Things Unseen…

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The hand of Uncle – which aways wields a gun – distorts our lives in so many ways it’s impossible to catalog them all. There are the things we’re forced to have – and things we never had. (Frederic Bastiat, the 19th century economist, called this phenomenon “things seen and unseen.”)Reagan with Harley

In the things-we-never-had category: Affordable big motorcycles; particularly, large touring/cruising bikes.

There are plenty of full-size bikes on the market, of course. But they are pricey – and it’s not so much because they’re big.

It’s because Uncle.

Herewith some history:

In the early ’80s, Uncle stepped in to “save” Harley Davidson from the Japanese competition, which was helping motorcycle buyers by offering them much lower-cost (and better-built) alternatives to the big cruisers and touring bikes Harley specialized in – but which Harley hadn’t done much to improve, engineering-wise, since the ’60s. Early ’80s Harleys still had generators and points and overhead valves while the Japanese bikes had maintenance-free alternators and transistorized ignitions and multiple overhead cams.

The Japanese-made engines were made entirely of aluminum while Harley was still using cast iron for cylinder heads, which were heavy and did not dissipate heat very well. The Japanese engines made more power with less displacement, used much less gas.

They didn’t leak, either.

Not surprisingly, the Japanese – Honda and Kawasaki especially – began to eat Harley’s lunch.Harley Reagan 2

The free market response to this ought to have been: Let’s make a better (and lower cost) motorcycle; let’s improve our products.

Instead, Harley did the Crony Capitalist Thing – and appealed to Uncle.    

Who – at this moment in time – manifested in the ruddy-cheeked guise of Ronald Reagan. He issued a fuhrer befehl that slammed the “Japs” with a heavy tariff on any motorcycle with an engine larger than 700 cubic centimeters.

Harley built no motorcycles with a capacity of less than 700 cubic centimeters.

The befehl was written in such a way as to specifically shelter Harley.

It was to be protected from “unfair” competition – by artificially increasing the cost of the competition. In this way, the playing field would be “leveled” … in Harley’s favor, courtesy of Uncle.

An article in the April 2, 1983 edition of The New York Times (here) quoted then Harley Chairman Vaughn L. Beals: “We’re delighted … it will give us time that we might otherwise not have had to make manufacturing improvements and bring out new products.”'83 Honda Silverwing ad


Harley’s torpor and inefficiency were rewarded – while the efficiency and industriousness of the competition was punished.

This from the man deified by “conservatives” (the beast that is neither fish nor fowl nor anything else you can lay a finger on) as the avatar of free market policies.

But that’s another rant.

The obvious – the seen – effect was the continued production of Harley’s technologically obsolescent, over-priced bikes. And of course a rise in prices generally – because (courtesy of Uncle) there was no alternative. You had your choice of an overpriced Harley (the over-pricing due to the company’s Soviet inefficiencies) or an overpriced (because Uncle) import bike.

But what about the the things unseen?'83 %22650%22

The things we might have had?

As it happens, I own a 1983 Honda GL650 – Interstate version. It’s a touring bike, with fairings and (hard) side bags.

What’s interesting about this bike is that it’s not actually a 650 at all.

It’s almost a 700.

On the left side of the engine, there’s a number stamped on the case: 673. That’s the actual displacement of this “650.”

Not quite 700 cubic centimeters.

So, just under the displacement that would have triggered Uncle Ronnie’s punitive tariffs.because Uncle

Honda had planned to develop the GL; the engine was a recent design and the GL 650 had only been out for one year. It was a bigger, stronger version of Honda’s popular CX (and GL) 500, similar in layout but re-engineered and ready for more. The “650” engine was designed to grow – like (in car terms) the original 1955 Chevrolet small-block V8.

Honda had plans to increase the displacement of the bike’s technologically brilliant, all-aluminum “twisted” twin cylinder engine, which had a four valve head and could spin to 10,000 RPM and which – even in “650” form – already made more power than Harley’s 1,000 cc twins did.   

But 1983 turned out to be the last year for the GL650 – and Honda abandoned further development of this engine.

The projected 800 cc version never appeared.

Because Uncle.

And – as usual, when Uncle is involved – everyone lost. Harley buyers paid more for crappy bikes – and those who preferred Japanese bikes paid more for theirs and – saddest of  all – never had a chance to buy bikes that would have been, had it not been for Uncle.

Some argue that Uncle “saved” Harley. And it’s true – as far as it goes.

But what might Harley have become, absent Uncle’s interferences? What kinds of bikes – all types, all brands – might we have had, absent Uncle?

We’ll never know. depends on you to keep the wheels turning! The control freaks (Clovers) hate us. Goo-guhl blackballed us.

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      • A long range paintball gun with a sniper scope to mark the unmarked? Just thinking out loud here. Post a UTube to let everyone know if they see a Ford with a commie red paint splat that it is a thug in camo.

      • I haven’t seen them yet. Even though the Interceptor is made locally, most departments round here seem to prefer Tahoes yet. Go figure. Though I bet my own town’s department will probably buy it, since they hate mars lights.

      • And here in Australia too Eric. Just the beast to make a lone woman driver feel like she is going to get raped when one of these bastards pulls up behind her at 9:30 pm on a less traveled road……………………………

        I despise ford cars anyway.

