February 24, 2017

"Buy American" needs a filter button on all e-commerce sites

How hard would it be to sign a simple executive order to require all e-commerce sites, who are selling to Americans, to include a filter button that would only return results that were made in USA?

To see just how desperate the retailers are to hide where your cheap crud is made, eBay allows you to filter search results by all sorts of traits -- item's location, condition, material, color, and so on and so forth. The only thing they don't let you filter by is country of manufacture.

They already have this information, displayed under "item specifics" if you click on a particular item. They just don't want you to be able to wipe out all the items that are not made in USA (or England or Italy or wherever). You have to click on each item, scroll down to the "item specifics" box, and see where it was made.

Other online retailers are the same: they specify whether it's made in USA or "imported" on the page for a specific item, but they do not allow you to filter out the imported stuff at the first stage of search results. The case of eBay is so egregious because they have over a dozen traits to narrow down your search -- except for whether it was made to high-quality first-world standards, or to garbage standards in the third world.

Cheap airheads will never use the button, and that's fine. But people already interested in buying American need it, and a good share of those who never thought about it would say, "Huh, I guess where something is made is important enough to deserve a search filter button". Then they'll understand about high quality vs. low quality, which they would otherwise not weigh in their decision.

Retailers have been at the forefront of destroying the manufacturing sector, and pushing cheap disposables (which is therefore more costly over any period of time). They need to be broken up, taxed, and humbled in any way possible. Allowing consumers to filter out cheap third-world junk at the push of a button would work wonders toward that goal.

Related post: Don't let third-world items be branded with American names and symbols, especially longstanding iconic ones, which amounts to fraud.

If an American company wants to manufacture in China, then the brand they sell it under must be recognizably Chinese -- or not first-world, at any rate. Names and symbols are not magical, and do not alter the substance of cheap junk made in Indonesia, Bangladesh, El Salvador, etc.

46 comments:

  1. BDS would take advantage of this too I'm afraid, if it would list by any country.

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  2. That's fine. We're not going to hinder our ability to buy American just because a handful of campus activists would choose not to buy Israeli.

    There's not even that much for them to boycott anyway. I check where everything is made, and the only mass market consumer product I've run into that was made in Israel was CVS' generic brand of double-edged razor blades.

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  3. OT: There's an article in the Wall Street Journal weekend section today about how mountain people (i.e. pastoralists) tend to be territorial and aggressive; basically everything you've been saying the last few years.

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  4. I'm surprised that the whole "Buy American" idea isn't more heavily promoted by liberals who claim to care so much about poor people, working people, and the environment. After all, so much of the cheap Chinese junk that we import is made by slave labor and child labor. And on top of that, China's environment resembles an open sewer with the lid off. If liberals really cared, they wouldn't buy any cheap Chinese schlock, but buy American goods made with free union labor in factories that actually follow environmental, health, and safety standards, and buy goods that would last and can be repaired when they do break, instead of being tossed into a clogged landfill.

    And as you mentioned, the cost savings of producing schlocky Chinese goods isn't passed on to the consumer, but goes into the pockets of the fat cats.

    Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were the only politicians to even discuss this.

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  5. In fairness, the Clinton / Obama hypocrites only get away with their stances because the GOP Establishment and frankly many of their loyalist voters are so far in outer space about labor and environmental issues.

    Both parties have been pushing laissez-faire policies, only the Democrats tried to put a compassionate spin on it (lifting up the global poor, etc.), while the Republicans argued for naked corporate greed.

    When that is the opposition, it's easy to win the debate by simply saying you want relatively more humane sweatshops in Bangladesh.

    Now that Trump says we want manufacturing back in America, the debate is no longer about how corporations treat foreign workers, but whether the American government sticks up for the American worker or foreigners. Relatively humane sweatshops is no longer the default winning position -- it falls under the anti-American side in a debate over American vs. foreign workers, and comes off as the callous and inhumane position.

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  6. I'd like to see the Trump team open up a similar split in the "union" movement -- pit the blue-collar unions against the government employee unions.

    The blue-collars hardly have any members since their industries have been wiped out, while government has only grown and their "unions" along with it.

    The Democrats like to score easy points by saying they're the party of labor / union interests -- but by now, that means government service employees, not carpenters or steelworkers.

    There's no pride they can point to in a union label on government services -- it *lowers* the perceived value, like comparing something to "the DMV". The Garment workers label on a piece of clothing is the opposite, raising perceived value.

    Trump and like-minded Republican can become the party of "the good unions" representing the trades, manufacturing, and other productive activity, while the Democrats "may have unions, but they're BAD unions" representing government service employees.

    Auto workers make way more than DMV clerks, so Trump would be promising a better future to undecided voters, while the Dems would be offering dismal work and dismal pay.

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  7. "buy goods that would last and can be repaired when they do break, instead of being tossed into a clogged landfill."

    Nice tie-in between labor and environmental issues. How easy would it be to make a cartoon to drive the point home? "Buy American once, or replace Chinese junk 10 times"

    Show a 1950s housewife using a standing mixer, blender, waffle iron, etc., all with a conspicuous "Made in USA" label and humming along without a hitch. She's content and confident going about all her tasks, vs. a frazzled modern woman throwing yet another crappy kitchen appliance onto a garbage heap.

    It would play to moderates, women, foodies, vintage / retro enthusiasts, and SWPL types.

    For conservatives, men, and thing-oriented people, show a 1950s dad at work in the garage with several fine-tuned machines, vs. a frazzled doofus dad of today throwing yet another power drill / battery / charger onto a pile.

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  8. Random Dude on the Internet2/25/17, 7:36 PM

    One of the problems with "Buy America" is that sometimes the location in "America" is American Samoa or a location where they get third world labor but can still slap on the "Made in the USA" sticker.

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  9. That will get solved with e-verify and general crackdown on illegal labor, as well as limiting H1B visas. Then America means Americans, and not illegal Salvadoreans in L.A.

    In the meantime, where it's a problem, require the label to read "Made in USA with imported labor".

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  10. http://voluntarysociety.org/conditioning/federalreserve/current/41collegedegrees.jpg

    This is one of the best striver measures I've seen. In damn near every year from 1970 thru 2007 there was an increase of women holding degrees. 1981 was the first year in which they surpassed male holders.

