To Buy Or Not To Buy


Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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141 Responses

  1. Avatar Murali says:

    Is this about a car or about conservatives? If its about a car, then don’t buy it. If its about conservatives, the analogy sucks.Report

    • @murali That’s an odd comment. What has you thinking this is about conservatives? The plaid sportcoat?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        It’s everything after that line. That sounds less like a car salesman thing and more like a pastiche of the arguments we had in the past when we were arguing over hypocrisy among social conservatives.

        Anyhow, some time ago in a comment, I at least partly conceded your point. Hypocrisy does in fact undermine the principle being pushed. If the practice of morality is in part a negotiation of what the boundaries and duties are, then the demands we make on one another are normally taken to be part of good faith attempts to figure out what the rules are. However, if the people who push a rule tend to push it when it benefits them but ignore it when it hurts them, then there is less reason to think that they are negotiating in good faith.

        That said, are you really looking for a new car?

        If you are, then I’d recommend a VW. Those things are sturdy and among the oldest cars on the roads I see are VWs. That indicates that they are generally reliable. However, I wouldn’t buy one from a shady dealer. Go to someone who’s got a better reputation.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          I was pretty psyched for the first couple of paragraphs, thinking that this was actually a post about buying a used car and not just justifying feelings.

          Hypocrisy seems to really grind some people’s gears. I was like that when I was a kid. My mom would only let us have milk or water to drink, but she kept a not-so-secret stash of Cokes under her bed for her personal consumption. I was always outraged by this. How dare she want her kids to have better nutritional habits than she did! Didn’t she understand that if she chose to drink Coke then she lost all moral standing to make us choose healthier options? I couldn’t trust anything she told us after I made that realization. It consumed me. I would have blogged about it incessantly, but this was 1986 so I just wrote about it in my journal with big bold letters that said things like, “MOM IS PARENTING IN BAD FAITH,” and “MOM IS TROLLING ME WITH HER BEVERAGE RULES”. I seriously became so obsessed with the concept of hypocrisy and justice that my family used to call me ‘The Lawyer’. Definitely not as cool as ‘Ace’ or ‘Rambo’ which were the nicknames I really wanted, but we all need a cause. When my dad, who dropped out of college after his sophomore year, started telling me I was definitely going to college and not becoming a carpenter…well geez I flipped my lid. Didn’t he understand that his own choices invalidated what he wanted for me? Ugh.

          Eventually I became a parent though and had the same terrible realization so many of us do, which is that Do As I Say, Not As I Do is really the golden rule of parenting. I mean, you can try to be understanding and sometimes you should try to model behaviors, but also it’s okay to tell your kids you get to stay up later because you are a grown-up and you get the biggest slice of cake because you bought the friggin’ cake. But some people sort of never get over the hypocrisy=injustice thing and it haunts their adult lives. That also bums me out. Sheesh. Adulting is hard.Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            “Some people get really irked when their political opposition acts as if they’re children,” isn’t really all that mysterious.

            Or unjustified.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              True. Conservatives are always characterized as mean ol’ grumps, sitting around twirling their mustaches and thinking about how to rig the system in favor of white male conservatives (I added the last part because Sam is now counting white male liberals as an oppressed minority). On the flip side, conservatives sort of see a certain type of liberal as whiny children shouting, “That’s not fair,” to the rest of the world. I like to think of moderates as the sensible adults in the middle, but it seems he who whines/grumps the loudest gets the most attention.Report

        • @murali I’m really looking for a new (well, to me) car. I’m also considering a Volkswagen. This scenario happens to overlap with other ongoing discussions here, but I really need to replace my beloved Pilot.

          Stupid transmissions.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog says:

          It’s not really about hypocrisy though is it – it’s about dishonesty.

          Hypocrisy would be something like the car salesman extolling the virtue of regular maintenance, but neglecting his own car.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Of course it is about conservatives and rightly so.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I don’t think the analogy sucks. Though I do think that a lot of people are really not comprehending how angry and pissed Democratic voters and left-leaning Americans are right now. I can’t tell whether this lack of comprehension is intentional or not though. Probably a combination.

      Do you realize that the election of Donald Trump and his subsequent actions caused Democratic voters and left-leaning Americans to abandon the last millimeters of good faith that they had towards conservatives? We are pissed off at people like Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake who make sighs and complaints about Trump’s vulgarity and then vote for his agenda anyway. We are pissed off because the media treats words as being heroic signs and character. We are pissed off when pundits say that it is not fair to say they should go against long-standing conservative goals. We are pissed off because the standard would be the opposite if there was a Democratic Trump-like President and saying “Of course Democratic politicians in Congress should torpedo long-standing liberal goals because their President is a Vulgarian Boar.”

      I won’t even get started on the Christian Right and their open hypocrisy. Plus there are the nutso conspiracy theories like QANON and Pizzagate.

      Yet we are always supposed to give Republicans and conservatives grace and forgiveness and assume that they are people of deep and serious ideal and principles.

      In short, fuck that shit. Damn it to hell.

      I can’t tell how November is going to turn out. The Senate is a really rough map but we are doing really well polling wise despite this tough map.