    • dicks…and the cops that buy the feature will SURELY be glad to grossly overpay for the cool factor

      forget being able to identify a cop if you might need one…”sorry ma’am, we need to be able to hide so the fella’s can act as meter maids and tax collectors. we find it’s easier and safer for them than policing”

  1. Harley (AMF, then) did get bought out by another entity. They did make major improvements and not long after the ’84 evo came out, Everyone and their mother started buying Harleys. Nobody , riders, dealers or Willy G Davidson cared much for the tariffs, most felt it was un-americain, but necessary to save the last American made motorcycle company. But please to mention the jap carbs or forks, headlight ect. that Harley had been using on all their bikes since the 70’s. I’m glad they are still here although I wish some of the new breed of riders would go back to their goldwings.

    • The ’80 Sporty I recently triaged had some emotional pull. I admit I kind of liked the attitude of the engine – and the engine looks cool. But, riding the thing… holy Hell! And that’s stock.

      Now add ape hangers…

    • i recently bought a dyna. it handles like a fucking cinder block.
      fun engine lope but i’m going back to a well handling bike

      • Hi Mike,

        In re this – “handles like a fucking cinder block” –

        I had a chance to ride a new Goldwing last fall. That big bastard handles like a sport bike… it’s amazing.

  2. I don’t like political rent seeking but the company and the jobs were saved. I think issues related to trade are more complex than many of us free market advocates would like to admit. I once had a debate over trade with a hardcore statist. I learned that when it came to the Japanese auto industry, Japan has implemented policies that help their industry fund R&D, which helps them in the world marketplace. For example, Japan has a Shaken auto inspection system that makes it highly uneconomical to own used cars in Japan. The Shaken system, which is applicable to vehicles that have an engine size of 250cc or more, compels Japanese auto consumers to purchase new vehicles somewhat frequently. My understanding is that the Shaken car inspections and new vehicle purchases help fund R&D for Japanese designed vehicles. What is apparent is that Japan has policies that actively helps their industrial base. So it’s far too simple to say that Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are/were more efficient than Harley Davidson. As much as I like the free market, it really doesn’t exist anywhere in the real world. Ostensible private enterprises that receive help from the government, whether it comes from direct subsidies, currency manipulation, artificially low interest rates, or even the Shaken system are not attributes of a free market. Japanese motorcycle manufacturers leveraged their government to their advantage and Harley Davidson did the same.

    • “the company and the jobs were saved”
      Yes, but at what expense? This is ‘the thing not seen’ that Bastiat wrote about.
      And if HD had failed, would the world be worse off? Would we even remember them, other than in a nostalgic sense? What about the Indian and the Enfield, etc.? Should Uncle have saved them too?

      • H-D had a strong customer base, a dealer network, and an established brand. If H-D went bankrupt and went into liquidation, some entity out there would have purchased the brand and assets and hopefully put it to better use. If H-D went bankrupt it would not have necessarily ended. If the H-D brand had no value, it would have rightfully gone out of business.

        However, my overall point is that this isn’t a case of statism versus the free market. It’s a case of US statism versus Japanese statism. The free market doesn’t apply.

        • “It’s a case of US statism versus Japanese statism.”
          But we aren’t in Japan. There is nothing we can do about it. We should strive toward a free market on our part.
          Sooner or later something comes into play against those who don’t ‘play fair,’ whether you want to call it fate, karma, or ‘The Law of Sowing and Reaping.’

          • Why should we strive for a free market for ideological reasons only. I thought the rationale for free markets is because it produces the best outcomes for people. It doesn’t make sense to stubbornly hold on to free market principles when a true free market doesn’t exist. I foreign governments subsidize/intervene to help their industries and this results in the loss of industries and jobs, how can it be said that free market libertarianism produces the best outcome for people? If the wellbeing of people isn’t a valid objective them free market/libertarian economics will only appeal to acedemia types.

            • I never said we should strive for a free market for ideological reasons only, although that is a legitimate reason. After all, right is right, whether it is to one’s advantage or not. But it is also to the American consumers’ advantage if the Japanese (gunvermin, crony, or whatever) want to subsidize us, at the expense of the Japanese consumer.
              The ‘well-being of people’ is not always a function of them being able to get or retain a particular job.
              If say, a consumer is able to purchase a better bike at a lower price, he is better off. But that benefit spreads through the whole economy. Say he has enough left over to buy a good pair of boots and set of leathers. Now the leather workers are better off too. And eventually, even the cattle rancher.
              I know, I know, I’m taking this to extremes, but I do so to make a point.
              On the other hand, say he can’t afford an HD, or is just unwilling to spend the asking price. How does that benefit anyone, even the HD employee?

            • “I thought the rationale for free markets is because it produces the best outcomes for people.”

              The primary rational for free markets, is free people. For what are markets, but people. If one does not believe in free markets, then one does not believe in free people. Even if I believed that free market meant a reduction in living standards ( I don’t ) I would still advocate them. The observation that free markets do indeed provide the best material boon for everyone, is quite incidental to the main reason for their advocay from libertarians. That free (er ) markets are the best way to improve the lot of everyone, really is not debatable at this point, though I am open to discussing it if anyone else is.
              So a true free-market does not exist, that does not compel towards abandoning the freedom, and prosperity that we do have. Illogical.

