Hammer Time: A Tale Of Two Car Cultures

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

In much of the undeveloped world, wealth and poverty have a permanence for individuals. The governments own or subsidize the most lucrative businesses. Access to credit and capital is scant for the average citizen. Food resources are a priority, and higher education is often times solely for the wealthy and well-connected.

It’s hard to build a good life when corruption, bribery, and the ‘thug mentality’ are a big part of daily life. Arab Springs, Civil Wars, Fascisms of every stripe. The aftermath of allying with all these dictatorships and other criminal organizations is a culture that preys on weakness.

What does this have to do with cars? Everything and then some, sad to say. Let me introduce you to two groups that epitomize everything I see in this business as a car dealer here in the United States.

The folks of Bricklynn and Civitown have a lot in common. They are both American towns of similar size and demographics. Both are known for their exuberant nature and funny unique accents.

Both towns have schools, colleges, similar legal foundations, and even similar beliefs about the importance of a good work ethic in pursuing their version of the American dream.

Bricklynn and Civitown are also as different as night and day in every other respect. You name it. It’s different. From the way they treat each other, to the way they make their decisions.

The Bricklynites enjoy a low-stress lifestyle when it comes to car ownership. While the Civis are constantly having to endure a wide variety of nasty behaviors that make their vehicles a source of constant sorrow and hardship.

So let’s start with the beauty that is Bricklynn… and the beastly process of funding their roads.

“In Bricklynn, everyone gets treated the same… No exceptions!”

So says the Mayor of Bricklynn, Bertie Schmidt. Everyone in Bricklynn pays a flat title tax, equivalent to a sales tax, for whatever new or used vehicle they purchase based on the year, make and model.

A flat license renewal fee is also paid with no exclusions or discounts. Everyone pays the same amount for their license. No exceptions!

There is no exemption for seniors, students, or even a distant 3rd cousin. You want to drive the vehicle on Bricklynn roads? Fine. Just please pay a flat amount, which everyone else pays, that is indexed to the actual cost of maintaining the transportation infrastructure. That information, along with the bids submitted by various construction firms, can be found online where all Bricklynn expenditures are made public, written in simple Bricklynn-ese.

Motorcyclists pay the same fees. Adult bicyclists pay a flat annual fee. There are no free-riders in Bricklynn and consequently, no overtaxed segment of the population with limited political power.

“In Civitiown, it’s the squeaky wheels that get the grease.”

Annual Christmas Party: Civitown USA

So says the Mayor of Civitown, Boesky Kilpatrick. About half the residents of Civitown have some type of exemption or discount that benefits their special interest.

For instance, the government allows many of their employees to drive the city’s vehicles for non-government business, free of charge. No fees. Free gas. Free car. They call it a ‘perk’. While in Bricklynn, it’s a felony.

A lot of folks get discounts and exemptions, even though they are supposed to be equal. Seniors pay less. Students pay less. Even friends and relatives of those with connections pay less thanks to chronic graft and bribery.

The entitlement mentality stretches to every corner of life and consequently, the government of Civitown has become a reflection of the corrupt and predatory society for which it serves. Those citizens that do pay their taxes, pay a stiff premium that is subjectively applied by the tax collection system that has been put in place.

Civitown has each of their vehicles evaluated for ‘condition’ by a few chosen private businesses, approved by the local governmet, that will inspect the vehicle every year for a fee.

The inspection is done to make sure the vehicle can stay on the road, and to determine the overall amount of the annual ad valorem tax. A process that combines the objectivity of a book, and the subjectivity of the vehicle’s current condition.

Although it’s not acknowledged, many folks in Civitown will simply pay a ‘gratuity’ to one of these businesses in exchange for a lower tax. The few saps that don’t provide this inducement, simply pay through the nose.

Sales taxes are also collected. But those are far, far lower than in Bricklynn. Since a surprising number of cars in Civitown sell for such little money… on paper.

Tomorrow we’ll cover speed limits, and how they are applied and enforced in both cultures. But for now, let me ask all of you a question.

“Do you consider your neck of the woods to be like Bricklynn? Or Civitown?”

I’ve seen both in my travels. How about you?

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5 of 91 comments
  • Charliej Charliej on Jun 22, 2012

    To everyone who wants lower taxes, try living in a low tax state first. My home state of Alabama has the lowest total tax burden of any state in the union. Lets look at Alabama closely. Last or near last in all the things that make a place nice to live in. Education and health care are at the bottom. Infant mortality, fat citizens, stupid citizens, all near the top. The education thing also relates to racism and bigotry of all types. Jewish, Catholic, not welcome in Alabama. There was a comment that higher taxes do not equal more civilization. That may be true, but there is a point below which civilization collapses without money to operate. That point is near in several southern states. If there is no money, prisons close, police are fired, firemen are fired, society collapses. Wait and see.

    • See 2 previous
    • Darkwing Darkwing on Jun 22, 2012

      @CJinSD: Yes, but that's merely the Washington Monument strategy being applied to a gullible public. The California public sector isn't exactly operating on a shoestring budget these days.

  • Olddavid Olddavid on Jun 27, 2012

    Do I detect the ghost of the founder here, playing Devil's advocate?

  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.https://www.lhd.com.au/lhd-insights/australian-road-death-statistics/
  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
  • Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.
  • Lorenzo The other automakers are putting silly horsepower into the few RWD vehicles they have, just as Stellantis is about to kill off the most appropriate vehicles for that much horsepower. Somehow, I get the impression the OTHER Carlos, Tavares, not Ghosn, doesn't have a firm grasp of the American market.