      So why is it that a lot of people on this sight are so flabbergasted and/or shocked by how angry liberals are at the right-wing now? Is it because they see a rising generation that is browner, more filled with women, and more to the left as a sign of decreased power and importance? Does AOC make middle-aged white feel impotent? They are certainly scarred of the s-word*

      *Here is my theory about why so many younger Americans are attracted to “democratic socialism.” The right-wing dudes blew it. We had generations of right-wing business types and their lackeys calling every small welfare state measure as horrible and evil socialism. They gave no compromise even though libertarian economist Tyler Cowan notes that every capitalist country has a welfare state component. The American right wing and the House “Freedom” Caucus refused any compromise. So of course younger Americans said fuck this shit and embraced the socialist label. The right-wing has no one to blame but themselves for this state of affairs.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        I don’t think that any party is obligated to make its opposition happy. Human decency matters, and can be more important than politics, but if your success in politics makes me angry, you’re not to be blamed for it. I never accepted this way of thinking from the “angry right”, and now it sounds just as silly from the “angry left”.

        You say that you’re angry at those who don’t like the president’s behaviour but vote for his policies anyway. But why shouldn’t they? If you have standards for conduct and policy positions, shouldn’t you speak out on standards of conduct and support your policy positions? I wish there was more of that.

        That’s not to say that political compromise doesn’t have a place. Ideally, the voters wouldn’t punish politicians for B+ legislation. But that’s on us.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        “…Here is my theory about why so many younger Americans are attracted to “democratic socialism.”

        My theory is that it’s because they see it as the Great Leveler. One of the biggest challenges with Millennials is that they don’t think experience matters as much as education. They are frustrated that they can’t get theirs NOW. They see DS as speeding that process up by reducing the value of merit.

        As for how gosh darn angry these liberal voters are…maybe it’s just prejudice against the various groups on the Right?Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Another possibility that given the generally silly political debates and name calling socialism has been defined as pretty much anything D’s want. Youngsters have seen that slight tax increases or the ACA are socialism. What do they have to fear from something that is just another silly accusation people throw out or has been defined down beyond recognition. Also see nazi, fascism.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I agree with this also. I think ultimately they think Sweden sounds pretty good. In some ways, I even fall into that trap from time to time. A shorter work week or more progressive ideas about vacation or a higher tax rate but more social programs…those all sound pretty good. But then I keep coming back to the belief that because we sort of consciously make things hard, that is why Americans seem to succeed so often. It’s the same notion that people from colder climates are just a little bit tougher, just a little bit better at handling adversity.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              But then I keep coming back to the belief that because we sort of consciously make things hard, that is why Americans seem to succeed so often.

              Being gigantic, wealthy in resources, and one of the only first world countries that didn’t get flattened by two world wars, I think, means a lot more than a plucky willingness to work 80 hour work weeks which are scientifically shown to be less productive than sending you home at 40.

              But we do it anyways, even though it actually results in more wasted time, because nothing causes success like shooting yourself in the foot until you learn your lesson or something.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            Lesson to be learnt from the past 3 decades:

            Throw around words like socialism and fascism enough and you will get actual socialists and fascists eventually. Its sort of like people playing at saying bloody mary at midnight really end up summoning her.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              I disagree. Calling people “racist” doesn’t make them racist. That’s absurd. What over-use of the term does do is desensitize people to the negative cultural consequences of being so called, and thereby *reveal* that those people are, as a matter of fact, racists. Same with socialists* and so on.

              *Tho the term “socialist” has been so consistently corrupted in our political culture that (eg) Rick Scott (R-Florida) can argue – apparently without ridicule or contradiction – that his desire to preserve Medicare *isn’t* socialist even while he criticizes people who want to expand Medicare to all for *being* socialist. Or, perhaps more pointedly, Trump can say that Democrats want to “raid Medicare to pay for their socialism” without everyone in the country tearing gut muscles by laughing so hard.

              America is a crazy place, yo.Report

              • Avatar Jesse says:

                The problem is of course, there’s no evidence that the phrase racist is being overused in America. If anything, I’d argue an actual correct usage of racist and racism when it comes to American society and all that it entails would be so overwhelming, that basically nobody outside of black Marxists would be comfortable.

                I mean, let’s be blunt here – I don’t think it’s a shocker there’s been a huge increase in stories about racism in America as blogging, social media, and less gatekeeping when it comes to writing and creating stories has all happened.

                Twenty five years ago, if a black guy wanted to talk about the daily racism they encounter, at best, they had to write a letter to the editor to a almost completely white newspaper or sell the idea of a story like that that to an overwhelmingly white editorial staff at a magazine.

                Now, he can just post it on Twitter, Facebook, or Medium and millions of people can read it.