              “foreign governments subsidize/intervene to help their industries and this results in the loss of industries and jobs”

              Nonsense, those industries are net contributors to their economies, otherwise it would be unsustainable. Besides, if foreign govs do subsidise to the benefit of American consumers, more fool them, it means that U.S. is actually getting a better deal, at what would be (due to foolish policy ) an ultimatley unsustainable arrangement, to the benefit of U.S. at the expense of Japan.
              Imagine if a Dell, a U.S. company sold computers that were subsidised by the American taxpayer to other countries. That means if someone in France buys a dell computer, you the U.S. taxpayer is paying part of the price. Does that sound like a better deal for the U.S. or for France? Exactly, that’s why they don’t actually do things that way.

              “If the well-being of people isn’t a valid objective them free market/libertarian economics will only appeal to acedemia types.”

              Nothing personal, but I just don’t think you understand economics. is an excellent source. The irony is, most of the time libertarian free-market economists focus only on the material benefits of free-trade and free people, ignoring the moral argument altogether, thinking that when people see the pragmatism, the morality becomes moot.
              The rule of law is the rule of violence. I prefer freedom.

              • The goal of subsidizing exports is to cause the capital equipment to be scrapped. To destroy the ability of the US manufacturing sector to make things. That is taking the short term loss to destroy the competition then raise prices later.

                Remember, the USA is not a free country. Once a company collapses and goes away it’s gone for good and nothing will sprout in its place because the laws and regulations are structured to prevent it. They were structured for the benefit of the existing companies.

                So after a period of subsidized exports guess who left with all the means of production?

          • Saying that we should be honorable free marketeers when foreign companies dine on their governments’ dime and destroy our industries is like saying we should only punch above the waist when the opponent is sticking a shiv into our ribs.

            Free markets are a two-way street. If only one side practices it, its lunch will soon be eaten by the other side. And please don’t bore us about how the opposition’s populace is being burdened by such policies–that’s not our business, and in the long run the those people will likely benefit anyway.

            Try coming up with one major economic power that got to the top through free trade. Hints: it’s not America, Germany, Japan, or China. When England dropped its mercantilism for free trade in the 19th century, it quickly became a second-rate economic power.

            • Hi Ross,

              But, if we appeal to Uncle for “help”… you know the rest. That’s that catch.

              Uncle is not out friend.

              • They’re not “our” industries. Period.

                Nor does it matter how successful each nation state is.

                Because it’s not “our” success.

                Uncle is a smiler with a knife. In this nation and in any other.

                Just This morning he once again came right in my house (he has keys to everything) and said make sure to surrender your kids to me again today for day prison indoctrination.

                It would be a shame if anyone got cut by this blade I always keep against you and your families throats.

                Oh and be sure to innovate and invent at your job today. Being a captor of clever free marketers is such a joy. You are free to do whatever you like so long as you leave me free to hold up whatever weapons against your throats I fancy.

                Laissez. Faire, live and let live and all that wink wink. Let me hear you recite the libertarian liturgy for me so I know it’s all good and you won’t make any trouble for me. Then I can move on to the next house on my self appointed rounds.

            • “When England dropped its mercantilism for free trade in the 19th century, it quickly became a second-rate economic power.”

              That never happened. Great Britain is mercantilist to this day. Their current 4th rate economic status began after their disastrous entry into the Feud of the Royal Families, aka WWI.

              Britain’s economy is a disaster because international banks became the main recipients of their mercantilist policies.

              • Ed, I saw that first statement and didn’t realize you were quoting someone else. I was about to school you on that but no need. England only acknowledged losing it’s empire near the end of WWll when it was obvious the US had taken over.

                It was a time of great hair pulling, teeth gnashing and general wailing “The empire is gone”.

                In the 20th century England “gave” many peoples of different countries their freedom…..after getting their asses kicked out by armed revolution.

                A lot of people here speak of the Revolution of the Internet but I still haven’t seen it. Knowledge is one thing and freedom is another. Don’t expect to see the latter till there’s a lot of corpses hanging from the lamposts in DC…..and other so-called capitols in these dis-united states. Jefferson was correct about the blood of tyrants. They won’t go any other way unfortunately.

                • True, 8. Ice in the wintertime, that’s what empires “give away”.

                  The fuse has been burning steadily for years, and the charge is sitting there. I hate to think it’s going to blow in the lifetime of my child and grandchild, but it looks like it just might.

                  • Ed, to think your child and grandchild might be exposed to it is the flip side of thinking they may not be exposed to it. It’s the silver lining phenomena. Hopefully they’ll see it and live through it and live a better life for it. I realize it’s hard for you to have a “que sera sera’ attitude about it.

                    BTW, Cholley Jack got me up and took me to the front door early this morn. I opened it and a cat I haven’t seen in 3 weeks came in and was raising hell at me and wouldn’t leave me alone. She got in my lap and was having labor pains. I had the wife bring a towel and I cut off my video right before she dropped the first one on the floor.

                    She was moved to her own private tote to have the other 3 and is now in sweet repose with her babies, all sleeping and content. I don’t know how many “greats” a grandfather I am now.

                    Cholley Jack is now officially a godfather again.

                    And just recently I became a great uncle once again. c’est la vie

                    • Ed, too slow for video but there’s hope since I recently got my tractor back after being gone a couple years, albeit a ruined tire that shredded in minutes after it was parked. Never saw anything like it but the guy said “looks like I barely made it”. Yep, sure enough and if you’d aired the damn tire up a couple times in the last year or two it would still be ok. I can see HIS tractor from here and it’s had a dead tire for at least a couple years. Well, it died, with no help from me, on my place.

