A case can be made for getting rid of laws that are something of a protection racket for auto dealers. The dealers are upset at Tesla's innovation of direct sales to customers and dealers are flexing their political muscles. A few days ago the governer of NJ bowed to the status quo.
It is worth examining the history of these laws to understand why they exist, as the auto dealer franchise laws were originally put in place for a just cause and are now being twisted to an unjust purpose. Many decades ago, the incumbent auto manufacturers sold franchises to generate capital and gain a salesforce. The franchisees then further invested a lot of their money and time in building up the dealerships. That’s a fair deal and it should not be broken. However, some of the big auto companies later engaged in pressure tactics to get the franchisees to sell their dealerships back at a low price. The franchisees rightly sought protection from their state legislatures, which resulted in the laws on the books today throughout the United States (these laws are not present anywhere else in the world).
The intent was simply to prevent a fair and longstanding deal between an existing auto company and its dealers from being broken, not to prevent a new company that has no franchisees from selling directly to consumers. In most states, the laws are reasonable and clear. In a handful of states, the laws were written in an overzealous or ambiguous manner. When all auto companies sold through franchises, this didn’t really matter. However, when Tesla came along as a new company with no existing franchisees, the auto dealers, who possess vastly more resources and influence than Tesla, nonetheless sought to force us to sell through them.
The reason that we did not choose to do this is that the auto dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between promoting gasoline cars, which constitute virtually all of their revenue, and electric cars, which constitute virtually none. Moreover, it is much harder to sell a new technology car from a new company when people are so used to the old. Inevitably, they revert to selling what’s easy and it is game over for the new company.
The New York Times on the integration of farms with communities. This wouldn't scale to meet American eating habits (diversity and caloric), it could do a good job of supplying fresh produce. Of course this is back to the future - local farms were once common as were home food gardens.
These will be very attractive to some people and perhaps they will attract enough to make a sustainable business. The area we live in had a few local community farms including an excellent dairy, but none survive.
No, you won’t get pulled over for driving your Model S on the Turnpike. But if rules passed yesterday by New Jersey regulators and backed by GOP Governor Chris Christie take effect, you won’t be able to visit a Tesla store in the state. In an effort to protect traditional car dealerships, New Jersey is trying to shut the electric car maker down before it ever gains traction.
This isn’t the only place where Tesla is battling such bans. Across the country, powerful car-dealer lobbies with their hands in politicians’ pockets are fighting the Silicon Valley company, trying to hold on to monopolies protected by outdated laws. But there is some solace to be taken in the New Jersey decision: It calls attention to the hypocrisy of supposed free-market politicians propping up an unloved industry at the expense of real competition.
Unlike typical car dealerships, Tesla showrooms aren’t surrounded by parking lots filled with vehicles and high-pressure salesman trying to get you to drive off in one. The stores are typically at malls, such as the two where Tesla operates in New Jersey. Customers can examine a floor model, learn about the design and engineering process, and schedule a test drive. One thing you don’t have to do at a Tesla store, however, is buy a car. Purchasing a Tesla happens online, straight from the company, which you can do from anywhere. In other words, they work the way retail should work.
Tesla is able to ensure the consistency of its retail experience because it sells directly. That’s exactly the tie that the car dealers and their political cronies want to sever. Under the status quo, dealers are powerful middlemen who enjoy serious leverage over carmakers and customers, as well as a decided lack of accountability thanks to the territorial monopolies created by the franchise model. If Tesla’s stores were allowed to stay in business, car shoppers might start to ask why the process of buying a car from the old guard has to be so lame.
There is a cultural phenomenon playing out at the moment where people around the world - typically teenage girls, sing to a karaoke version of Let it Go from Disney's movie Frozen and post a video to Youtube. One of the more impressive versions is from Olivia, a third year classics study at Oxford. She notes she's a poor singer (true - she offers a performance), but she has done an impressive translation of the lyrics into classic Latin with a detailed explanation of every line. I've sent this to a couple of trained voices hoping they give it a try:-)
(hat tip to Loren)
Lyrics [reference in square brackets]:
summi montis solitudine, nullas voces audio [Catullus] patria sepulta dominari videor [Cicero] venti furentes meo erumpunt animo [Tacitus] sortis contra vim nihil valeo
comprimere, recondere maioribus semper digna esse fieri populo odio non paveo [Tiberius (emperor)]
fugio, fugio, nihil iam dissimulo [Tacitus] pectora resero, at dolores exclaudo [Lucretius] oderint quin capiant [Accius] tenet tempestas animi requiem meritam [Tacitus]
modis levat miris absentia curas [Lucretius] et a metu pertinaci me tandem liberat [Claudius (emperor)]
nunc ostendam placida maiestatem ingenitam [Tacitus] depono tandem vincula rupta
supera salio ut caelo despiciam [Lucretius] posteram renuo immota gloriam [Tacitus] haec constat sententia tenet tempestas
nivis imperium tendo terras in omnes anima frigido aere frangitur in glaciem mens reclusa spirat auras lucidas [Tacitus] inania somnia deurit veritas
Does conflict in the Ukrine mark the beginning of a new phase - one that mirrors a much older phase - in foreign-policy? A piece in The Atlantic argues yes..
Since entering his second term, President Obama has signaled his desire to close out a foreign-policy era that he believes has drained America’s economic resources and undermined its democratic ideals. But it hasn’t been easy. Partly, Obama remains wedded to some of the war on terror’s legally dubious tools—especially drone strikes and mass surveillance. And just as importantly, Obama hasn’t had anything to replace the war on terror with. It’s hard to end one foreign-policy era without defining a new one. The post-Cold War age, for instance, dragged on and on until 9/11 suddenly rearranged Americans’ mental map of the world.
Now Russia may have solved Obama’s problem. Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine doesn’t represent as sharp a historical break as 9/11 did, but it does offer the clearest glimpse yet of what the post-war on terror era may look like. To quote Secretary of State John Kerry, what comes after the war on terror is the “19th century.”