                The truth is, more people aren’t talking about racism. It’s that your average right-leaning white person has to hear it for the first time in their life.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Why would black marxists be the only ones who are comfortable? The assumption seems to be that not being marxist makes you racist. But that seems far from obvious to me. Sure, marxists would like that to be true. Or at least it wold be awfully convenient for them if they could paint capitalism as inherently racist, but that doesn’t make it true.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                What Jesse might mean is that the honest conclusion is that racism against people of color in general and Black people in particular is built into the American DNA. It was there from the first interactions of English settlers and the Native American tribes. That this racism is so imbedded in American life, it was what Marxists like to refer to systematic racism. The only conclusion is that American is rotten to the core and beyond redemption. The only people who will like this are Black Marxists because they have little love of anything about the United States.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The only conclusion is that American is rotten to the core and beyond redemption. The only people who will like this are Black Marxists because they have little love of anything about the United States.

                I’m not a black marxist and *I* like that conclusion. In my view, American is beyond redemption. The original sin can’t be expiated. America *is* rotten to the core. I’m not sure I “like this” view of my own country, as you say above, but I’m in agreement with black folk who think it’s a true and perhaps irredeemable fact about life in America.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                I think your model of the world is one where people have racist thoughts and feelings but do not express them because of fear of social opprobrium. When the social opprobrium is used indiscriminately, the specific incentive effect to keep your racist thoughts private disappears.

                I’m not denying that this happens. I think that there is also another layer where people do not let themselves think racist thoughts because they are afraid of social opprobrium. To the degree that the norm is indiscriminately enforced, people may begin to let themselves think racist thoughts since “hey, everyone is racist anyway”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Racist” is too useful as a thought-terminating cliché at the moment for it to be abandoned for something more useful.

                There are indications that it’s becoming less and less useful…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                So are appeals to facts. So…..Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                They are?

                Thought-terminating clichés have evolved since I last paid attention.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If you’ve been paying attention then you know that facts are also thought-terminating “cliches”.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Eh. It seems like data is one of those things that could lubricate thought and help, you know, move it along to some conclusions.

                But, you’re right. I haven’t been paying attention. Shit might work different in the current year.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I agree with Jaybird on this point. ‘Thought-terminating’ is exactly what the word does and honestly, it’s just intellectually lazy. What it symbolizes the inability of someone to understand how people can hold cultural prejudices and not link them directly to race in the biological sense. If we could get beyond this, I actually think we would make some progress. For example, I think 20 years ago The Gays were considered a monolithic group and if someone was prejudiced against the most stereotypical cultural aspects of that group, it was also considered a hatred of all The Gays. 20 years later, I think most of us realize that there are a lot of sub-cultures within that group and that while someone might be less accepting of some aspects, they are more accepting of others.

                All of that is to say though, it’s not as though the majority gets to dictate to the minority which aspects of their culture are problematic (and the subtext is that if only they would change that behavior things would be different) but it does help the two sides actually talk about the points of friction. Maybe some understanding comes from that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The term “thought terminating” doesn’t get us anywhere tho since it’s a purely political concept. Anything – literally anything – can be a “thought terminating” expression by that measure. (Were you persuaded by the arguments in 1984?)Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Maybe “conversation terminating” is a more applicable idea.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I agree it’s better, but even then, the concept in play is that the interlocutor finds some accusation so far beyond the pale that he or she can’t respond to it. Which strikes me as nonsense. If a person is falsely accused of racism then they should explain why that description is incorrect. The fact that *conservatives* view the accusation as a conversation-terminating claim reveals something, don’t you think? At a minimum, an unwillingness to to hash out what the current politically fashionable concept of “racism” actually is, and how it doesn’t apply to them and like-minded individuals?Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                ETA: I just moved this comment from below.

                Let’s test this out. You said “Well, us white people have a lot to account for. Seriously.” That is racist, or racially prejudiced. If I point that out, where can the conversation go? If I engaged in a discussion about how different white people have had different effects on society, wouldn’t the conversation have more potential?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That is racist, or racially prejudiced. If I point that out, where can the conversation go?

                To the facts. Slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, differential sentencing, etc and so on …

                I’m not sure why you think this is a difficult conversation to have.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                “Thought terminating” seems to mean “Makes me uncomfortable”.

                Black people get mistreated in a million different ways, but calling this racism is terminating thought?

                Its like I mentioned on a couple other threads, millions of black people tell variations of the same story, of being treated with disdain and disrespect by white people and white people respond by wanting to litigate every story down to frame by frame Zapruder-film analysis.

                The idea of taking black folks at their word, and believing their story seems un-possible, simply not within the realm of possibility.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, us white people have a lot to account for. Seriously.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “Thought terminating” seems to mean “Makes me uncomfortable”.