                      Anyway, once I get a new battery, the oil and filter changed and the hydraulic oil and filters changed, I’ll be ready to hook up to my forklift attachment and move some pipe to the barn where I’ll make a triangular tower from oil field pipe that I fab a ladder on so the RF internet guy can stick up his little dish and get me high speed. The bigass holes of concrete with lahge bolts sticking out to hold the tower and it’s just a hope skip and jump from there to my attaching feet to the pipe, cutting holes in the right places and then setting the tower……like I say, just a bit of fabbing and i’ll be all set. I do intend to put a big plate on top I can mount a two way radio antenna on for my soon(hopefully)to be 11 meter radio.

                      Now that don’t sound like much work……does it?

                      I did notice a CD rack that looked kittyized. Just a couple days ago I picked up an entire rack of CD’s and one of those racks off the floor. I heard it all crash down in the middle of the night. But truth be known, there’s hardly a minute I’m not watching a kitty video.

                    • 8, I live too far out for cable internet, too. I tried the satellite route and found it barely faster than dialup. Now I’m on Verizon 4G wireless.

                      If you get a good cell phone signal, 4G wireless might work for you.

        • “H-D had a strong customer base”
          If that was the case, why were they in so much trouble that AMF was even able to buy them? Because they had grown complacent and took that customer base for granted.
          The name of the market game is the buyer asking the seller, “What have you done for me lately? And what will you do for me today?”

          • Yup.

            Honda made Harley look really bad when the original Goldwing came out. It was simply a better machine – and not by a little bit, either.

        • “H-D had a strong customer base, a dealer network, and an established brand. ”

          Maybe they did in 1968. By the time Reagan was in office, their market share consisted of 1%er bike gangs (who stole their bikes and parts, usually), Shriners, Black Elk and Masons and other parading fools, and a few police departments.

          AMF had already destroyed their “established brand” by producing the worst bikes HD had made since the ’20s.

    • Hi Jeff,

      The Japanese were light-years ahead of not just Harley but also the Brits in terms of their engineering. The ’69 Honda CB750, for example. It brought an all-aluminum, SOHC four with electric start (!) to market at a mass market price. It was a bike that featured what was – at the time – exotic technology that was also brilliantly reliable. Kawasaki followed up with the even more impressive DOHC Z1900.

      These were simply better bikes.

      The Brits and Harley were obsolescent designs, poorly made – and expensive, on to top of that!

      Now, on the philosophical front: If you justify one instance of rent seeking/cronyism, then you have lost any moral basis for objecting to other instances… which is why we have the free-for-all we’ve got now, with the entire government devoted to favoring one group at the expense of another – the groups interchangeable but the favoritism never changing.

      • Hi Eric,

        I don’t like rent seeking. Although it’s easy to get caught up in idealism, I try to live in the real world and in the real world things are not as simple or idealistic as we imagine. Would I prefer a pure free market. The answer is an unequivocal yes. I once heard someone say that if you are living by your principles and everyone else isn’t, then you aren’t living by your principles. I don’t have a problem defending the free market when and where it exist. When it comes to international trade, particularly with the auto industry, the free market doesn’t exist. If foreign companies receive various forms of government assistance, and if they have government and nongovernment barriers to their markets, you’re not defending the free market by advocating against protective trade barriers against rent seeking Japanese manufacturers. Unless it can be proven otherwise, the free market in this instance did not exist.

        • Hi Jeff,

          I agree/concede that a free market doesn’t exist in this context. But is the solution to “me too” the morally wrong actions of the other side? If so, then what is the difference between us and them?

          Looking to government for “help” usually comes at a very steep price.

          For me, a telling fact in this case is that even if the Harleys cost less than the Japanese bikes, they were still grossly inferior products.

          The Jap bikes were orders of magnitude superior… and they cost less.

          • “Looking to government for “help” usually comes at a very steep price.” Boy, ain’t that the troof!
            Suppose we try to ‘even the playing field’ by having the gunvermin establish import tariffs. Now the consumer has to spend more money if he still wants the product. But where does that extra go? It either goes to the inefficient US producer who has not ‘earned’ it in the market place. Or it goes to the gunvermin, into the trough to be wasted like the rest of it. And if you think Uncle will offset that income by reducing some other tax, I have some waterfront property in Death Valley you may be interested in.

          • I understand your point regarding where does it stop? Sadly, most people are of the mindset that govern the exists to serve their narrow interest.

            There exists something I call the ultimate libertarian question. Basically, how can libertarianism, which is an ideology/philosophy based on nonagression, practically survive in a world where the agressive use of force is the rule? Power hates a vacuum and agression beats non agression 100 out of 100 times. Just because we eschew force doesn’t mean others will not do the same. And likely they will use force to dominate us. Does it make sense to abstain from the use of force based on morals/principles even if it to our detriment? Imagine a country like China, which, if allowed, would subsidize their steel industry to the hilt and enact protective trade barriers to prevent competition if they could get away with it. Should a libertarian country respond by allowing China to dump steel into their country and drive their domestic industry out of business based on free market principles even if the free market doesn’t truly exist? If they do they should just wear a ‘kick me ‘sign on their back. The only way to get China back in line would be to use force (tariffs and other trade barriers) to try to force China to be an honest player. How can libertarian no aggression counteract another government’s non-military aggressive use of force? I don’t think the free market applies here.

