Economics professors Burton Abrams and George Parsons sum up the Cash for Clunkers tragedy wonderfully in their essay Is CARS a Clunker? [PDF available here]. “Concentrated benefits create vocal advocates, while diffused costs produce silent, apathetic opponents,” they conclude after showing that the costs of crushing clunkers outweighed the benefits by about $2,000 per vehicle. But reality is even worse. As economists, Abrams and Parsons break everything into dollars and cents. That’s their job. But one look at the CARS.gov list [PDF] of vehicles “traded in” shows that, for car aficionados anyway, the true cost of Cash for Clunkers is almost impossible to boil down to mere money. Did you know some fool “traded in” an Aston DB7 Volante? An M3? A TVR? A grip of Ur-Quattros? Three Laforzas? I didn’t even know what a Laforza is. Now I don’t want to get all Hemmings on you, but this stuff is more than just heritage: these vehicles are wonderfully bad decisions waiting to happen. Literally thousands of young men are currently trolling their local Craigslist for out-of-reach vehicles at prices that would make anyone who knew better run away screaming. Thanks to Cash for Clunkers they’ll never understand the agony and the ecstasy of trying to keep an Aston running on elbow grease, generic parts and a Nietzschian will to awesome. And that’s the real tragedy.