                Racism means just that…race. As though whatever you are prejudiced against is linked to biology. That is pretty hard to intellectually fathom in 2018, so it basically makes the other person sound crazy…right?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Race has very little to do with biology, actually.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Correct. It’s a construct, which means it’s cultural, which is exactly why ‘racism’ is intellectually lazy. Look, at some point we figured out that there were a bunch of cultural sub-groups of whites and started talking about them as cultures and not races. Things de-escalated from there. Now I make jokes about my midwestern mother-in-law starting every recipe with a 9×13 and a pound of hamburger and my friends in New Hampshire make jokes about me being a redneck.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I go the other way on that. If race is a social construct, then accusations of racism aren’t intellectually lazy but the opposite. The accusation is then that since no “lazy” biological properties justify the way minorities are treated by a dominant culture, it’s *entirely* a property of the ruling ethnicity’s penchant for spinning racially-based yarns. And selling them to the public. And that makes teasing out why blacks (for example) are so consistently mistreated in the US into a cultural, rather than biological, issue. Seems to me the racist contingent is worse-off in that event. They look like the craven fools that they are.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                But if it’s a cultural construct, isn’t it also a lot easier to dispel stereotypes, myths, etc by talking through issues? So there’s more potential for progress there…right? And even beyond that, what if we called those culture-based prejudices stereotyping and moved from there? See how things are already de-escalating?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But if it’s a cultural construct, isn’t it also a lot easier to dispel stereotypes, myths,

                Apparently not. Here’s an example: Conservatives won’t admit that anthropogenic global warming is happening. If they won’t admit that why would you think that they’ll admit racism, on their view, is a silly social construct? I mean, the argument from your side against AGW is that *it’s a silly social construct*. !!!!!Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I’m not saying it’s now okay to call it racism because it’s a social construct. i’m saying if it’s a social construct, use a different word that is less likely to make people lose their shit. If we admit it’s a social construct, then why can’t we see the subcultural behaviors on both sides that cause so much friction?

                Gun guys get a lot of grief from the Left because we insist they get their terminology correct before they are given permission to talk about guns. I guess my question is, why is it so important to you all to use that word?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                i’m saying if it’s a social construct, use a different word that is less likely to make people lose their shit.

                So anti-racists should choose their terms with an intention of inciting the least offense to the perps? I don’t understand this. If the term “racism” is perfectly appropriate in a context then why should “liberals”or “anti-racists” use a different word? Because racists find it offensive?

                That makes no sense.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Let me ask you this; which of these two is a more accurate description of what you see?

                Prejudice – The belief or perception that people of different cultures are inferior or have negative characteristics because of their skin color, religious beliefs, or cultural background.

                Racism – a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular raceReport

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                This is a very narrow (and, I think, far too narrow) definition of racism. There were justifications of Jim Crow and even slavery that would not have met this standard.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                It was common (for instance) to justify racial discrimination on the grounds that members of one race were (for contingent reasons of culture and history) less developed than others, and suggest that maybe at one point in the future legal and cultural equality would be OK, but not yet.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I think that is exactly covered by this: “…and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I don’t see why. It’s not a biological difference. You can justify an extremely wide range of racially discriminatory practices and policies by appealing to race as a mere statistical proxy for (say) cultural values as you can by arguing for it being a biological determinant of worthy.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Historical racism was justified on biological grounds. Slavery and bad treatment of many other peoples was justified based on perceived biological/racial/species superiority. My point remains, that there is a difference between that historical, biological racism and the contemporary cultural prejudice that we see. When there is ‘racial’ friction in the United States it’s almost always a cultural thing.

                For example, I had some neighbors from Columbia. Well-educated (husband was a doctor), spoke flawless English, fully included in our neighborhood social atmosphere and I never heard a bad thing about them. At the same time, I heard another neighbor, who I know was close to the Columbian family, say horrible things about some Mexican workers we had in the neighborhood. IMO that isn’t a racial thing. It is a cultural thing.

                Another example, I had a coworker tell me recently that he had ZERO problems with Mexican migrant workers but was deeply distrustful of Muslim immigrants. When I asked him why, he said it was because most Mexicans were Christian. IMO that isn’t a racial thing. It is a cultural thing.

                I can address the cultural prejudices that led to both of those examples (and did both times with the person that said them). If they had just simply told me that one race was superior to the other, I probably would have walked away because it is like saying the earth is flat to me. It just doesn’t compute.

                So my point here (again) is that it’s useful to look at things from a cultural prejudice perspective rather than racist, because it gets more closely to the root cause. And I get that as a trained anthropologist, it’s hard for me to see past culture, but that’s the angle I come from on this.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Like Stillwater, I’m not sure why this has to be so mysterious or complicated.

                But it goes this way every time, it seems, where a simple statement is made:

                “For centuries, the white majority has treated the black minority badly”

                And it gets endlessly litigated, with endless evasions, red herrings, whataboutisms, all to support, what, a counterclaim that white people have in fact treated black people pretty well?
                Or that it no longer happens?
                Or that it happens, but not so much?
                Or if it happens, but we shouldn’t talk about it because it pisses off white people and makes them dig in their heels?

                Why is it so bloody hard for people to just accept this simple truth and move on?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Do you best fix a problem by simply pointing out the problem or by understanding why the problem exists in the first place?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                How is it even possible to understand a problem that you don’t believe exists?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                No, it’s actually a thing. Seriously.

                Black people get mistreated in a million different ways, but calling this racism is terminating thought?

                You seem to be arguing against a proposition that is not mine. So I’ll bow out at this point.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                You seem to be arguing against a proposition that is not mine. So I’ll bow out at this point.