            It doesn’t surprise that Japan prices were lower. Around that time Japanese industry had switched to automation while the US hadn’t. I don’t know enough about Japan’s domestic policy, which may have allowed them to go into automation. However, unions and high corporate income taxes may have prevented H-D and other domestic industries from recapitalizing.

            • Hi Jeff,

              You may be right – as a practical matter. But as a moral matter, if we go down that road, we’re all hyenas. And have no right to complain about those other hyenas.

              I’m sick of predation and violence. Doesn’t mean I won’t defend myself against aggression, if it comes to that. But I’m not going to initiate it – or justify its initiation.

              We either evolve – or nothing really ever changes.

              Our position is certainly in the minority at the moment.

              But all great movements begin small.

              Who knows?

              We may prevail, in time.

              And if not, it’s a fine cause to fight and even die for.

            • Our dear leaders have allowed nations like China free access to the US market while retaining protectionism of their markets.

              As to the larger question I see getting from A to B as matter of ordered steps. People argue against libertarian ideals by taking steps out of order. For instance they’ll open up immigration before dismantling the welfare state. Trade is one of those issues that solves itself when we become individuals rather than subjects of states. When states are powerless to pick winners the problem of taxpayer subsidized products goes away. Weakening governments’ ability to meddle comes first. Trade then starts to fix itself. When people trade freely the barriers of BS states create breaks down. The state weakens further.

              The first step is for perceptions to change. People to stop looking to the state for answers.

              • Another thing to be done, in addition to dismantling the welfare state, before ‘opening up immigration’ is a recognition of property rights. In order to come here, someone must have an invitation from someone who is already here, someone willing to feed and house them until they are employed and settled. They can’t just push their way in or trespass.

                • I’m ok with them coming, as long as they are self-supporting. All that’s really necessary is the elimination of “services” and “entitlements.”

                  No one’s entitled to anything they haven’t paid for or otherwise honestly earned.

      • Keep in mind that that CB750, and then later the Yuuuge Gold Wing, were at a time when the Honda cars that were being imported (aka ‘the Tennis Shoe’) were 600cc. When the 170ci (2.8L) 6 in my Falcon was ‘tiny.’

    • “I don’t like political rent seeking but the company and the jobs were saved. ”

      Here, let me help you:

      “I like political rent seeking. It saves jobs.”

      There. That’s all you had to say.

    • ” What is apparent is that Japan has policies that actively helps their industrial base ”

      The Japanese auto industry is a net contributor to Japan’s economy, contributing far more than they get in subsidies / assistance. It would be unsustainable otherwise.
      If Japan’s government doesn’t steal from it’s auto-makers and domestic consumers as much as the U.S government does, giving an advantage to the japan’s industries, this is a beef one should take up with the U.S. government, NOT the U.S consumer. Tell uncle to get off your back.

      “As much as I like the free market, it really doesn’t exist anywhere in the real world.”

      As much as I like freedom, it doesn’t really exist anywhere in the world, therfore lets abandon freedom? balderdash. Global markets are, for the most part free, and to the extent which they are free, it benefits everyone, even those losing jobs when limited life-span factories and companies inevitably close down. To abandon that is to abandon prosperity.

      ” Japanese motorcycle manufacturers leveraged their government to their advantage and Harley Davidson did the same.”

      Harley Davidson didn’t leverage their government, they got their government to leverage the American consumer, to Harley’s, not the American people’s advantage.
      Just because Bob mugs Frank, and isn’t playing by the rules, doesn’t give Frank the right to mug you, or to get Bob (who just mugged him ) to mug you, in the hope that Bob will then leave him alone, he won’t.

  3. The early 80’s…..and I nearly break out laughing. I still looked like I did in the 60’s and 70’s, like a cowboy. I even drove for a while, an ex-narc car, nothing more or less than a DPS car painted baby shit yellow complete with spotlight and 8′ antenna(a crappie pole everywhere you go ha ha). I wore pressed jeans and white shirts, boots and a hat(of the same type the “undercover” guys wore). I drove 90 in a 55 with my outfit including mirror sunshades and meet a marked DPS, just sticking up one finger. I never got stopped, ever. They didn’t want to blow my cover.

    I had lots of “harley” friends and they could only think to say one thing, “still riding that rice burner?”. Yep…..wanta race? My other friends were the ‘dead” crowd and racers and we loved to run up on the Harley crowd that we all knew and just blow them away.

    We’d meet at parties and the “rice burners” didn’t mention it but eventually, the Harley riders or one at least would have to ask if we were still riding those rice burners. Replies often were mention of we noticed so and so wasn’t on his bike. Oh, he had a problem, is waiting to get the money to fix it. Yeah? what sort of problem? Oh, he needs a rebuild on his engine or has oiling problems(you never knew if it was the engine or transmission or chain unless you asked).

    When we’d leave the Harley riders best thing they had going was idling and gunning it. We’d get on our rice burners and simply haul ass.

    I recall a young guy getting a Wide Glide which he thought was the fastest thing on earth. I gave him hell and often told him I ‘d race him in anything I owned, not just my bike. After a few months I had my nephew tell me his 16 year old buddy with a 650 Zuk called him out one day so they lined up and went for it. The kid with the 650 pulled over before 3 blocks, turned around and went back to see what the problem was. The problem was a guy who’d had his ass handed to him in about a block. It was fairly hilarious. That 650 was a fast bike stock but with a little cam work and some carb work it was a screamer with this 130 lb kid on it.

