C4C Again

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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20 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    My problem with Cash 4 Clunkers is the 1977 Datsun Pickup issue.

    If one goes here:

    One sees a truly breathtaking array of vehicles. I am willing to bet that every one (with the possible exception of the Hummer) gets better mileage than the Datsun. I am willing to bet that all of them, without exception, have better emissions.

    Which brings me to ask: did Cash 4 Clunkers get a single 1977 Datsun off of the road?

    I mean, hurray, we got a couple of 2002 Mitsubishi Montero Sports off of the road.

    Yay us.

    The people who are driving a 1977 Datsun are the ones that one would think we’d want to help. Not those driving a 2002 Mitsubishi Montero Sport. You’d think we’d work hard to get a 1977 Datsun off of the road. Not a 2002 Mitsubishi Montero Sport.

    But people are cheering that there are fewer 2002 Mitsubishi Montero Sports out there.

    And we still have the same number of 1977 Datsuns.

    It’s topsy-turvy.

    And people who question are painted as “glibertarian”.Report

    • me in reply to Jaybird says:

      So, do you think that there are many unwrecked 2002 Monteros which are worth less then $4500?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to me says:

        @me, what are you trying to do, me?

        Are you trying to save the environment by taking cars with absolutely vicious emissions off of the road?

        If so, there are ways to do that.

        Are you trying to help save the planet by replacing cars that get absolutely atrocious mileage with cars that get pretty good mileage?

        There are ways to do that.

        Are you trying to give a handful of middle-class people a reason to buy a car RIGHT NOW instead of next year and create a small spike in domestic auto sales (that will fall off a cliff after the program ends) without really helping the lower classes or get the worst cars off of the road?

        There are ways to do that too.

        What do you want to accomplish?Report

  2. Dave S. says:

    “And don’t destroy the cars” is not an argument. It’s an incantation, especially when the only proposed alternative is saving them for use as a worldwide rapid-response disaster evacuation fleet. Kindly propose that under the “limited government” rubric, making sure to duck immediately.

    Anyone shocked and appalled by the imperfections of government programs (Will no one think of the 1977 Datsuns?!) should leave the dorm once in a while.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Dave S. says:

      @Dave S., see it this way, other Dave:

      Let’s say that I sing the praises of limited government and fiscal sanity.

      Then, when my programs finally have a chance to be implemented, I, instead, expand government and spend like a CEO’s fourth wife.

      At that point, the question isn’t whether limited government/fiscal restraint is a good philosophy and one that deserves time at the table. That question got blown out of the water by the actions of the stuff that actually happened.

      Which brings us back to C4C.

      My argument is that, sure, there are theoretical C4C programs that would not have been bad. Maybe they would have helped everybody.

      Hell, there are reasons for wanting C4C that are good reasons to want it. Sure.

      But you can’t use the arguments for the theoretical version anymore.


      Because the real version happened.

      The real thing blew the theoretical justifications for the theoretical program out of the water.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Dave S. says:

      @Dave S.,

      “And don’t destroy the cars” is not an argument. It’s an incantation…

      Taken out of context, you’re right. But when I’m pointing out that we need not destroy capital stock to achieve other desiderata, what I’m doing is showing that the policy choice was inefficient. That’s an argument — one about finding the proper means given a certain end.

      The emergency disaster fleet was fanciful, as I noted. But what if we gave those clunkers to people who don’t have cars at all, as an act of charity? Would you oppose that charity?Report

      • Dave S. in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @Jason Kuznicki, one desideratum of C4C was getting less-fuel-efficient cars off the road. Keeping them in the pool of available cars would not achieve that, whereas recycling most of these cars’ components (as opposed to “destroying” them, a distinction which you have acknowledged) did. Preservation of capital stock should not be an end in itself.

        Re the clunker giveaway you outline, I would in fact oppose that kind of government charity on grounds of efficiency and value, i.e. there are more effective ways to help those in need. Not all those who wander on foot need a car.

        @Jaybird, I’m sorry you got snookered in 2000; the more I think about it the more sorry I am. On the other hand, maybe it’s because I just finished a big lunch but I really don’t understand what you’re trying to say in your response to me.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Dave S. says:

          @Dave S.,

          one desideratum of C4C was getting less-fuel-efficient cars off the road

          But again, we’re back to scapegoating! The end you desire would appear to be merely destroying cars — and not helping the environment. (Forgive me, I’d assumed that the latter, more reasonable goal was the true one.)

          If other means exist to abate more pollution for less money, then those should be used instead. It seems manifestly obvious to me that there are such means.

          Take all the clunkers and all the new cars, and subtract out all their greenhouse gases. Do you suppose we could have bought more solar energy — and thus more greenhouse gas abatement — for $3 billion in cold, hard cash? It seems at least a plausible question to ask.