                Easy big fella. He was responding to a comment I made which didn’t have anything to do with you. You still have lots to contribute to this conversation, even tho I’ll disagree with all of it. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Oh, he can continue to agree with you to his heart’s content.

                It’s just that the propositions that are mine that I have any real affection for.

                Which is, I suppose, propositionist.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think your model of the world is one where people have racist thoughts and feelings but do not express them because of fear of social opprobrium.

                Well, it’s not *my* view of the world. It’s the view promulgated and reinforced by libertarians, social conservatives, liberals, social scientists, leaders of various religions … It’s pretty much a baseline view of how social interaction happens and how those interactions can be shaped. For my part, I’ve *always* been an opponent of PCism precisely for the reasons outlined above: it confuses intentions and signals. Once the opprobrium for a specific racist signal is overcome, we’re left with the substance – the intent – of the expression. We’re seeing a tolerance for that laid bare right now, not just in the US but all around the world.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                You’re focusing on the wrong part of my comment. You see it as merely a matter of people’s thoughts being revealed, where thoughts are fixed/driven by entirely different set of rules. I am arguing that whether or not we have racist thoughts itself is a matter of whether the accusation of racism has sting or not.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No, I addressed that above. The idea that calling someone “a racist” can turn them into a racist is absurd. If people don’t *already* have an inclination towards racism they wouldn’t end up in that place (ie., an actual racist) merely because nameless, faceless people referred to them as such. Calling them “racist” reveals their racism. It does not create it.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                You’re a racist.

                Have I revealed anything?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Only if I, like Murali suggests, am motivated to racist acts and beliefs merely because you called me one. If so, I’m revealing that I’m a racist.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                So what do you think happens when people see flagrant racists (Donald Trump, Charles Murray) defended as “not racist”?

                Aren’t we likely to conclude that defenses and dismissals of racism are more motivated by tribal affiliation or a desire to excuse and even promote racism than they are any evaluation of the merits?Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

              Who are you blaming here the Republicans or the Democratic Party?

              As we noted above, the Republican Party and the right-wing have screamed and cried that everything Ds want is evil and horrible socialism. They just can’t help themselves.

              Yet the response from a lot of middle aged guys is to complain about those younger generations and get off the lawn.Report

              • Avatar Dave says:

                As we noted above, the Republican Party and the right-wing have screamed and cried that everything Ds want is evil and horrible socialism. They just can’t help themselves.

                Pot meet kettleReport

              • Avatar The Question says:

                Well the go to the that is ‘Obama is a Kenyan socialist Muslim” which is a real thing that got said by a real person.

                I mean calling Jeff sessions a racist when he’s clearly clearly a racist doesn’t seem to meet the same standard of factual improbabilityReport

      • Avatar Damon says:

        Funny, cause I can saw the complete opposite. It’s “deplorable” this and “deplorable” that. Criticizing every one living between the coasts as “retrogrades”. Comparing work place challenges as being the same as “what’s happening in washington”. Trump Derangement Syndrome IS real. I’ve seen it. And I work in a comparatively conservative industry but in a very liberal state.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      I clicked on this article right away. I don’t like Sam’s articles typically, both because they tend to be about the same thing and because his writing style puts me off, but I was happy to offer advice about cars because I’m not petty.

      One might say that this article is about this article, the sense that you may be getting something different and better, only to find out that someone is up to his old, less-than-direct tricks.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Goddamn them coastal elites, am I right? Effete city slicker’s don’t know what real work is! Always looking down on us good, real Americans!

        Preach it, brother!Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Honestly, I don’t know why anybody would *NEED* to own a car.

          I bike to work and the bus has enough routes for me to go to Trader Joe’s and back to the house three different ways.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I assume this sarcasm… 🙂

            My work commute is 50 miles roundtrip daily.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              What’s that translate into in minutes?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                About 90 total. I would love to use public transportation. Would much rather spend that time reading a book. Unfortunately that would be something like 4 hours per day. The price of living in the exurbs.

                I’ve proposed to my management team several times that if they let me work from home 3 days per week they could skip one of my yearly raises. It would be win-win but my director is old school and doesn’t like it. When he retires in a year or two, things should improve.Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              My commute is maybe 2000 feet, one way, which drives me crazy. About a third of it is driveway but there’s a T intersection I have to deal with. What’s worse is that to get smokes and beer I have to wind my way around Shadwell Farm, owned by the ruler of Dubai. On the bright side, whenever a storm knocks over a tree and blocks the road, the Shadwell crews clear it within an hour.

              So anyway, this week we’re looking at a really nice camper trailer we can keep at work to cut my commute down to about 30 feet.Report

    • Avatar Dave says:

      Is this about a car or about conservatives? If its about a car, then don’t buy it. If its about conservatives, the analogy sucks.

      Conservatives? I was thinking democratic socialists. To me, they sound a lot like Larry but I’m a cynical SOB. Now all you need is their official energy drink and we’re good to go.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Dunno. Is Larry’s Lemons the only game in town?

    If there’s another dealer, is there reason to believe that he (or she) is an even worse hypocrite?