    • Hi Eight,

      I rode the ’80 Sportster around for a bit to test it out before returning it to its owner. Evil handling bastard it was. What sicko came up with the idea of a bike with a high center of mass? Those two huge cast iron cylinders… vertically stacked like the Titanic’s funnels. Now add a really shitty (and really heavy) tube steel frame and a “suspension” inferior to my riding mower’s…

      • eric, but you know the Wide Glide had a PhD on the Sporty, piled higher and deeper. That bike was so slow…….. And when it came time to go after work in the cold you just pulled out the choke on a Jap bike, fired it and let it warm a few seconds and went on your way.

        On a Hardley though, it was commonly get out the jumper cables since they seem to eat batteries for whatever reason, various ones and common I’m sure. Crank and crank, cough and sputter and die. One old boy with an old style Harley could kick his…..repeatedly and get it started before some of the newer ones. Meanwhile those of us with Jap bikes were already well on our way to where we were headed. The guy with the old kick start bike had a chopped rear fender. He always smelled like hell(feet mainly, bad)but always smelled like gear lube and had a streak of it up his Harley jacket. I never understood the puddle of gear lube under one and didn’t want to find out for myself. A friend left his chopper parked on our sidewalk for months(wouldn’t start). When he finally got it there was a sidewalk wide puddle that stayed there for years. We rarely used that sidewalk and when we did we exited it before the puddle. Their infamy lives on after them.

      • ” Now add a really shitty (and really heavy) tube steel frame and a “suspension” inferior to my riding mower’s…”

        I’m old enough that those old hardtail Knucks were still around when I was a teen. The guys who chopped those or stripped and ratted them used to put a big fat tire on the rear and run it so soft that it would get too hot to touch, and still it would shake their asses off.

        What’s really funny is that some retards used to actually replace the shocks on their Duo-Glides with solid struts to make them “hardtails”.

            • And old college bud bought a Sporty back around ’71 or so. He called it the most expensive(and effective) vibrator and female sexual stimulant you could buy. I watched him do his “thing” for years and don’t doubt it a bit. Nobody thought twice if they walked in and found him and a woman in the spare bedroom cause the window wasn’t locked. He was an opportunist to say the least.

    • The old man had a ’93 Wide Glide – 1340cc evo motor. Stock w/350 lb. rider, not speed shifting, it ran 14.60s. After a trip to Daytona he comes back with Accel fuel injection, misc exhaust work done and new valve springs (I think) for a 7k redline – runs 13.40s. Dyno said it went from 51 to 74 w.h.p.
      I used to troll Hardleys in my cars all the time, 90+ percent of them couldn’t compete. My obnoxious neighbor was spouting off about how his Hog would smoke my p.o.s. S10 work truck ( ) because he spent 5k on the motor blah blah blah, we tied and he wouldn’t speak to me for a month lmao.
      I do recall one full dresser, whisper quiet even, that ran mid 10s. Rare bird…

      • My stone stock ’83 Honda GL650 is as quick or quicker than the Hardley you describe!

        And my lightly modded ’75 Kawasaki 900 would blow it in the weeds.

      • That reminds me I have a Weiand Team G just looking for a home. I see the occasional S-10 just looking for a drivetrain now and then.

        My cousin ran a LUV and kept trying to build a SBC but his press wasn’t true and he’d screw up the piston/wrist pin so the engine would soon die the death of the ruined block, et al.
        I finally convinced him of letting a local shop that has a trophy room of all types of racing engines up to the national category, to build his bottom end(for god’s sake). That little truck ran high 9’s before one of his sons used some dumbass type fuel pump and starved it. It was a 383 with a 400 block, a very reliable screamer.

  4. Uncles rules and regulations define a huge amount of things we think is normal. It shouldn’t be, and some things need to be done differently.

    Here is an example of one that effects everyone who pays income taxes. Refund season. Only the problem is calling it a refund. It’s not a refund. If your getting a refund, you are giving uncle an interest free loan for months. You are overpaying your taxes, and that money gets locked away from you for most of the year. Stop doing it!!!

    It’s an easier one to fix (easy as in government easy that is). Have your employer or accountant decrease the withholding. Yeah, I know, some employers won’t do it, because they know if they do it too often uncle will be unhappy. But if you can get it decreased, you get your money when you earn it, why let uncle hold money he isn’t even going to steal from you? Yep, you could end up owing at tax time, but why pay early? You could invest that money short term, or use it to pay off bills to save interest on them, before you pay uncle. I am of the opinion you shouldn’t pay until its due. If I could, I wouldn’t withhold any income taxes over the year, even if I just let it sit in my checking account. Don’t loan the government money for free!

    Another thing that is distorted by tax law is donations to charities. Instead of donating when you feel like it, or when that charity needs it most, you often wait and do it when its best for your tax bill. I know a number of fund raisers for charities and organizations, and they hate tax laws because it creates a rush season, making parts of the year pure h*ll. Then they have times of the year they can’t raise a dime, because people have to hold it for tax time.

  5. the fed gov tariff on japanese bikes over 700cc was temporary,
    only lasting 5 years,
    full tariff first year and then drifting back to almost nothing the 5th year

    it didnt save HD, but it did give them time to save themselves.
    if during those 5 years they had not managed to become more efficient, , then when the tariff drifted back to zero, they’d still be dead.