    No wonder the curricula has been so dumbed down. Note too that the ratio of law degrees has simultaneously risen; ya think these gals were taking advanced calculus or somethin'?

    The IQ bell curve being what it is, colleges have degenerated from enriching the the greatest intellects to "the customer's always right" pandering to mediocre strivers. Of whom the women, in a more wholesome period, would find a gainfully employed man and stop clogging up the labor force and driving down wages. And the lower end men would do vocational training/apprenticeships to learn useful skills instead of throwing money at a worthless degree.

    I remember Mike Nelson (born in '64, the MST3K guy) joking that his music degree was just about the most worthless thing he could've gotten (but at least it didn't cost you your right hand back then). By the 80's the Anglosphere was busy selling the yuppie dream in which "other people" did the heavy lifting. THE FUTURE was going to be the high tech pixel economy; who wanted to be a prole? Besides, 3rd worlders would build stuff on their turf while we could import 3rd worlders for a lot of the domestic labor that couldn't be off-shored.

    It's also illuminating to see who are the most clueless about globalization. It's those who work in fields in which English must be a first language (e.g. Law, politics, journalism, show biz.), which makes the use of foreign labor much more difficult albeit not entirely absent (as we see with Brits and Canadians hosting "American" talk shows).

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  11. New Balance, a company proud of its American and British factories, does have a partial by-origin search option on its website's catalog. I looked at it recently (only men's shoes), and their U.K. and U.S. shoes are ugly, with very few exceptions. They also cost 2-7 times more to buy, making them appaling options overall. I have wondered why only their East Asian-manufactured shoes look good, and I guess they have different designers working for different factories. It's bizarre to see the vast difference in quality of appearance.

    I don't want to think the high-seeming 1st world prices are necessary, rather that the unnaturally subsidized manufacturing costs in places like east Asia are way too low. I would buy more American goods, such as shoes, if they were better deals. There are some websites specializing in directing shoppers to American goods, but they lack attractive branding. I think the main reason strivers avoid American goods is that they lack status, compared to elite-designed and promoted market dominators, the mega-expensive brand name companies. Labor prices are also much lower in the unregulated, exploitative 3rd world, but price is a secondary consideration for strivers. The compulsion to SAVE MONEY results from having low wages, nothing better to do than pseudo-gambling as a customer, and wanting to financially beat up sellers. I think it's spiteful sometimes to buy the cheapest things, to be ungenerous and even hate local businesses. I am surprised by how many people fiercely "love" big box stores and the globalized economy, without rational explanations of how they benefit from them. I guess I have trouble admitting ignorance is common, and fueled by sin.

    I don't know how much quality ranges between the 2nd and 1st world manufacturing spheres, especially for simple goods such as clothing. Machines do much of the work, even in the 20th century. The 3rd world mostly has resource extraction, not processing raw materials or adding value with design or engineering. An unnoticed issue with buying from the 3rd world is that this distorts their markets with foreign currencies, mostly dollars, which are inappropriate. I think clashes between different monies contribute to inequality, not that I have ever seen this thesis considered by a pro economist.
    The 'free trade' lie is anti-economic, in that it ignores opportunity costs and other considerations. Trading freely is not possible, because economics never encompasses all of what is going on in trade. Even if it is calculated to be optimal, that's only part of the story, and reductionistic. I think trading has inherent costs, which could be estimated. Trading with partners further away is more expensive, yet free traders pretend trade itself always cost zero, or is even a negative cost. The benefits of trading should outweigh its costs, but it can't be free, just from shipping, handling, negotiations, and how hard it is to do business.

    The idea that China only makes junk is outdated, because their economy has caught up a lot. Unless the issue is creativity, where they mostly copy intellectual property they do not pay for, they do know how to make smart phones, and somehow their factories are more precisely modulated than ours are. It's much easier to hire them, not just cheaper. Laziness here encourages job offshoring. The Asian "tiger" economies were laughed at when they were first developing into modern systems. Then it seemed in the late 80's like Japan would economically beat America, and I don't think most economists can admit they won't figure out why that didn't happen. The U.S.S.R.'s collapse is relevant, but I don't fully know this history.

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  12. "And the lower end men would do vocational training/apprenticeships to learn useful skills instead of throwing money at a worthless degree."

    Do you mean that only STEM degrees count?
    What about men with other high-IQ talents? I think most degrees have small value, and the politicized fluff majors have negative value. I guess the 80-20 rule applies, and so, only 1/5th of degrees are worth having.

    I saw a study showing that the number of unfilled high-skilled, blue-collar jobs is the same as the number of miseducated white-collar college grads. This was from an Ivy League business school professor, I think at Wharton. I'll look for the data.

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  13. Third-world stuff is crap, that's why it costs so little.

    Their workers are not as conscientious as ours, their supervisors don't care about quality control, and their governments and "regulatory" bodies couldn't care less about poisoning their own citizens, let alone us lowly foreigners.

    Their machines are crappier, and kept in worse maintenance, for the same reasons (the people).

    The raw materials are crappier for the same reasons.

    All of this is done for the same reason -- slash costs to the producers. Cheap materials, cheap machines, cheap labor, cheap management, and cheap regulation.

    The easiest way to see the difference is compare a single brand that was made here, then off-shored. That controls for branding, market positioning, and all that other gay crap. Quality falls off a cliff when it's off-shored.

    Visit a thrift store sometime and find something from a brand you recognize, but is old enough to have been made here. I found a belt by Gap made of a single piece of oil-tanned leather with a solid brass buckle, made in USA circa 1990. Levi's belt from pull-up leather and solid brass buckle -- same thing.

    Then look around the section for a Gap or Levi's belt today. They're total shit. Made from two thin pieces of leather glued together, stiff, flimsy metal buckle, made in some shithole.

    And Gap and Levi's were not high-end -- any mall in anytown USA sold decent quality goods.

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  14. On the topic of shoes, I just so happened to have scored a pair of made-in-USA leather boot laces, for no more than the third-world junk by the major brands like Kiwi ($4).

    They're by Sole Choice / Mitchellace, who have brought back production to the same Appalachian Ohio town, Portsmouth, where they were made for a century, before a brief stint off-shoring production to Honduras:

    http://blogs.ptc.com/2014/07/30/ohio-shoelace-factory-brings-manufacturing-back/

    You can find made-in-USA laces at Walmart, but only if they're fabric, not leather.