    If so, I’d suggest finding a third party to buy a car from. Or, at least, I’d understand why someone wouldn’t want to buy cars from either of the two main dealers.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      “The Other Dealer sells really good cars, but she tells people ‘if you buy this car, I will make sure you lose your job. Don’t worry! You can get a job here!'”

      You’d think her cars would be more popular.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        The cars are ok, but everytime you buy one, a kitten dies.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          She’s the best car salesman in town. No one has ever been more qualified to sell a car, I’m told. She sold a lot of cars. More cars than Larry, even.

          I think it’s unfair that we decide who is the better car dealer by how much profit they make instead of how many cars they move…Report

    • @jaybird There are always other used car dealers. I am unaware of an honest one though, so the challenge is almost certainly going to be the same, no matter where I go. (I should have clarified two things in the post: Larry is obviously not ACTUALLY Larry, and I’m considering this car lot because it has the car I’m looking for.)Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I don’t know much about the car dealers in Canada, but Maribou makes them sound great.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If he’s the only game in town, you’re stuck with either going the professional route and just buying it and getting in and out in a hurry (maybe bring someone with you who is used to buying cars and have him or her do the talking on your behalf and all you have to do is sign the paperwork) or changing society so that everybody has to ride a bike or take public transit.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        My dad was in the auto business, albeit the white-collar side. (He headed up financing regionally for Ford Motor Credit.) He had a rule that has served me well over the years: If you are going to buy a used car, buy it from a new car dealership.

        New car dealers don’t have everything hanging on used car inventory (your biggest risk is they talk you into going across the lot and buying new), and in fact if a car sucks so badly people won’t buy it right away they sell them to used car dealers. (Most cars on used lots are from new dealerships, not people selling to the used lot.)

        New dealerships are more reliant on repeat business than used (because people usually go to new dealerships for the dealership & used car lots for a particular advertised car), so they have a more vested interest in not pissing you off.

        And a new dealership will usually offer service guarantees for things that go wrong for a time/mileage period, so your car breaking down in a week will cost them money. And if they don’t have a guarantee/warranty, they are required to give you a written list of the issues that made them decide not to, and you can decide if it’s worth the risk. (And if something happens that they clearly should have known about and they didn’t list it, it can be actionable.)

        Doesn’t really help you with your conservative problem, though.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          My father in law (a finance manager for a decent sized Ford dealership) had the same advice.

          Sam, how far and wide have you looked for this VW?Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          I’ve had decent luck with Carmax. If anything, they pushed more to buy my old car than sell me a new one.

          They push their extended warranties pretty hard, but I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Larry must sell some good cars to stay in business despite the “Larry’s Lemons” moniker. When someone buys a used car and has to take it in for major mechanical work within a month, they tell everyone. When someone buys a fine used car at a fair price, they don’t go out of their way to tell anyone. I used to have an acquaintance who was a retired mechanic who would, for a reasonable fee, go over a used car for people considering a purchase — unlike most of us, he knew the things to look for that identified certain kinds of problems.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Depends on the population turnover in your area. The first car I bought in coventry was from a dealership who I only later realised had a bad reputation. The car gave out within two weeks. And they sat on it for months without fixing it. On top of that, it had been illegally modified. I had to take them to small claims court to recoup at least some of my money. They even moved premises last year. If you live in a university town or some other place where people are moving in and out all the time, then the extent to which a bad reputation hurts your business is a lot less.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I assume there are other car dealerships someone could go to if they had distrust of Larry’s. I think some people would also be disappointed if every car dealership was run honestly. What would they have to complain about then? I guess there is always sports…Report

  5. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    Let us take both the text and the subtext together. That Larry is willing to sell lemons does not mean that all he sells is lemons. So take the car to your trusted mechanic and ask for a particularly thorough check. If Larry balks at this, you have all the information you need and have saved yourself and your mechanic the trouble. If you don’t have a trusted mechanic, then any purchase would be a roll of the dice. Larry’s reputation is, at that point, the most salient information you have, but you might want to take a chance anyway. In any case, anything Larry says that qualifies as puffery is irrelevant and should be disregarded. But that is true of dealers with better reputations, too.Report

  6. Avatar atomickristin says:

    Buying used cars no matter who you get them from, is a dicey proposition. Even when the seller is the very soul of honesty it can be hard for a mechanic know about less obvious problems (as anyone who’s ever taken their car in to a mechanic only to hear “well we can’t recreate the problem” will attest) and it doesn’t even mean it’s necessarily a bad car in the long run. Other times a car can run with a problem for years before it goes bad. Still other times user error may come into play. So a car being a lemon isn’t necessarily the sign of bad faith one might think.

    We bought a used pickup that within the span of a couple weeks, had a developed problem with the 4 wheel drive. Irritating, but we fixed it and the car has run great for 10 years since. My older son and I (stupidly) bought a car for him that had apparently had the odometer cracked at some point, so who knows how many miles were on it really, and the speedometer didn’t work (we didn’t notice this in the test drive – that’s where the stupid factor comes in). Lemon, probably, but that car has run well for 8+ years. And my younger son bought a car and failed to put oil into it and blew up the engine (that the engine needed oil regularly wasn’t disclosed by the seller, but it’s simple car maintenance to check the oil and add it as needed).