    I have no problem with reasonable tariffs, on items a foreign country is dumping in the US for less than they sell them in their home country.

    you ever tried to import a car into japan?
    not possible.

    • “I have no problem with reasonable tariffs”
      Tariffs are taxes, and taxes are theft. If foreign gunvermin want to steal from their own subjects in order to sell to us cheaper, I say bring it on, and thanks.

    • Ok – I like Tariffs.
      I should say that I like Tariffs as the primary (and only?) source of revenue for the Federal Government. Thomas Jefferson boasted at the end of his terms that frugality in spending resulted in the domestic laborer or manufacturer never seeing the Excise (Tax) Man, because all of the Tariffs were collected at ports on the coast. I believe it was Madison who pointed out that Tariffs for revenue were self regulating; if a Tariff was set too high or too low, revenues were lost. As such, Protectionism results in loss of revenue to the Federal Government.
      It irritates me that, under these “Free Trade” agreements, foreign outfits get in for “free” while domestic producers get the tar taxed out of them. Every dollar possible should be raised via Tariffs before a penny of Income Tax is collected. But, to do that, you can’t have Protectionism.

  6. “But what might Harley have become, absent Uncle’s interferences?”
    2 possibilities – it would have either made major improvements, or it would have disappeared.
    “We’re delighted … it will give us time that we might otherwise not have had to make manufacturing improvements and bring out new products.”
    Time you otherwise might not have had? You had about 20 years, and did nothing.

    • I don’t know the timing of the events in question, but the AMF years were not good to Harley. It’s possible the company was such a basket case that it wouldn’t have survived without intervention.

      Should the government have stepped in to save them? No.

      One of the great things about America is that there’s this constant churn of old businesses becoming obsolete and fading away, to be replaced by new businesses.

      • AMF bought Harley in 1969, so it had been in a coma quite a while already.
        Then resold it in 1981, the year Ronny took office. So maybe he (or whoever put him up to it) was trying to help them recover from that. Tough noogies, wasn’t Uncle’s bidness.

  7. The same thing was going on in the realm of 4-wheel motorized vehicles…replace Harley with GM, Ford or Chrysler and Kawasaki with Toyota, not to mention Honda and BMW for bikes and cars.

    It was during that same time that Chrysler also appealed to Uncle…who ironically was one of the causes of Chrysler’s problems

  8. We all really need to quash the use of the term “Crony Capitalist.” It’s nonsense. You can have capitalism, which means sink-or-swim; or, you can have cronyism, which is an element of fascism. (Or, it would be, if people actually understood history of the term.)

    “Crony Capitalism” is nothing more than so many other meaningless code words, this one being used to smear the word “Capitalism,” which, properly defined, is what happens when you leave people the heII alone.

      • Just to make a point. All political systems are capitalistic in nature. The differences comes down to who actually owns/controls the capital. If capital is owned and controlled by non state actors (private individuals) then it is free market capitalism. If capital is owned by non state actors but regulated and controlled by the state then it is fascist based capitalism, for example zoning laws. if capital is owned and controlled by the state then it is communist owned capital, think foogbawl stadium. Currently, the political system in the united States is a mixture of all three with the first coming under ferocious attack by the state. The first will most certainly be banned unless a revolution occurs.

        • Just want to add, there is very little property that is not in some fashion controlled by a government entity somewhere. Even pets are regulated and controlled. Free country? Fugget about it.

          P.S. it really amazes me that people living in the united States actually think they are living in a free country. Sad Sad state of affairs. I’d say the state indoctrination by the pubic skool system was 95% successful.

        • Excellent distinction David. Had not thought about it that way.
          So what we want is ‘free market.’ Capitalism is redundant.

    • The problem is that the masses are intentionally miseducated. They think cronyism or crony capitalism is capitalism. They think fascism is goose stepping and putting people into camps for the ‘final solution’ not an economic system, which is what it really is. When I write I try to ease the reader from thinking cronyism is the natural state of capitalism and work them towards corporatism or fascism. Cronyism may be another step I can put in there to ease the few who see what I write into knowledge. Start with crony capitalism so they don’t react harshly then gently move that to cronyism and then to corporatism and then to economic fascism.

      • Hey Brent,

        I’ve mentioned something like this before. When you ask an opponent of the free market to cite an example of a successful socialist/communist society, they turn it around and ask us to name a successful capitalist system.

        They state that crony capitalism, cronyism, corporatism, and economic fascism is the natural end-result of all capitalist societies. Since all societies/empires eventually fall, one cannot name the ideal system.

        Why someone who is smart enough to come to that conclusion, still advocates for a socialist society, is beyond me.

        • A socialist is a statist so I never bother with pointing out that there isn’t a successful socialist system. I simply show them how every one of their objections is a product of the state. They don’t like that. I attack the state with my arguments, the institution they want to be even bigger and more powerful and they are left trying to explain how they’ll have a better state. That’s easily dispatched and then they just babble and name call.

        • Hi Brandon,

          I try to end-run this debate by hammering the NAP. By forcing my antagonist to defend the use of violence against individuals who’ve done nothing to morally justify it. This brings the argument around to “majority rule” and “democracy” … at which point one can ask: Well, if what’s right comes down to a majority’s voting for it, or some politician saying he represents the “will” of the majority, then I guess it’s ok if I get a group together and we vote to rape your sister.