    I found these at a local supermarket chain, not Walmart / Target / Kroger's.

    The little guys look out for each other, rather than trying to bleed the quality producers dry just to add another millionth of a cent to their own retail bottom line.

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  15. Is second-world stuff crap too? I know the 3rd world can't do manufacturing almost at all, but my jeans from Lesotho are no worse than my other pairs. Sometimes I don't believe the 1st world can do much better, for easy products it's difficult to mess up when making them.
    I think factory quality varies a lot, especially in large countries such as China. Sometimes something from there is bad, sometimes it's surprisingly good, and I am glad. Their work is quite good in some factories, if people don't have many faulty tech devices from there.

    It's a national and global security issue to depend on potential enemies to make things we need for us. And China has an environmental regulation movement, serious about cleaning their air from pollution, and organic food, and all that. They are just far behind, like the U.S. long ago, I hope, not worse ultimately. 2nd worlders seem ok in documentaries, and some Americans are expatriating to these places.


    "Visit a thrift store sometime"

    Good idea, I 've never thoroughly done that before. I usually just shop on steep sales, to not give stores too much money. If they paid their workers better than their financial investors, I would be glad to share more dollars with them. I did go to a Levi's store recently, and the belts were too thin and ugly. I didn't even check to see where they were from. I only got some clearance jeans, including one pair for 85% off, because these stores stock way too much inventory. I wonder if the cost of understocking is worse than overstock.
    When grocery stores throw away tons of food, not just junk no one wants, I'm upset. How can we waste, allegedly, 1/3rd of all our food? Is this carelessness indicative of low conscientiousness, or bad management who do not realize resources are scarce?

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  16. I'll start looking for made-in-USA products more seriously now. I've been too lazy for this inconvenience, and my region, northern CA, is very unamerican, making ethical shopping difficult here. I will also stop considering foreign travel so important to knowing the world.

    I have noticed that people buy American-made cars in more patriotic regions. A science teacher first told me about this. Where I live, there are very few Am. cars, probably one of the the lowest U.S.-made car proportions in this country. This trend has a cosmopolitan effect, making it seem like foreigness is cool and normal to choose. Foreigners here are not fond of Am. cars, with few exceptions. They almost always get Japanese cars, and would probably like Chinese ones if those were competitively available. It is funny that there are no 3rd world cars, and 2nd world ones are not sold in 1st world countries, so for high-end products like automobiles, everyone gets well-manufactured models. When it matters, there is no being cheap. In the late 90's, Am. some auto company disassembled a then-new Lexux, and estimated it would take them many years to catch up to the Japanese high-level welding technology. I don't think we're always the best in business, and am sure you agree.

    I don't like most cars, regardless of their origin, but Japanese cars are usually more boring. Toyota recently admitted they have way too much middle-management to do good design changes. The European cars are only here because status-strivers like their reputations and high prices, and so I think modesty could have prevented the recent auto industry bailout, which also involved American overreliance on very profitable SUV sales. SUV and truck sales are at a record high now, 64% of all cars sold. Size is a basic form of status. I think GM had too many different brands, too, probably a striver's problem- many mergers and acquisitions over decades and false competition within the same company.

    I think tariffs would do much more for U.S. products than online search filters. If more tariffs were instated, the fiilters would then be put in place. Law is upstream from economics.

    Some related ideas:

    Foreigners may not own more than, say, 25% of a place's real estate without turning it into U.N. City.

    Collectively funded services such as public transportation will always lose to the local [auto] industry if people do not defend the commons, eventually devolving into foreign [cars].

    Prohibitions against vices are a huge source of migration and smuggling of black market products. They also lead young people to run away from home, looking for a libertine refuge from strict mores.

    On this note, how should voters move to blue states to influence their politics and communities? Without being invited?

    the story of U.S. garment and fabric industry failure, with almost 75% market loss to imported competitors, is recent, and involves the Commerce Secretary-nominee, Wilbur Ross. He allegedly tried to keep American jobs, often by offering bankrupt companies' workers pay reductions, instead of unemployment. Sometimes they refused, and were replaced with new factories somewhere else in NAFTA land or even further away.

    Science and other high-status fields will brain drain foreigners to 1st world countries unless there are strict visa limits.

    Religion will only be a marketplace of options and cults if its essence, including faith and cultural belonging, is diluted.

    The whole economy will be violently mercenary if commoners do not defend each other with organized labor, consumer's advocacy, and needed regulations.

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  17. Well, of course tariffs would be even better, but I'm assuming we're not yet to the point where President Trump can just slam the 35% border tax on off-shored production and get away with it.

    He's going to try to get companies to come back the easy way -- after that, it'll be the hard way.

    In the meantime, little things like a search filter or "Made in USA" tags on retail shelves would help raise awareness and get people used to all the American stuff that will be made before too long.

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  18. Most things made at off-shored plants are not made by machines but by people.

    If the American jobs were lost due to automation, the product would still say "Made in USA" -- only made by machines rather than people.

    And some things are still made here, highly automated. More like "substances" than "things" -- stuff whose raw materials can be measured, poured, altered, mixed, and packaged without many human hands. Toothpaste, soap, etc.

    Artifacts, including things like clothing items, are too difficult to make by automation. Too many pieces, attached with too fine of a motor movement, and with too high of a need for the human eye to judge whether it's right or needs fixed.

    Since human labor is still the rate-limiting step on profit maximization for "things," they have been sent to be done by people who will labor for much lower wages and benefits.

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  19. "SUV and truck sales are at a record high now, 64% of all cars sold."


    From an April 1980 Motor Trend review

    "...To drive the Mark V is to be the captain of your own huge, luxurious ship. In an operational sense, the Mark V is massive, smooth and competent only in boulevard or highway applications.....What it was designed to do, it does very well. It isolates the driver and passengers from the outside world, and when you're driving, it makes you feel - and makes other people think you are - rich. Even with its rather straight-lined, sharp-edged styling, the car has a certain rakishness and projects the image of the driver as an elegant rogue.


    "....This intangible quality is exactly what we found lacking in the Mark VI. It has a more formal look - the result of a more squared-off roof and trunk line - that would tend to make you think of the driver as a successful accountant....The interior produces none of that feeling of decadence. It is light and airy, as opposed to the cocoon feeling of the Mark V, and has a little too much space-age gadgetry and undisguised plastic to fit the traditional definitions of luxury."