    These things happen, all but the first of them were really our own fault, and the other, when I give it a charitable read, I can believe that the used car lot may not even have known about it (the 4 wheel drive problem only became apparent after having driven the car a few hundred miles.) I have witnessed firsthand enough people muddling through their lives blaming others for problems that couldn’t have been reasonably foreseen or that were really non-problems or that people should have prevented themselves that they then blame on the doctor, the mechanic, their parents, the teacher, or the mayor that I have to ask how many of the cars that people call lemons really ARE lemons? And how many of those lemons could a well-intentioned seller really be expected to know about in advance? Especially at a used car lot where the people who run the place are selling cars they don’t personally drive and may not even know all the quirks?

    And this is not to defend Larry of the House of Lemon, not at all, I’m sure he’s a shady customer. Of course the guy’s overall reputation should come into play. But the thing is, with used cars, there really is no ideal solution where you get a perfectly flawless car for a low price. You’re trading the ability to know for sure the history and background of the car like you’d have with a new car, for some money knocked off the price. That’s how it works. It’s a bit of a gamble, for sure, and sometimes the gamble doesn’t pay off (sometimes but not always the fault of the seller). Sometimes, like with my son’s cracked-odometer/no-speedometer car, it does pay off. We lucked our way into a car that had been damaged and was being sold by someone with less than perfect ethics, but has run well for us since.

    I guess my point is, sometimes lemons are in the eye of the beholder.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Depends on how used you mean. And how cheap you mean. Touch wood, my current car which I got for 3000 pounds has not given me any major issues. Generally, if the car has a decent servicing history and gone for regular checkups and testing at reputable places, the risk is lower.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      “…lemons are in the eye of the beholder.”

      Good points here. Sometimes though, someone becomes so convinced that the cars being sold are lemons, that in their mind it ceases to be subjective. And once that happens, they also have to assume the seller knowingly sold lemons, which makes them a TERRIBLE PERSON. Meanwhile some of us also know that the car was in good shape when it came off the lot but when we other people drive it, all hell breaks loose. Or some people also think that if the used car doesn’t drive perfectly EVERY SINGLE DAY then it is terrible and the lemon logic applies.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      sometimes lemons are in the eye of the beholder.

      Well said. The Ford F-650 with the after-market “rolling coal” modification might be a downright jerky thing to sell and an even jerkier thing to buy.

      But if they move, they move. Declaring them “lemons” out of the gate ain’t fair if they do *EXACTLY* what it says on the tin. “But people should *WANT* to buy a Prius rather than a Ford F-650! They’re probably compensating for their penises! It’s not even a sensible vehicle! You need a ladder to even get into the cab!”

      “Later, losers.”

      *cough cough cough*Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      @atomickristin Because he got very sick of car-dealers, my father has managed to perfect the art of asking friends who barely drive their cars to give him first dibs on their vehicles should they stop driving, and because he and his friends are older, he has scored some pretty good, low mileage vehicles that were never put through their paces. I don’t have that option though, but that is as close as I can figure to having a good car-buying experience.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        If this is seriously about cars, I’d buy new if you can.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Yeah, the Volvo XC40 starts at $33,200 and comes with City Safety Collision Avoidance Technology, LED Headlights w/ Thor’s Hammer Daytime Running Lights & Auto Highbeam, and Oncoming Lane Mitigation.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          Depends on his budget. I suppose if you dont want to buy a car for the next 17 years then its better to buy new.

          You should be able to get a new VW golf for 28 000 USD. It’s good for cross country driving etc.

          Or, you might want to go with a hybrid. A prius (not exactly a hatchback) should cost about 30 500 USD but you make up with the fuel savings.Report

          • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

            Those prices seem way inflated. The Golf starts at $21k sticker. The Prius at $23,5kReport

            • Avatar Murali says:

              Well, I was converting from pounds. The cars are 21k GBP and 23.5kGBP as well. I suppose that means they especially the VW are vastly inflated over here considering that it is cheaper to ship VWs overReport

          • Good grief you guys, you think I’m a freaking Rockefeller over here? 28,000 for a Golf? Holy Moly!

            (Also, part of the reason I’m really into this particular Volkswagen is its very good price, which is, uhh, let’s just say not $28,000.)Report

            • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

              If you do happen to be able to swing it, a new Honda Fit is $16.2k. It’s the best car on the planet, though that is for the manual transmission. It fits a ridiculous amount of stuff in it given its overall size. You’d probably fit in the driver’s seat, but no guaranteesReport

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                It’s the best car on the planet…

                After I had purchased mine I came across the review written by the LA Times car guy. Something like, “I’ve done this for 20 years. Over that time I’ve driven two cars where I finished with the impression that some engineer had lost sleep worrying about every single detail, nothing left to chance. One of them was a $100K Mercedes; the other is the Honda Fit.”Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          I’ve been pretty happy with my 2018 Crosstrek ($33K). It is a sporty looking hatchback, has all the safety bells and whistles, and a CVT.