          As to charity, don’t imagine that I’d want to give cars to anyone who didn’t want them. Far from it. The more efficient means to achieve this charitable giving would just be to sell the cars — and give the poor the cash. But that mucks up the whole scapegoat operation, I know.Report

          • Dave S. in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            @Jason Kuznicki, “One desideratum” is not the same as “the ONLY desideratum.” And please explain how increasing overall fuel efficiency does not help the environment.

            Another desideratum of C4C was helping the auto industry and its subsidiary industries (e.g., car dealers). Owners of less-efficient cars got incentives to buy more-efficient cars, with the clunkers getting mostly recycled. (I have to repeat that last point as you insist on referring to the “destruction” of cars as a rhetorical invocation of government waste). This helped auto dealers stay afloat by getting excess inventory off their lots.

            $3 billion certainly would be useful for solar energy investment, but would do nothing to achieve desideratum #2 above. This program had multiple goals.

            Finally, I do not know where you picked up the “scapegoating” vibe unless it was a misreading of Mr. Cole’s original post.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Dave S. says:

              @Dave S.,

              “One desideratum” is not the same as “the ONLY desideratum.” And please explain how increasing overall fuel efficiency does not help the environment.

              Okay fine — but why do you want these cars off the road? What did they ever do to you?

              Presumably, it is only because taking them off the road will help the environment.

              That’s a perfectly legitimate reason.

              But suppose that there’s a cheaper way to help the environment by the same amount, or a way to help the environment even more by spending the same. Shouldn’t you prefer this other method, and go after it first?

              As to where I got the idea of scapegoating, it’s in the Bible. And in many, many anthropological studies. Without it I struggle to understand the rationale behind this program’s extraordinary popularity, even among those who weren’t given free money, and who were thus economically disadvantaged by it.Report

            • Dave S. in reply to Dave S. says:

              I see we have reached the limits of comment hierarchy.

              Jason, allow me to point out, as I did above, that the two desiderata I mentioned are inter-related. Removing fuel-inefficient cars from the overall pool by providing incentives to replace them with more-efficient cars helps both the environment (fuel efficiency improves) and car dealers (car sales improve).

              I visit this blog fairly often and enjoy most of what you have to offer, and you and your colleagues are thoughtful and intelligent. With that in mind, I respectfully suggest that debate-team tactics and condescension should be beneath you.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Dave S. says:

              @Dave S.,

              And I thought I’d addressed the interrelated desiderata point above. In fact, I did so in the original post. If you want to help the environment and help car dealers (really, manufacturers), then give them the green energy credits directly. Was there some reason this was inadequate?Report

            • Dave S. in reply to Dave S. says:

              What would the auto industry (from manufacturers all the way down to car dealers, unless you’re including car dealers under your definition of “manufacturers”) do with the green/solar energy credits? In what way would it help them? If these are “rebates on other goods,” an industry (and its employees) in precarious economic shape may not be the best target for such a program, nor would the auto industry consider that a “bailout.” Selling their product, not the inability to purchase some other product, is their problem.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Dave S. says:

                Giving them free energy would allow them to cut prices, surely. Auto makers are significant users of electrical power. With lower prices, sales volume would tend to increase.Report

            • Dave S. in reply to Dave S. says:

              Hey, how did you nest that? Your comment-fu is stronger than mine.

              I see your point and that may indeed have a better environmental impact, but what happens when the $3 billion worth of free energy stops? (I assume we are sticking with the short-term nature of the program.) I think that also plays out over a longer timeline than that desired by proponents and beneficiaries alike. It’s a shot in the arm (or the butt depending on your ideology) rather than an IV drip.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Dave S. says:

          @Dave S., I didn’t get snookered in 2000.

          I voted for Nader.

          It was you people who voted for “more of the same” that got snookered.

          That’s right. “You people.”Report

    • North in reply to Dave S. says:

      @Dave S., Dave, when c4c was tromping around in its heydey someone here (I think it may have been Jaybird) pointed out that the environmentally conscious thing to have done would have been to have the cars cascade down rather than being junked. That is the brand new cars replaced slightly polluting cars which in turn replaced quite polluting cars which in turn replaced the really old chunky smoker cars and those then get scrapped.Report

      • Dave S. in reply to North says:

        @North, I leave it to the experts to determine the environmental impact of immediately mostly-recycling (as opposed to, and quite different from, junking) a large number of fuel-inefficient vehicles as compared to the impact of letting manufacturing take its course, with the attendant assumption that all new cars are more fuel-efficient than previous models. I suspect that the direct-action approach is better overall. As for the assumption on increasing fuel efficiency over time, note the third bullet point under “1990s” in this report.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        @North, I think it’s this one:


        Do a find for “ipecac” and it’s a little under that.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to North says:


        One other factor I’ve never seen data for is how much people drive their new cars versus how much they drove their clunkers. If buying a shiny new car makes you drive more often, the environmental gains aren’t so big as they seem on paper. Can anyone point me at information about driving frequency here, if there is any?Report