The Tragedy of the Clunkers

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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 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.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Pch101 Pch101 on Sep 24, 2009
    So now you know why I brought up something. It was already clear. And you were still wrong. People who make statements such as "A government transfer of wealth always distorts the market" are ideologues, and are usually not particularly knowledgeable. Ideology is used as an excuse to not learn the subject matter; it's easier to offer an opinion than to learn facts. There are good arguments against C4C. You didn't make any. Instead, you offered a few bad ones, which revealed your lack of knowledge of the topic. Marx had no place in this discussion. You went for it because it's easier for ideologues to call people commies than it is to offer thoughtful replies. That's your fault, no one else's.
  • MBella MBella on Sep 24, 2009

    So I'm an ideologue, but you are the beacon of truth. Oh wise one, what is the meaning of life? Since you are so distraught about me asking if FreedMike's business professor was Karl Marx, I will send the previously mentioned business professor an apology e-mail for comparing him to the writer of the communist manifesto. Do you have his e-mail address handy?

  • Fli317 Fli317 on Sep 25, 2009

    This was a terrible waste of money, but really only the tip of the iceberg as far as wasting our money. We all elected this idiot into office and now we have to vote him out at our next opportunity. Lets just hope he does not do too much damage to our country.

  • Sfdennis1 Sfdennis1 on Sep 26, 2009

    @fli317 No, we finally GOT RID of the idiot, and his sidekick Darth Vader, and the whole administration of thugs and liars (who collectively, almost destroyed our country over the course of 8 years, and whose irresponsible fiscal policies and bad decisions almost brought our economy to the edge of collapse.) ...and our choices in Nov. '08 were between Obama and having an un-friggin-believable idiot (Palin) be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Just to introduce you to reality, what we did there was dodge a bullet. You're welcome.