    And that's why so many Gen X-ers hate the 80's.

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  20. SUV buying seems more like a sign of rising crime + rising inequality. Rising crime makes people want to feel more powerful, while rising inequality makes them more competitive and bullying. Remember, the 80s were the heyday of big cars. There was a huge revival of SUV-buying under Bush II, before SUV-buyers got shamed in the mid-2000s.

    Anybody remember the 6000 SUX commercial from Robocop?:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6v_nrf9nFQ

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  21. How long will retraining cubicle jockeys, the unemployed, and young students to do manufacturing take? 3 years? Would gradually increased tariffs reduce job displacement and hard feelings about the change, just like gradual minimum wage increases? I guess starting tariffs at 15%, then going up 5% every year would work. Or maybe start at 20%.

    I would prefer a job making things to my current options, but I might not have the needed abilities. I wish I could do STEM, too, because it's so interesting. It's too bad few people have high intelligence or VS IQ.

    Is it true that Americans are relatively unwilling to do hard work, besides demanding fair wages? I think we've been taught that only white-collar jobs have acceptable status, and this bias explains much alleged laziness.

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  22. Can American nationalism operate without Eurocentrism? In prior centuries, American populists were focused on being revolutionary against the English of Great Britain, because of intra-European tensions. Now we have further distance between political factions and ethnicities. Whenever people have competing ideological spirals, strife escalates. I'm not sure what to do about this.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astor_Place_Riot#Consequences

    I think America's culture has disintegrated gradually, much faster during striving times. It's difficult to repair the social fabric, and mending it is an incomplete solution.

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  23. "SUV buying seems more like a sign of rising crime + rising inequality. Rising crime makes people want to feel more powerful, while rising inequality makes them more competitive and bullying. Remember, the 80s were the heyday of big cars. There was a huge revival of SUV-buying under Bush II, before SUV-buyers got shamed in the mid-2000s."

    Actually, the 1970's were the decade of automotive excess (at least for well-heeled middle-aged people) until the 2000's and their absurdly oversized SUVs):

    "....another automotive era ended in 1979. The press releases summed it up by calling the '79 Continental "the last traditionally full-sized American car." The hardware of the matter is that the car is one of the largest mass-produced passenger cars ever to roll off an assembly line. With an overall length of 230.3 inches, a wheelbase of 120.3 inches, and a curb weight of 4,763 pounds, it is a dinosaur, and the changing nature of the times will no longer tolerate such blatantly consumptive machines for personal transportation...."

    In the 1980's, over-sized cars fell out of favor. Just spitballing here, but it was probably becaue of these factors:

    - The Silent generation has nostaliga for this kind of vehicle since they bought and drove so many brand new ones, but by the 80's Boomers were the target demo for cars and Boomers didn't want to drive 50's/60's/70's style boats.

    -They sucked up tons of gas, and by 1980 America had endured multiple gas prices shocks. Gas prices collapsed in the mid 80's, but the market would not be ready for larger vehicles until the SUV craze that started in the late 90's.

    - Shite handling (unlike smaller cars), little cargo space (unlike SUVs, vans, and even station wagons), none of the sexiness of a sports car (which were bought by many Boomers in the 80's and 90's)

    - Late Boomers and X-ers, due to growing up with rising gas prices and also because they had less money than Silents/early Boomers, bought a lot of smaller cars in the 70's/80's/90's.

    - It seems like starting at some point in the 90's/2000's, it became more acceptable to drive a pick-up as your preferred/full time vehicle. This could be attributed to the rising population of childless people, and also the dichotomy of "the wife gets the car, I get the truck". Trucks are oversized, but they also have obvious practical utility and are good for poor weather.

    I dunno if specific vehicle type can really be traced to crime/cocconing or inequality. I think it's more about economic/practical considerations and generational preferences. Many Boomers drove unpretentious VW bugs in the 70's (persisting into the early 80's) because of the gas crises and also because the overall financial picture seemed pretty grim. This conservatism continued into the 80's though there's a reason red sports cars are associated with the 80's as such cars became a yuppie trend. Still, the memories of gas lines were powerful enough to stop larger vehicles from being popular until the late 90's.

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  24. That's interesting. I don't know why sales would have gone down in the 80s. Still, I see a desire for bigger cars tracking the crime rate. In a more dangerous world, people want to intimidate aggressive drivers, and want a bigger car that would be able to survive an accident better.

    That impulse is shown in the Robocop commercial - a rampaging T-rex frightens passerby, until it is itself scared away by a giant car. When crime is high, people want to be able to scare away the bad element.



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  25. If memory serves, 3 of the Friday the 13th movies had characters driving VW beetles (with the last appearing in part 6 from 1986). The gas crises of the 70's had a major effect on market psychology.

    Interior roominess does seem to correlate with outgoingness; oversized interiors were popular in the 50's and early 60's, then in the more macho late 60's muscle cars and sports cars with more cramped interiors became popular ("In 1966, the supercar became an official industry trend"[13] as the four domestic automakers "needed to cash in on the supercar market" with eye-catching, heart-stopping cars"). As younger generations were strapped for cash and increasingly frightened by gas crises, compacts became popular in the 70's and 80's.

    When people started cocooning again in the 90's, we saw the creation and popularity of countless models and variant classes of vans and SUVs. Partly this was because of years of cheaper gas, but it also was because of the considerable roominess of these vehicles. The only real SUV type vehicle to gain popularity in the 70's and 80's were various models of Jeeps that don't have much in common with modern SUVs. Hell, even the Cherokee is basically a glorified truck with the earliest models from the 80's and early 90's looking like adventure vehicles rather than cocooner transports. BTW, the Cherokee has a much stronger record for stability unlike many post mid 90's SUVs which tend to flip over easily.

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  26. BTW, Robocop was satirizing the stupidity of American auto manufacturers in the 70's and 80's. Detroit's reputation for both understanding market needs and delivering a quality product took a big hit at the time. Increased environmental regs became a struggle for Detroit, while they stubbornly lived in denial about the need to create smaller cars that could compete with foreign offerings that Boomers were coming to rely on.

    In other words, Robocop wasn't making fun of actual 80's consumer choices; they were mocking how crappy and irrelevant Detroit had become by the early 80's (when the initial Robocop script was written), a time when a lot of Americans were beginning to shake their heads about many of the 70's mistakes.

