Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why Buying a Car Makes No Sense

Michael Skapinker, from London, says at FT:
I can no longer see a reason to buy a car. It makes no sense. There are...less stressful and cheaper alternatives.
Start with the stress. In most cities, driving is horrible. It is stop-start, boring and bad-tempered.
Many people say they drive because they do not like being crushed against other sweaty, disagreeable commuters. I have driven and I have commuted. Fellow passengers are a great deal more civilised than other drivers — and their odours are less offensive than the emissions you inhale in a car.
In many cities today, there really is no need for a car. Public transport and walking can get you almost everywhere you need to go. It is healthier and it is greener. In London, I don’t drive for weeks, or sometimes months, at a time. (Others have taken to bicycles. I do not regard them as healthier — certainly not in London.)
Do not listen to anyone who tells you London’s transport is unreliable. I have taken the Northern Line, London Underground’s supposed “misery line”, twice every working day for 24 years. It lets me down two or three times a year. 
Compare that to the hours drivers spent trapped by roadworks, diversions, or other cars. There is nothing convenient about driving.
In most European and many Asian and US cities, it is far quicker and easier to get around without a car. There are apps to tell you when the trains and buses are leaving. And there are apps to get you a car when you really need one....

There may be people who really cannot manage without a car: those who live in the country, for example, where there are no good bus services.
But the majority of us are city dwellers, and even in those places without good public transport, there will soon be online taxi services, if there aren’t already.
Some will say that none of this matters because cars will soon be self-driving. If so, that is another reason not to buy one you have to drive yourself, whether from a dealer or online.
Famous Austrian school economists/libertarians who didn't/don't drive include:

Ludwig von Mises was a terrible driver, didn't drive much and finally stopped completely at his wife's insistence.

Murray Rothbard didn't drive. I'm told that when he taught in Las Vegas, he always had a student pick him up for class.

Justin Raimondo doesn't drive.

David Gordon doesn't drive, in Los Angeles!



A friend emails me to tell me that Ayn Rand did not drive either:

Mimi Gladstein: "From all accounts, Frank O'Connor was content in this setting, growing flowers, raising peacocks, and developing the land. Rand, who did not drive, preferred urban living."
--Mimi Reisel Gladstein, John Meadowcroft. Ayn Rand. 2009. pg. 16.


  1. Makes since to shed your car in the big cities. I live in a small town and could not survive without one. Hope all the big city voters understand my plight.

  2. I respect his decision but personally I like being able to leave and come as I go, not having to ask people for rides or paying for a bus or a cab. Personally I wont buy a new car, Ive always bought used.

    1. Same here. I grew up in Texas and lived there most of my life. Driving is a necessity, and I grew very accustomed to the independence which accompanies vehicle ownership. Though I do not personally understand it, many people enjoy living among the cramped shoebox dwellings of the city where ownership is almost non-existant, and in such places vehicles may not be necessary. As for me, I like personal space and open air, and anyone who moves to West Texas without a vehicle has not done their research.

  3. Hillary Clinton has had a driver since 1996...

  4. He's obviously never been to southeast Michigan.

  5. A rate hike all depends on the stock market. My prediction: If on September 17 the S&P 500 is trading 10% or more from its peak, they won't hike rates. And they definitely won't hike rates next week. And if the market suspects that the Fed is going to raise rates at the September meeting, I expect the market to begin selling off. So they are likely not going to be able to raise rates without crushing the stock market.

    You have to remember that the stock market keeps rising only because it believes that the Fed is going to keep the easy money spigot open. It is due to start a bear market at any moment. Simply measure the time from the peak of the dot com bubble to the peak of the housing bubble, then measure that same time from the peak of the housing bubble until now. You will see that it is time for the market to say nighty night. Auntie Yellen is not going to let this market crash. September is right about the time campaign season will begin in earnest. You think they're going to let President Obama end his presidency with the economy in the tank? I don't think so.

  6. Did any of the referenced people have children? What if you want to take your kids to a short vacation outside the city? Perhaps to the beach, or for camping?

    You think a bus will take you just where you need to go, and then what about luggage (what if you have bikes?).

    Cars enhance freedom. If I were an intellectual childless city dweller, I might not have a car. But I have a family.

    Oh and if the SHTF, probably don't want to rely on gov't transport.

    But I do like the sentiment; there is value in considering, even if you have a car, using other means of transport and getting your family more walking and exercise. I do that with the city trains sometimes when I take my family to the zoo.

    1. If the SHTF (really, not some hurricane) -- with social collapse and mass panic, the chance of survival for a family in a car on a road is zero due to getting stuck in inevitable traffic jam with a million other families, robbed of everything on the next gas station by another family guy who 'does not want to do it but has to take care of his family' or cordoned off by army inside the suddenly established 'crisis containment zone'. It is not only my opinion, anyone can arrive to the same conclusion based on the same initial conditions. It will be about two days after the event when family guys' panic overcomes wives' normality bias. And then, when they see one or two leaving, they will all leave simultaneously, creating conditions for the above described unfortunate situations. Evacuation two days before the event, no stuff that does not fit into a backpack, a prepared overseas location to go to, tickets for the last plane out or an aircraft on stand-by, also a few done rehearsals for the whole procedure -- it is not a template family situation. A car will not save you, at best it is irrelevant in the SHTF moment.

  7. The problem with public transportation is that it is monopolized by the government. And monopolies always provide less service at a higher cost than would be the case in a non-monopolized market. Because of this reality government will tax everyone in order to build public transit and subsidize the cost of operation so riders pay a fraction of actual cost. Even then ridership in U.S. cities is generally no more than 3% to 5% of total area commuters. Because government public transit is almost always large vehicles on fixed routes and people much prefer smaller vehicles on flexible routes. I have commuted by both methods and much prefer a private automobile. The much more competitive auto industry offers me choices and conveniences unavailable in public transit. Unfortunately government has monopolized the roads and highways and so traffic jams and delays are common. Preferring public transit usually means alternatives are unavailable or unaffordable. Living in London unaffordable would probably be the case with Mr.Skapinker and government monopoly of public transit and roads would likely be the cause.

  8. Murray did not drive BUT Joey drove....and drove like hell! My wife once survived a trip into the Virginia countryside with Joey...holding on for dear life. As I recall she drove an old ex-police car or something similar. Wonderful memories.

  9. These days, at least in large cities, we have Uber, which makes the life car-less people much easier than in the past. Hopefully the government won't interfere too much and it will be available to rural America as well.
    However, I plan to keep to keep my 2005 Chevy Aveo as long as I can.

  10. Motoring by ordinary people has been under attack for some time now. Financial attack especially. More and more taxes to pay for anything but the roads. The political forces of course only count a few specific taxes paid by motorists (which are often diverted to general spending) to the roads while ascribing as many costs as they can imagine to motoring. Motoring also has been made needlessly painful by building better idiots behind the wheel plus ever more government rules and restrictions. The war on motoring is too long to go into depth here and is multi pronged.

    Agenda 21 wants us in dense cities dependent on government's transit systems. Once that occurs I believe they will start diminishing the services and using medical costs to put an end to bicycling because of the injuries from falls and such.

    As to bugging out, to save myself from some disaster, I am taking my bicycle and what I could put in a backpack. The horribly skilled north american motorists will insure the roads will be completely clogged.

  11. The automobile is the height of autonomy in mobility. It can be an inconvenience in places like NYC but a necessity most everywhere else. In Alaska, a household airplane and snow mobile are not uncommon. Autonomy and convenience is the determining criteria.