          • I try using the NAP as an argument but it usually doesn’t work, because people can’t believe that uncle would actually kill someone for nonpayment of tribute. The argument usually devolves into “oh well there’s no way a judge would allow that.” And I’m usually not fast enough on my feet to come up with examples other than Ruby Ridge or Waco, which invokes a “oh, come on… They were bat shit crazy” response.

            Even using the IRS as an example doesn’t help. The argument then becomes “well don’t break the law and they won’t persecute you,” as if we have a choice in the matter (which of course is the fundamental argument in favor of the NAP).

            • “bat shit crazy” is why we have a media and how government chooses its victims. It chooses people who are socially isolated or those it can socially isolate. For all its power it has a glaring weakness and that is if people supported each other fedgov would be powerless. So it’s a constant manipulation of people’s minds and emotions to pit them against each other to condition them that government is good, and so on.

              Obey the law with regard to the IRS? How? The law is what they say it is when they say it. There effectively is no law.

                • I’ve never seen it done but I’ve been out on trails and found signs like “speed limit 8mph” or “speed limit 8mph radar enforced”. Yes, 8mph. I can’t even go that slow unless there is a strong headwind.

                  • Just one question: Do you have a speedometer? I always wanted one when I was a kid but FF to college and when we ran with 40 mph rush hour traffic and we were pretty sure we were going 40. If you didn’t in Lubbock you would have simply gotten your ass smashed.

                    • Yes. I got a speedometer some years back. Fastest I’ve been able to do since I got it is 35mph or so. But I know I’ve done faster. Not because the number doesn’t match my expectations but because those instances didn’t feel anywhere near as fast. Nor did I have speedometers on the bicycles I’ve ridden in places with a lot more terrain.

                      There is one road locally with a long subtle downhill slope where I had a tail wind one day. I just kept pumping and eventually cars stopped passing me. Typical drivers do 50mph on that road. But that was many years ago. Didn’t have speedometer then. Never had such favorable conditions there either.

                      Then there was the time a cop was running a speed trap and looked shocked as I passed him. I was only doing maybe 30mph.

                      These days I don’t bike enough so my speeds aren’t so good. 25-28 mph tops.

                    • A few years ago one of my brothers was doing a ‘self-propelled commute’ in Madison, WI. At one point there was a block of pretty good downhill, followed by a similar block back up, so you wanted to get up some steam going down. There was a cross street at the bottom, but it had a stop sign. One day an idiot (Clover?) of the female persuasion stopped, saw it was ‘just a bicycle’ and pulled out, sending him ass over teakettle over her hood. At least he was wearing a helmet so the only permanent damage (to him) was 2 front teeth that required caps.

                    • All these morons who think a bicyclist is always going very slow. I can get these morons doing 40mph or more on a residential street because they calibrate their speed against mine, have to pass, and/or have to get to a stop sign first.

                  • We’ve already had a 45mph wind day last week and 35 mph yesterday and the day before, one day from the SW and the other from the NE. A month or so ago we had straight line winds of 65-70, not really that uncommon. Riding a bike can be difficult in that wind and I’d no longer even try if I had a bike. I might ride down my drive but the county road is dirt with chert mixed in, car tire killer chert, even 10 ply Class E killer chert plus a good base of old RR spikes that respect no size tire. Driving down that road in a big 4WD tractor….with duals and you notice a spray of water, then another, no doubt a spike has just done a number on a $2000 tire.

                    It’s not out of the question for someone to be going 70 on that road and 50 is common. I’d only ride on that road with good rear view mirrors and only to get to a paved road. I don’t even want to consider what my top speed might be now, luckily, half what yours is. I “ran” up a steep hill to get my truck out of the way of a grader yesterday. It was an adventure and required a cold drink when done. A cold beer would have been good after the water.

            • “well don’t break the law and they won’t persecute you,”
              But the Federal Register is 1000s of pages, w/hundreds added daily by various departments that do not consult w/each other. It is impossible to not be breaking some law or other.

          • For the majority of homo sapien history, the voting to rape the other guy’s sister thing was mainstream morality. Since the remnants of the defeated tribes were powerless to stop thevvictorious tribes from raping all their sisters, most of the rapeable gals did get raped and made to produce more tribesmen for the conquerors.

            To this day, there’s an unseen adaptation not far beneath the surface, that will kick in and erase a woman’s previous heartfelt love, and help her quickly learn to love and serve her new head of household.

            That’s why when a woman makes up her mind to leave you. Especially if its for financial reasons. Or because you violated some kind of moral code that she feels obligated to uphold. She’s able to paint over all her feelings and history with you, almost like shaking an Etch a Sketch and “coldly” moving on.

            It all comes back to the natural human condition, that a female is fair game and there for the taking by the bold and strong. This is also a strong argument for why all women must be allowed to own firearms, or be in a household where men protect her with firearms.

            Two very recent examples of voting to rape sisters: Nazi Germany and Joy Division. Imperial Japan and Comfort Women.

            Statists always want to evade the realities of rape and war being the very essence of their system. You must never let them do this.

    • No, John, it isn’t meaningless. Crony capitalism is the modern term for mercantilism. Capitalism describes the function of business growth whereby capital is created by saving and reinvestment, which in turn produces more capital.

      Mercantilism is the practice of gaining unnatural market advantage by government action. The cronyism between government job holders and businesses is what is being described when the term crony capitalism is used.

      Crony capitalism isn’t actually capitalism in the true sense of the word.


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