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  27. From the wiki article on the Chevy Vega:

    "Due mostly to inflation[citation needed], but also because of emissions and safety mandates, prices of all automobiles rose 50 percent during the Vega's seven-year lifespan. The same basic Vega that cost $2090 in 1971 carried a retail price of $3249 by the end of 1977. And since all other cars suffered the same inflationary rise, less expensive cars were in greater demand than those with higher prices which helped Vegas sell. The 1975 Cosworth Vega at $5,918 was priced $892 below the Chevrolet Corvette. "Cosworth. One Vega for the price of two" as it was advertised, was priced out of the market, and fell well short of its projected sales goal."

    So, because of high inflation, hippies, Ralph Nader, and gas crises,70's American cars simultaneously rose dramatically in cost, were more costly to fuel, and developed serious problems with workmanship. Oh, and they were less powerful than 50's and 60's cars. The compacts became the biggest punch bags, since many young Boomers bought them out of necessity only for a consensus to emerge in the mid 70's that Detroit's compacts were effing terrible by any standard, let alone compared to superior foreign compacts (which had a head start since the Old World's high density means that foreign makers had more experience with compacts). The Vega, and lord, the Pinto became punch lines to Boomers who grew up in the bummer 70's. There's a reason those names have never been revived.

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  28. "none of the sexiness of a sports car (which were bought by many Boomers in the 80's and 90's)"

    Why are sports cars stereo-typically either for teenagers or men with mid-life crises, if some women drive them too? One annoying teacher mocked such men, not realizing there are plenty of women she would, with consistent rules, consider "immature" for choosing athletic vehicles. I think this issue is similar to hating thin people, a hypocrite's problem. I would like to investigate preferences and views on different cars- do they correlate with other values and tested personality traits? Do fatter people drive bigger cars? I do not see fat people in sports cars. I have also noticed that immigrants, perhaps due to poverty, typically get foreign compacts. And, Asians vastly prefer BMW to M.-Benz. And I like Opel, which is not available here. Does anyone else here like cars sold only in Europe?


    "Trucks are oversized, but they also have obvious practical utility and are good for poor weather."

    People are irrational about truck utility. They just say "I like big cars" or claim to be "working men," whose pickup bed is always empty. Trucks are terrible in actual dangerous driving scenarios, given that they maneuver and brake slower. Small cars are dangerous mostly because of much larger cars smashing into them, not inherent defects.


    "I dunno if specific vehicle type can really be traced to crime/cocooning or inequality. I think it's more about economic/practical considerations and generational preferences."

    Cocooning and inequality can be called generational preferences, in that they are cyclical, not random.

    People are not practical. They think they are, but sometimes get very expensive cars just because of marginal differences in safety ratings and misleading statistics. Or they knowingly get dangerous cars, or really, drive at all, compared to insisting on more buses and rail vehicles.

    I find the whole American past-time of driving to be a distraction from boredom- people like sitting in traffic. We have 11 of the whole world's 25 worst traffic areas not on accident. L.A. is the worst probably because of overpopulation of people who run away from their own boredom by moving there, not just the official reason, badly sprawled development and "car culture."

    Real economic considerations are taken more seriously by more serious people, living in serious times. So, not strivers, whose personal economics is about investing in status, to get more status.


    "Many Boomers drove unpretentious VW bugs in the 70's (persisting into the early 80's) because of the gas crises and also because the overall financial picture seemed pretty grim."

    My German neighbor had a Beetle in the 60's, and he was very unpretentious. He had a Porsche engine cheaply installed to go faster, and it fit perfectly because the cars are closely related. There was no need for separate platforms, because mass market cars were rather new and humble. But I find that the foreignness of the bug (and VW van) was a hippie icon, a pretense of sophistication and being better than one's origins in suburbia. So it was probably considered pretentious back then, by most regular Americans. People now consider them chick cars, very oddly.

    If Pontiac and other small-car GM brands closed down, but Hummer didn't, are sports cars only a minor trend now, for serious enthusiasts? I see many more older sports cars than newer ones, and barely any fully new ones. This is disappointing, because they look and drive better. I like all of them, really, but not muscle cars. I will look up some statistics to not guess about popularities.

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  29. "In a more dangerous world, people want to intimidate aggressive drivers, and want a bigger car that would be able to survive an accident better."

    Some people drive humvees in places where traffic laws are disobeyed. This is a consideration for those with normal fear reactions to accident risk.

    Most people don't want to intimidate only aggressive drivers, they are intimidators because of their own aggression.

    And, bigger cars are not much safer. The differences are exaggerated by elitist assumptions. "Safest car evar" does not mean much for a reckless driver never wearing a seatbelt. Driver behavior matters much more than car size, as long as the car is not defective. Small cars are weird and engineered worse, I think, partly explaining their statistical dangerousness. Bad drivers don't even notice them.

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  30. "The gas crises of the 70's had a major effect on market psychology."

    I think the effect was minor, and insufficient. A moderate effect would be public shaming of gas-guzzlers or mandated restrictions, such as sin taxes on big cars. Countires intentionally encouraging use of public modes of transportation hugely tax cars. A major gas crisis effect would be many people switching to public transportation. So, it was a very minor effect.

    "supercar"

    They are overpriced, past the realm of reasonable returns on investment. I like no cars I know of costing over $40,000, and few over $30,000. Some expensive cars look good, but some are goofy.


    "The only real SUV type vehicle to gain popularity in the 70's and 80's were various models of Jeeps"

    Cars with military origins are nominally and symbolically patriotic. People were not selfish enough for modern SUVs back then, I am guessing.

    The modern SUV is for "soccer moms," allegedly, but fertility had fallen greatly, so it's not really for carrying many passengers. If it were, it would be called a MPV, multi-passenger vehicle. The Mazda 'MPV' car looks slightly different than most in its class. No SUVs were needed back when people had many more children, especially before cars were first invented and mass-marketed. People could not afford to waste so much resources before "post-scarcity" happened.

    "...the 70's and 80's. Detroit's reputation for both understanding market needs and delivering a quality product took a big hit at the time."