          The CVT really does boost the gas mileage, although you give up the hard acceleration of a regular geared transmission (you won’t be squawking the tires on take off, not that you really could in a Subaru AWD anyway, but it’s not a performance car). Still, it meets my needs quite easily.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            I’m very happy with my 12 year old golf. It does 57 miles/gallon which does not really compare very well to what hybrids do, but is actually really decent among most non-hybrid cars. And is fantastic for a 12 year old car which has done 72 000 milesReport

          • @oscar-gordon Those are very swanky cars that absolutely have my attention, but they’ve only been out for a few years, so I’m not sure there are great used prices available yet.Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

          I bought new once, and I’ll never, ever do it again, barring a Powerball win.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Sam, can you ask your father to keep an eye out for you?Report

  7. Is Larry the guy who gave himself an A+ because his dealership in Puerto Rico only killed 3000 people?Report

  8. I just lost my 2002 Accord to a jerk who ran a red light. (Nobody hurt, thank God, but the car was totaled.) I’m thinking of replacing it with a 3 or 4 year old car of similar quality, but smaller, since I’m generally the only one in it: Civic, Corolla, etc.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      My 2008 Honda Fit is the most useful small car I’ve ever owned. 10 years old now, only service other than things expected to wear out was a recall to replace the electric switch for the door locks in the driver’s door handle (it wasn’t as waterproof as it was supposed to be). The only two packages then were the Basic and the Sport — no picking and choosing on individual features. The Sport package was worth the extra money for the wider wheels/tires and cruise control.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’ll second an endorsement for Honda Fits. We have a 2015 which gets about 40mpg city and rides like a dream cross country. Super sweet car.Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

          @stillwater @michaelcain Any opinions on relative roominess? I’m 6’3”, 260, if that helps.Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            They’ve gotten a lot better with making smaller cars with more room. I’m roughly the same height and weight, and I haven’t had head room problems in years.Report

            • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

              @pinky My wife occasionally has to get rentals cars to travel for work and she had something recently that reminded me of what it was like to drive when I was in high school, what with my head dribbling off the roof like a damned basketball. It was a Ford Focus maybe? Ugh. I also put the seat so far back to sit comfortably that I couldn’t put my arm out the window. It was unreal.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            Plenty of headroom — I’m 5’10” and have about five inches of clearance. Feels surprisingly roomy inside when it’s just me. (Me, regularly, when I see another Fit: “Wait, am I driving around in a car that small?”) What I notice when my wife and I are both in the car is how close together the seats are. It’s definitely an urban car, where size can matter a lot, and wins a lot of “best” awards in that category. It shines at getting around in Boulder (locally notorious for narrow lanes and small parking spaces) or downtown Denver (almost as bad). Gearing in mine is such that it is quite quick from zero to 30; from 30 to 60, not so much. Still, zippy enough and the suspension’s stiff enough to make throwing it around the canyon curves up in the foothills fun.

            Odd anecdote… I had to wait four weeks for mine to come from Japan. When I first drove it off the dealer’s lot, I was afraid I had made a terrible mistake: the automatic transmission and I were constantly at odds over what gear we should be in. It took about ten days to train the adaptive system, after which we were BFFs.

            BFF may not be an overstatement. At less than 6,000 miles per year these days, and my increasing age, there’s a reasonable chance the car will last longer than I can safely drive it.Report

  9. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    So you’re looking for reliable transportation that won’t let you down and have decided on a Volkswagen? Good move, SamReport

    • @vikram-bath

      *posts one of those gifs of narrowing eyes, in an attempt to figure out what, if anything, is embedded within your comment*Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        They seem to have a habit of falling apart. I know people who have skated through with few problems, but I also know people who bought brand new VWs that started falling apart quickly. They seem to be a good fit for someone who wants an “interesting” German car for less money than the luxury name plates would charge you. I don’t think it’s the right car for someone who wants inexpensive, bulletproof transportation.

        On the other hand, I do understand it’s hard to get a wagon.Report

  10. Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Go to Carmax. It’s the most pleasurable car buying experience you’ll ever have.Report

  11. Avatar Damon says:


    If this really is about a car…get a vx diesel. Cheap to maintain. High mileage. Good acceleration.Report

  12. Avatar Jay L Gischer says:

    For what it’s worth at this late moment, when I read the post I read as a allegory about Trump specifically, and a particular attitude that Trump would be an over-the-top parody of if it weren’t for the fact that he means it.

    Not as an allegory about conservatives in general.Report

  13. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    Important Update That I Did Not Account For

    I took my wife with me to test drive the car. She hated it. And that, as they say, was that.Report

  14. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    I just drove a spectacularly overpowered Subaru wagon, made an offer on it, and was mercifully rejected by the salesman.Report

  15. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    I ended up buying a Subaru Impreza Sport, with 30,000 miles and a manual transmission. I did not buy it from this post’s shady dealer.Report

    • with the two youngest children creeping on their teen years (oldest two already licensed), I’ve already decided the next vehicle will be a stick so the learn how to drive as opposed to just steering. Enjoy the new car.Report