Embarrassing? Try Risible.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

At the end of the day yesterday, between email and errands, I paged through this list of "12 Most Embarrassing Cars" and found that the third entry, the Hummer H2, had earned the following interesting distinction over all the rest:

Cringe score: 3.5
Votes: 208
Most-cited reason: Too big
Top write-in: Immoral
Immoral, eh?

Most people purchase and judge cars for implicitly selfish reasons, although they buy into the moral-practical dichotomy, and so fail to see that being selfish is defensible on moral grounds, to say the least. Such things as being able to haul a trailer, making a good impression, and economizing on gas are actually moral considerations to a rational egoist.

Keep this example in mind the next time you hear some conservative or other argue that Americans will come around and vote for more business-friendly politicians, once they see some leftist policy drain their pocketbooks. Even the most mundane daily economic decisions, such as what kind of car to drive, are hardly immune from abstract, philosophical considerations.

Since the only thing most people regard as morality is altruism -- in fact only one possible type of morality -- it is safe to say that the kind of people labeling an H2 as immoral will also vote for the likes of Al Gore on such a basis. (By this false standard, the really moral ones vandalize such vehicles.)

The news isn't all bad. The lead-in to the gallery reports that, "The top write-in suggestion for most embarrassing car was the very sensible [sic], very successful Toyota Prius." At least one comment exemplified what I suspect is -- for better and for worse -- a common, sense-of-life type of gut reaction to the Prius and to unalloyed altruism generally:
Prius (Pious) owners think they're wonderful human beings because they bought a gutless, butt ugly car that has no room inside, goes zero to 60 in 3 minutes, and gets the same mileage as a much sportier car they could have bought for $10K less.
Now, more than ever, implicitly selfish Americans could stand to hear that they are, in fact, right, to feel disdain for the Prius -- and that their pursuit of the most attractive, practical, and enjoyable car they can afford is actually the moral choice. Any guilt they might feel -- that might bubble up as anger over what kind of car some sucker might buy -- is completely unwarranted. In better days, such a car would have been laughed off the market the year it was introduced, if it ever even got to that point.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

Actually, I might consider leasing a hybrid based on the following reasoning. In V4s, the Ford Fusion SE and the Ford Fusion SE hybrid are comparable in terms of size, power, internal space, options, etc. They have identical exteriors. They felt identical on test drives. The hybrid gets 47 miles/gallon vs. the standard which gets 22 miles/gallon for a difference of 25 miles/gallon. If you drive 12,000 miles per year in three years (which is low for most Americans) that adds up to a savings of 1440 gallons which at $2.50/gallon makes it a total of $3600. The cost difference between the cars is $3345. Since my gas and mileage would likely be higher, it makes the savings even greater.
Not sure how to factor in cost of repairs.
But I like the V6 better and I am not sure I can get a comparable hybrid for that.

Gus Van Horn said...

Point taken: Gut reactions aren't always completely correct. (e.g., According to your analysis, hybrids can offer actual value, at least for some drivers.)

Crucially, your decision doesn't involve sacrificing your self-interest to "nature" or anyone/anything else.

Steve D said...

"nature" has got to be the worst possible object you could sacrifice yourself to; it's not even alive but I guess that's the whole point; sacrifice is really meant to be an end in itself and the object of the sacrifice exists only to make the sacrifice more palatable. All fun and games I suppose, until someone loses their civilization.
Personally the only sacrifices I've ever made involve the game of chess!
BTW: Do not confuse hybrid engines (like a Prius) with gas/electric engines (like a Chevy Volt). The terminology is a bit confusing but the so-called hybrids are not really hybrids at all (you can’t plug them in) but simply more efficient internal combustion engines whereas cars like the Chevy Volt seem kind of sad and pointless unless you’re looking for a way to increase your electricity bill and enjoy buying and switching out batteries.
Electric engines are much better than gasoline engines for go-carts, though. I’ll give them that.

Steve D said...

Actually, hybrids can offer quite a bit of value but as you implied; it all depends on the circumstances. One man's value might be another man's sacrifice.

Gus Van Horn said...

RE Chess: By a funny coincidence, today's post starts off talking about chess. I am just now getting to comments.

RE Volts: I guess that's why GM recently decided to cut prices on Volts by 12.5 percent.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "By a funny coincidence, today's post starts off talking about chess. I am just now getting to comments."

And I just now saw this. I never was a fan of chess myself, which I'm lousy at. Just awful. One of my colleagues asked me some time ago if I played chess, and I said I play checkers rather like the bear, only not so well, which got me a big laugh: There's a funny Russian cartoonishy thing called Mary and the Bear (Masha i Medved), and in one episode ("Masha + Kasha": kasha is essentially cream of wheat) the Bear spends the episode lost in his own world trying to solve a challenging championship checkers game. Yeah, that's about my speed. (I'm no slouch at Risk or backgammon though.)

Gus Van Horn said...

Ah, Risk. You bring back grad school memories of my first year. We weren't assigned mentors yet, so we shared a common office in an unused lab. There was an old Mac in a corner, and that had a computer version of Risk installed. Guess what that got used for...