    I think America's reputation for everything took a hit. OPEC proved our geoeconomic feebleness, Vietnam demonstrated treasonous character and foolish leadership, the cultural revolution showed a parallel to Communist China, transitioning from filial piety there, and respect for elders here, to "sonic youth," promiscuity revealed Boomers of both sexes were not sincerely interested in family, and according to repentant hippies like Dr. Michael Savage, the country almost collapsed. I trust his pronouncement, and remember that many people then openly wanted an American collapse. Few reformed. Some still believe they could totally just do psychedelics all day, with countless new sex partners, and pick ripe fruit off the trees, while Germans make their Volkswagens, beer, and worky-things.

    Most Boomers hate America, I think. Living near San Francisco, and approaching the 50th anniversary of the 'summer of [false] love," I might exaggerate, but very few Boomers ever compromise the principles of their wild years. They seem to be history's most meaninglessly revolutionary generation, not that communism is new (it has happened many times over the millenia).

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  31. "Due mostly to inflation[citation needed], but also because of emissions and safety mandates, prices of all automobiles rose 50 percent during the Vega's seven-year lifespan."

    This is true quantitatively, not actually. The costs of automobiles being unsafe, namely injuries and deaths, went down. Pollution costs probably decreased too. Maybe holistic accounting is an ideal, not feasible to calculate, but I think "externalities" can be estimated.

    I am always skeptical of official reasons for big price increases. Car prices have continued to increase drastically, but we don't have much better cars now. I bet a big contributor to car safety was realizing that Boomer drivers were very irresponsible, and this needed to be compensated for. Someone needs to protect them from themselves :).


    "developed serious problems with workmanship"

    Were there many mistakes made on the assembly lines? Or issues with unions, hiring reliable, sober workers, and not paying them much? I expect the latter.


    "less powerful than 50's and 60's cars"

    Because of the EPA emissions rules, I guess. I was told cars back then could not accelerate past ~50 mph. This is amazing, and making cars from lighter materials has helped a lot. It might be safer, too, because lower car weight reduces total physical energy. I would mandate speed limits at 80 mph, by the way. Are there any reasons not to save lives this way?

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  32. "... superior foreign compacts (which had a head start since the Old World's high density means that foreign makers had more experience with compacts). The Vega, and lord, the Pinto became punch lines to Boomers who grew up in the bummer 70's. There's a reason those names have never been revived."

    I think the Old World just had a head start on all cars, not only compacts. High density does not much help people buy "city cars" in large, dense, American cities. This would make sense, so it doesn't happen much. I do see some mopeds in S.F., but barely any, and even fewer in other cities. There are plenty of SUVs in the City.

    Europeans are more accommodating of each other, and have more common sense. It's safe for them to ride mopeds, but that's called "Euro-trashy" here.

    I don't think many if any Uber drivers drive compacts. That's kind of funny, given that they're officially making money, but know their status-conscious customers hate compacts, and everyone wants taxis to be huge.

    When gas prices were "high" the last time, not even doubling, some people ridiculously complained that their businesses were no longer profitable. This was not changing their behavior much- new bus drivers were not hired, new trains were not built, in general. The obsession over OPEC is strange, given that it just confirms mercantilism never ended, and postmodern economics is a cover for neglect and unfairness.

    I don't know what was so terrible about American compact cars, and when they got better, if ever. I bet the serious problem was, "How do I save money on gas without looking cheap? I know, complain about Detroit!" That shifts attention from the uncool partial rationality of responding to oil embargoes, to something everyone in the young in-crowd agrees on, the vital need to be anti-American. Boomers would complain about buses even more, if they didn't irrationally avoid them (except when traveling to Europe, right?).

    Boomer opinions on cars are unreliable. Maybe a Pinto would be better than the cars they wished they could afford back then. Laws would have changed, or companies would have almost gone bankrupt, if many cars were truly terrible and undrivable. If there was no institutional sign that the cars were so bad, I conclude they were fine, but boomers never feel fine.

    I know compact buyers prefer foreign cars, but that might be a purchasing preference, not based on objective differences. I ultimately prefer the European and other first-world modes of public transportation, not any cars of any size.

    -

    Agnostic wrote that tiny bubble cars, like today's Smartcar brand, were common in the 1950's. Maybe tiny and huge interiors indicate different forms of cocooning. Moderate interiors fit a variety of space preferences, for different passengers, and different sized families.

    Stations wagons disappeared over the past few decades. So, size is not just measured by total volume- long, low cars are not as desired now as relatively tall, short cars. Height over length is specific- I think the ideal here is stature, not actual seating or storage space. At least some new, lower models like the Toyota Venza are more like station wagons, and look better.

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  33. DB -

    The extremely low gas prices of the mid-80's-mid 2000's opened up the tall vehicle arms race and many Boomer/Gen X-er car buyers have seemingly come to demand the feeling of power they get from a taller vehicle. Believe me, I've read about car psychology before. The people who design SUVs are well aware of the fact that the market is driven by insecurity; that's why women adore them.

    Unless we adopt punitive gas taxes and/or go through another 70's, there's no reason to think that more modest cars will begin to catch on again. One might think that the late 2000's gas price increases might've had more of an effect, but let's not forget that actual gas lines/rationing did not come about the way they did in the 70's. So there never was the feeling of a crisis.

    BTW, I was getting at trucks being useful in snow. Also, I've read that essentially, cars at better at avoiding accidents in the first place so they end up being safer than bigger vehicles. Now, if you get into a multiple car accident, bigger definitely is better. Taller is especially better, since you don't have to worry about the bulk of another vehicle being driven into your windows.

    Overall, road safety was at a perilous low in the 70's due to young Boomers driving like idiots (setting off a drunk driver crackdown in the 80's when bad driving was blamed on chemicals instead of how dumb Boomers were). But at least most vehicles back then were lower so most collisions weren't one-sided.

    You're correct to blame the line workers for many of the problems of 70's American companies, though the designers and CEOs often screwed up too. Worker productivity took a big hit in the 70's (because, guess what, Boomers weren't as reliable as previous generations).

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  34. Off-topic:
    "With this executive order, we will make HBCUs a priority in the White House -- an absolute priority. (Applause.) A lot of people are going to be angry that they're not a priority, but that's okay."

    https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/28/remarks-president-trump-signing-hbcu-executive-order

    Who is being excluded? And what was the point of "increasing access to the President" by shifting an education program to the White House, from where it belongs, if anywhere, the Dept. of Education?

    This particular focus, on education as a means to equality and civil rights ends, seems foolish to me.

    "Education has the power to uplift. It has the power to transform. And, perhaps most important, education has the power to create greater equality and justice in our lives."

