How did the government get into the business of decreeing how many miles-per-gallon new cars (and trucks) must deliver? The authority to do this is nowhere to be found in the Constitution – though some will say (rightly) that there were no cars (or trucks) around when the Constitution was ratified and became the law of the land in 1789.
Ah, but there were horses – and carriages. And for some reason these are not mentioned in the Constitution as something over which the federal government has regulatory dominion. That reason, of course, was that the writers of the Constitution and the people who ratified it did not grant the federal government the authority to exercise regulatory dominion over horses and carriages. People were free to buy (and ride) larger or smaller horses – and ride in smaller (or larger) carriages, as they liked.
Of course, it was still America in those days. A place in which the federal government didn’t involve itself much – or even at all – in people’s personal decisions as regards the things they wished to buy and were once free to buy (or not) as they liked. It being their money and all.
Fast forward a couple hundred years. It is the early 1970s. It was still a time when people were largely free to buy whatever car or truck (the replacement for the horse and carriage) they liked. That changed when the government asserted regulatory dominion to decree mandatory gas mileage minimums for all new vehicles – cars and trucks – which it justified doing (as per usual) on the basis of a lie.
The lie was that if the federal government didn’t “intervene,” the car (and truck) buying public would be forced to buy “gas guzzlers,” because that is all the car industry (in cahoots with the oil industry) would sell them.
It is the government that relies on force – to compel people to buy what they otherwise wouldn’t and which would be available for those who did want to buy it (assuming it was of value to them).
It is a lie that, prior to the federal government decreeing mandatory MPG minimums (the formal term in bureaucratic language is Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements) there weren’t fuel-efficient cars (and trucks) available. Does the VW Beetle ring a bell? It was available in the U.S. for more than two decades prior to the mid-1970s, when the government said it just had to get involved, to make sure efficient cars were available, so that people wouldn’t be gouged by “gas guzzlers.” There were also a slew of Japanese economy cars, such as the first Honda Civic and the Datsun B210. These came to market because enough people wanted them – or cars like them – to make it worth putting them on the market.
The “problem” – from the point-of-view of the authoritarian busybodies that hew to the regulatory warrens of the federal hive (where they have power over the market, which they despise as reflexively as Dracula loathes the rising sun) is that not everyone wanted to drive an “economical” car.
Many wanted – and still want – to drive a larger, more powerful car (or truck).
The ridiculous unchallenged premise is that such people were forced to buy such “gas hogs” and that – absent the good offices of government – the industry would build nothing but. To appreciate the absurdity of this, think of a restaurant that doesn’t offer what people want to eat – and are willing to pay for. How long do you think such a restaurant would remain open for business?
How is it any different as regards cars – and trucks? If “gas guzzlers” weren’t what people wanted – if what they wanted were cars (and trucks) that prioritized gas mileage over other considerations – what would prevent the car industry from building such cars? Why would they abstain from building them, if there was a market for them?
Wouldn’t abstaining cost them sales – and thus, profits?
When you examine it closely, the supposed justification for federal intervention holds water like a pasta strainer.
Of course, it never really was a justification – in the sense that the government was “looking out” for the average guy. It was an excuse – to screw the average guy. Who is no longer able, for the most part, to buy a “gas guzzler” – because these have been made so expensive that only the affluent can afford them. Something like a Chevy Tahoe, for instance, is very similar in layout to something like a Chevy Malibu from the early ’70s in that both are full-size, rear-drive, six-passenger family vehicles and have V8 engines. The difference is that a new Tahoe starts at $52,600 while a 1972 Malibu sedan stickered for $2,640 (or $19,598 in today’s devalued currency).
It is true the new Tahoe is a fancier, more luxurious vehicle. But the deeper truth is that the ’72 Malibu was an affordable vehicle, even if it was a “gas hog.” The people who bought it could afford the gas – because the vehicle was affordable. And those who didn’t want to spend the money on gas were free to buy a more “efficient” vehicle.
What’s happened is that all vehicles are now more “efficient” – courtesy of government – and also a lot less affordable. Courtesy of the same government. Its CAFE mandatory minimums have decreased the amount of money people spend on gas. But they have also increased the amount of money they have to spend on a new vehicle – and they have winnowed out of affordability the kinds of vehicles average people used to be able to afford – like the Malibu – while making modern analogs like the Tahoe the kinds of vehicles only a relative few can afford.
If the government ever gets around to regulating restaurants as it has vehicles, most of us won’t be able to afford steaks, either. Like full-size, V8-powered family vehicles, they will be for the affluent only.
Just as the regulatory regime intends.
. . .
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