Ever wonder why people throw empty beer bottles out the window – rather than just throw them in the trash when they get home? Could any of it have to do with fear of being found in possession of an “open container” – and of the severe penalties that one would face in that event, even if one isn’t close to being legally “drunk” by the state’s own arbitrary standards (i.e., BAC level)?
I think so, yes.
Actions – including the state’s best-intentioned ones (giving them the benefit of the doubt) have consequences, not all of them foreseen and some of them contrary to what was (we assume) intended.
Revenue from motor fuels excise taxes – collected at the pump – are down because the government has been egging on the mass production of hybrid and electric cars, which use less gas. The more such vehicles there are on the road, the less tax revenue will be collected via motor fuels taxes. This, in turn, has led to talk of “drive-by-mile” taxing schemes, as a replacement for the taxes collected as a percentage of each gallon of gas we purchase.
What unintended consequences will “drive by mile” give birth to?
Cars are “safer” today – in terms of their structural ability to protect occupants in the event of a crash – than they have ever been. But visibility from within is probably the worst it has ever been – due to the physical structure necessary to fortify the car, such as massive roof pillars, raised in the-air rear ends and tall doors – making it harder to see what’s going on around you, which makes it more likely that a crash will happen.
This was probably not intended – and perhaps could not have been foreseen.
It happened, regardless.
Volkswagen – and Audi and Porsche, which are part of the VW family – are being crucified over admitted-to “cheating” on government emissions tests. The tests are so strict that complying with them has had the effect – generally, this is not just a VW diesel issue – of making diesel engines less economical to buy and to operate than they probably would otherwise be. This, in turn, has made it harder for a car company like VW – which to a great extent relies on the value of its cars relative to rivals as the primary driver of sales – to sell its diesel-powered cars. So – in order to keep them price (and fuel-efficiency) competitive, VW “cheated.”
The cars involved – by dint of using less fuel overall – probably emit less of the at-issue emissions overall. By “fixing” them, the government may have triggered another unintended consequence: More aggregate emissions – even if the individual cars are “cleaner,” according to the government’s tests.
People are – in general – less attentive to their driving (and less skilled behind the wheel) than they were even just ten years ago. Could it possibly be due to the reflexive adoption of technological solutions to the problem of inattentive driving, which tend to absolve the driver of responsibility for driving the car? Is it surprising that people tend to pay less attention to the ebb and flow of traffic when the car automatically brakes and accelerates for them (i.e., adaptive cruise control) and – in a large and growing number of new cars – will alert them to the possibility of an imminent collision and (if they don’t) will take action to avoid it?
“Safer” cars that encourage less-safe driving. Who would have thought?
Cars (on average) last much longer than they used to, in part because of durability considerations imposed (de facto) by the need to meet federal emissions and fuel efficiency requirements. A new car’s emissions controls, for instance, are required by federal to be warranted for 100,000 miles.
As a result, cars now routinely remain everyday reliable for 15-20 years or about twice as long as cars traditionally lasted for most of the past 100 years.
What’s the unintended consequence?
The cars in service stay in service. Which slows their replacement by newer (and one presumes, “cleaner” as well as “safer” and more “efficient”) cars. Why buy a new car, after all, when your current car’s still running just fine? In this way, the government actually achieves what was contrary to its original overt purpose – i.e.,getting the “dirty” (and “less safe”) cars off the road.
It might have been better, on balance, to let things progress naturally – rather than impose artificial (and top-down) solutions. Existing cars might not have been quite as crashworthy, or as fuel-efficient, or perhaps emitted more pollution. But they’d get retired sooner by more up-to-date designs, which would probably be more crashworthy, fuel-efficient and less polluting. Which, overall, would be of benefit to everyone, even the government.
Assuming, of course, those are the intended consequences.
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