    I thought we've already learned the hard way that education only furthers inequality of intelligence, by amplifying the smart fraction's superiority. If I could get smarter by doing homework, I would be a genius over time. Many educationalists believe time is the only factor in learning, as if everyone is stupid when young.

    I don't know what's going on with this bubble, or when it'll pop. I hope the federal Education budget is cut.

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  35. "Unless we adopt punitive gas taxes and/or go through another 70's, there's no reason to think that more modest cars will begin to catch on again. "

    Vehicle size taxes are much more direct, and very effective in Japan. I like that idea better, because car modesty is not only in sacrificing unneeded horsepower for gas mileage. We do have a gas guzzler tax already, I think, but it's puny, and only applies to the most egregious models. So that could be expanded. I also hope hydrogen cell or other alternative cars will be more modest, because they are new and expensive at first, but focused on engineering, not design.

    "...drunk driver crackdown in the 80's when bad driving was blamed on chemicals instead of how dumb Boomers were)"

    DUIs are one of the very few misdeeds Boomers seem to have collectively stopped. I wonder if they have joined AA or something, because it's not easy to stop drinking and driving, as a group or individual, but they did it. Now DUIs are more typically done by foreign drivers, who often have no American driver's license, and might not even know local driving laws. Maybe the crackdown was well-implemented, so I wish we could extend its effects to other issues.

    "...most collisions weren't one-sided"

    I have seen an SUV ram into a perpendicular compact car at an intersection, and the little car was hit so hard it spun around. It was pathetic, and makes me dislike SUVs even more.

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  36. "Some models had an electronic LED 'econometer' which lit up several lights around the edge of the speedometer dial..."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simca-Talbot_Horizon

    Okay, now I believe the 80's were fuel-economy conscious, while these days, I think only some Toyotas (and Lexuses, maybe Scion too) have gas mileage readouts. I hadn't seen these old 'supermini' cars almost ever before looking them up.

    "Horizons had initially been available in more adventurous colours including orange, but many of these colours had gone out of fashion after the 1970s."

    What explains this fashion change? Are adventurous colors... not yuppie enough?

    "Most had beige over brown metallic, two-tone paintwork. Around 20% of the Pullman models were two tone silver and blue."
    Two-tone paint is coming back, on some BMWs. I like any creative novelty.

    I don't think it's only music that was great circa 1980. The cars look better too. They were primitive compared to today's ones, but had simple beauty, which is not a technical virtue per se.

    The strictness of Japan's vehicle sizes, and substantial differences in regulated costs for each class, prove that America is not at all serious about going green. Europe might hold a compromise position, without trying to.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_size_class#Japan
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kei_car


    We totally bs that hybrids, electric cars, and 'improved gas milage' will magically be enough. We don't want regular-sized cars, let alone smaller ones. I want hydrogen fuel cells to be developed, if they really are better than electrics or anything else, physically and environmentally.

    An actuary or insurance seller would know if smaller cars cost less to insure. I think so.

    I have an insignificant, but serious to me, philosophical quandary. Why are cars gorgeous and very well-made, if we "should" ride on transit anyway? Aesthetically, I like buses almost as much, and prefer riding buses overall because of the safety,view, and comfort. I know that buses are not sold for their good looks, rather their reliability and price. But it's mysterious to me that cars are so well-designed, probably better than today's fine art. In my view, more technical fields, which require engineering, currently produce better art.

    The market's invisible hand is a partial explanation. It does not explain why even low-priced cars still look almost as good as expensive ones. Cars that sell many times better might not actually be much better, too.

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  37. Feryl, its interesting you mention that gas prices were low from the mid-80s to the mid-2000s, as that seems like a distinct cultural period(adjusting for cocooning). It seems like there was a cultural shift in the mid-80s - heavy metal evaporated into air, and there was a rise of massive hip hop movement, which had been peripheral before the late 80s. Agnostic has noted that mass media became more self-aware in the mid-80s - for instance, compare the last Indiana Jones movie, much more self-aware and moralistic, with plenty of knowing in-jokes, the earlier movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Or for instance the ealier music of Prince in the early 80s, more self-unaware and fun-loving, vs. the more self-aware, self-important stuff he did later like Purple Rain.(keep in mind, when I say self-aware vs. self-unaware, I'm not talking about sincerity - which goes with the crime rate).

    The early 80s seemed a lot different than the late 80s. What changed? I thought one idea may have been that the culture segued between being career-oriented(conservative), over to being lifestyle-oriented(liberal).

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  38. Going by sales, Metal peaked in popularity from 1986-1991. Starting with Def Leppard's Hysteria from '87, Bon Jovi's run of albums starting with Slippery When Wet in '86, and GNR's Appetite for Destruction in '87. The last big selling albums to feature 80's style metal were Metallica's 1991 album and GNR's Use Your Illusion double album from '91. Pantera and Megadeth's 1992 albums sold well and are borderline 80's, but they've got a less theatrical mood and a more stripped down style compared to pre 1992 metal.

    Judas Priest, Dio, Ozzy, Whitesnake, The Scorpions, and AC/DC all had big albums in the late 80's/early 90's too. Although quite frankly 1983/1984 was the best time for music, including metal (Dio's Holy Diver, Metallica's best albums, Def Leppard's Pyromania, Iron Maiden's 2nd and 3rd best albums, etc.)

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  39. I think that 1976-1981 were the 70's for music. 1981 had the last run of great classic rock albums (Billy Squier, Blue Oyster Cult, Foreigner, Styx, Rush, and so on all released their last 70's style albums). 1982 was a transition year, then 1983 saw a burst of highly energetic and theatrical music (for one thing, Exciter, Anthrax, Metallica, and Slayer all released the initial wave of speed metal albums). This continued thru 1991, with even the initial wave of grunge blockbusters featuring a lot of aggressive pacing, complex song structures, and catchy song writing.

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  40. I stand corrected on the heavy metal - yet it does seem, as you say, there was a big musical change, as the old classic rock fell in popularity and rock became more theatric - which would go along with rising self-awareness, over-dramatized, etc.

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  41. "The early 80s seemed a lot different than the late 80s. What changed? I thought one idea may have been that the culture segued between being career-oriented(conservative), over to being lifestyle-oriented(liberal)."

