here in Houston! We had a light rail foisted on us. A billion point five later, we had a 7 mile monstrosity that snarled traffic, killed people, wrecked cars, and is ridden by precisely no-one.

        However the rich contractors who built it–and had cozy relationships in city council–profited handsomely.

        Welcome to crony capitalism, formerly known as “fascism”.

      • Brent P
        August 27, 2011 at 3:43 pm

        politics has a very low chance of producing viable, affordable transport that goes where people want to go. That’s simply the nature of the system. It’s a system that is not customer driven, it’s driven by power, who makes deals and alliances with who, etc and so forth.

        • Boothe
          August 29, 2011 at 3:50 am

          Interestingly enough, there’s an area in Council Bluffs, Iowa some folks still call “Lincoln’s Hill”. It seems that ol’ “Honest Abe”, a big-time railroad (read that corporate) lawyer and lobbyist bought a large tract of land in Council Bluffs. Shortly after he was elected president, he paid off the railroad industry by signing a bill for a transcontinental railroad (gubmint subsidized of course). One of the provisions of the bill was that the president would select the eastern terminus of the rail line. Amazingly enough, ol’ Honest Abe selected…..you guessed it….Council Bluffs! Some things never change.

          Insofar as the “youths” that frequent public transportation go: Bernie Goetz showed us how to handle them back in ’84. Of course the TSA will be making damned sure you are unable to do so as soon as possible. After all, you can’t have us working class stiffs putting the fear of Samuel Colt and John Moses Browning in the hearts of potential big gubmint voters……

          • August 29, 2011 at 10:52 am

            Anyone not familiar with Tom diLorenzo’s books on Lincoln needs to look up “The Real LIncoln” and buy that thing, pronto. Then read it and pass it along.

  6. Christopher Nelson
    August 24, 2011 at 4:14 am

    We need a car like the 1930 Pierce Arrow by Nikola Telsa. An electric battery car that ran almost silent. The technology was such that all you really needed was water as your fuel. We could have had free power with free running cars. The car could reach 90. Telsa was a genius.

    Ofcourse, you don’t honestly think that the government or big oil would ever let this happen? The technology is there for lots of things or was there at one time in history and shut down by greed. All we get is half ass alternatives like solar panels and giant wind mills. Or ethanol that is not as good as regular gas and takes up food and oil to make. Nobody is serious about true working alternatives. If they were, it would have happened by now, the technology was there in 30’s as far as cars were concerned. But greed over comes common sense. Nothing will pass if it is not gonna make lots of money. If it saves money and works better then it is rejected. Like the mercury cables, power cables that would save around 60 billion a year for the major cross state trunk lines that power America. And as usual, the US power companies don’t want it. It is a better technology, but it would mean Americans pay less for power and power companies get less money.

    So when the government and big buisness stop inovation, there is nothing you can do. You can come up with the technology, but who cares if it can’t be implemented because of greed? What’s the point? Why bother?

    • Brent P
      August 24, 2011 at 5:30 am

      Tesla was a genius but a lot of the stuff attributed to him is either myth or Tesla’s own vaporware. That car being in those categories depending on the version of the story. That doesn’t mean of course that some of the vaporware wouldn’t be feasible with today’s technology or that the cartel system we live under doesn’t stifle advancement, both are valid arguments. Using the Tesla car story doesn’t really help the argument.

    • August 24, 2011 at 5:33 am

      Tesla was a genius – and I do wonder what the world would be like if people like him could do their thing without being stomped on, sidelined or co-opted by Big Business working with Big Government…..

      • methylamine
        August 27, 2011 at 3:36 am

        One of Tesla’s worst defeats was at the hands of an arch-bankster, JP Morgan. Morgan killed Tesla’s Wardenclyffe project, because it threatened his trans-atlantic cable business with the prospect of essentially free wireless data transmission.

        Tesla presaged Marconi with radio communication, and his system had infinitely more potential.

  7. Jack M
    August 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Excellent article on the pricey Volt.The concept isn’t bad,but
    the technology isn’t here yet to make a car like this economically
    feasible for the masses.As long as the politicos stall on a strong energy policy that gives the consumer alternative,competing fuels to power transportation(such as liquid natural gas,non-food based ethanol mixed with regular gas or other oil-based products in some percentage mixture,electric vehicles with more lasting charges,and hybrid varieties(diesel & conventional engines),we will be at their mercy.So for now I will drive my 2010 Prius that gets almost 60mpg in rural Central Florida driving 60% of the time at speeds 50-60mph,and 40% at a rate of 35-40mph between fillups.The car just reached 27,000 milesand has been perfect.

  8. Werner K
    August 24, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I wonder if the 2012 RAV4 Electric will do any better than the
    Chevy Volt? My 2004 RAV4 4WD with the 4-cylinder gasoline engine is the most trouble free vehicle I have ever owned and I only wish that it had been available with the same diesel engine that is an option in Europe. The VW Tiguan SUV is also available in Europe with a diesel and it would be a great choice when it comes to the question of being more fuel efficient using a rock solid well established technology.

    It seems that it is always government regulations which restrict consumers from being able to make choices based on what they would really like to have and what is known to be already practical.

    We drive long distances here and diesels really shine out on the open road!

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