    It's the culture war arms race and early cocooning. I don't think a lot of people realize that Americans were still mostly on the same page before Reagan's 2nd term. After that a lot of divisions based on class, ideology, etc. started to show up. I believe it was Gallup who found that American opinion on abortion didn't sharply diverge until the very late 80's.

    Remember the Mommy Wars that started circa 1990? Boomers had a lot kids around that time. Boomers being Boomers, they argued with each other about what kind of world their kids would live in. Some of the early signs of cocooning showed up in the later 80's because people were becoming much more cautious, especially regarding kids.

    There's a poignant melancholy during this period too, but it's not really like the resigned cynicism that you saw in the 70's and early 80's. That's mainly because Boomers by the late 80's sensed that their kids represented a hope for the future. In the earlier period Boomers constantly focused on the negative and so many people seemed amoral and self-centered. But eventually they figured that, yeah, we screwed up, but we can do better and need to do better to give our kids a shot.

    The earlier seasons of Cops (debut around 1989) and Unsolved Mysteries ('87) definitely capture the vibe I'm talking about. In spite of increased striving, Boomers and X-ers we're finally beginning to take note of how much they'd let themselves and each other down. It's a distinctly different mood than the more hedonistic and self-centered cynicism you saw in the 70's and Reagan's first term.

    BTW, for all the talk about how "dark" the 70's were, there's nothing in 70's TV that has the gritty reality we saw with Cops and Unsolved Mysteries. I don't think Silents and Boomers in the 70's were comfortable acknowledging on the family TV set how profoundly dangerous the outside world was by then. Partially that's because outgoing people in a decadent time don't want to be reminded of how dangerous their choices are. Some might bring up 70's movies, but it was difficult to see movies back then (no VCR or cable/streaming)) and 70's movies could be drably nihilistic rather than wholesomely cautious about examining hedonism and it's consequences. 70's pop and TV shows were pretty lightweight, especially later in the decade.

    Nerds don't seem to realize that it was in the 80's (especially the later 80's) that Western pop/rock music and TV got more dark.

    Some reflectively "dark" (cautionary is probably more accurate) songs from the late 80's/early 90's:

    - Johnny B, the Hooters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKy4riaOBMk

    - 18 and Life, Skid Row: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O317T6Zlno
    Lyrically, this "cheesy 80's song" is actually about a teenager getting "lost" and throwing his life away. Whatever happened to pop culture that was about people losing their way?

    - For the more patient, Anthem to the Estranged, Metal Church ('89): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQa8jnWsc34
    It's about looking at homeless people and trying to imagine what it's like to be there.

    - King for a Day, XTC - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=depsFULhqV8

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  42. "That's mainly because Boomers by the late 80's sensed that their kids represented a hope for the future... But eventually they figured that, yeah, we screwed up, but we can do better and need to do better to give our kids a shot."

    Have Boomers been pleased by their children? I think they are upset by their own cocooning and its stifled consequences. They probably want higher fertility rates, more financial success, and a culture like they had, without the bad parts. I don't know, but I guess they changed too little.

    -

    Unrelated:
    "America needs a strong border policy that protects American citizens and American jobs. We should welcome those strivers who, like our own forebears, seek the opportunity to work hard, play by the rules, and build better lives in America."
    https://electjon.com/priorities/

    This contradictory language is today's attempt by Democrats to appropriate Trump's campaign success. It sounds vague because it's impossible for both native and foreign people to have the same exact jobs. "Play by the rules" in striver-speak means ignoring the law, I assume, because plenty of strivers reside here illegally. They abandon their homelands, too.

    -

    "Thirty percent of foreign-born residents of the U.S. had less than a high school diploma, compared with 10 percent of native-born residents."
    https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/education/cb11-72.html

    This is disappointing. Would a high school diploma requirement for citizenship make sense?

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  43. Compact cars cost no more than half of what an SUV costs, sometimes only one-third. So how are people poor now, if so many own SUVs? I do not notice much poverty or price sensitivity in common consumer behavior. I don't see many small cars anywhere. I have noticed that models of the same car have expanded in size over the years. This is like SUV-ification. It makes it harder to find a good small car, and makes big ones seem only average.

    If cars were taxed by size, with subsidization of small cars from the proceeds, we would still have a majority of big cars, unless the taxes were heavy. If environmentalists were serious, they would come up with specific policy proposals. I conclude they are idealists, or hypocrites. Something is wrong with their vague admonitions. I want cars to be affordable, not just run on hydrogen fuel to bypass OPEC and reduce emissions.

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  44. I finally found a full online directory of American product directories:
    https://www.somfootwear.com/pages/buy-american

    I was able to easily find cheaper things this way.

    And, a fun fact:

    "The Multiplier Effect, this is a term used to show the total impact a sector has on the economy. Manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect out of all sectors; for every $1.00 spent on manufacturing, $1.33 is added to the economy. In comparison professional/business services only adds $0.61 to the economy for every $1.00 spent."

    http://www.allamericanclothing.com/apparel-industry.html

    I had no idea any services could add a net loss of invested wealth to the economy. I also underestimate the American consumer's economic foolishness. I have only recently started seeking out American-made products, and many shoppers never learn that it's worth it.

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  45. WHich reminds me a survey when they asked people about whether they would buy Polish shoes. THey said no, they would prefer Italian, like Gino Rossi! The joke was the fact that Gino Rossi is Polish company.

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  46. Now the New York Times is trying to out-populist Trump.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/18/business/alibaba-fake-merchandise-e-commerce.html

    An expression of concern for our workers and businesses is good and econo-nationalist. I'm surprised political pressure is trickling down to reporters, who must meet new demand for fair reporting.

    “It’s important to note that the primary responsibility of protecting a brand rests with the brand itself,” the [Alibaba] spokesman wrote in an email.

    But small businesses, even in a coalition, can't easily enforce intellectual property laws by just hiring lawyers to file lawsuits. Protecting American brands is an American responsibility.
    So let's tweet to @realdonaldtrump, or perhaps his son Don Jr., who is more into business than politics, until he responds with how he will protect American intellectual property from corporate theft, possibly including brand-identity theft.

    Also, lobby the American Apparel & Footwear Association, and other trade groups, besides the brands and stores you like, with letters and calls supporting American manufacturers, and clarifying that we *are* willing to pay more for American products. Consumers' express wishes mean much more than petitions with empty signatures do.

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