(Last) Weekly Roundup: Up In The Air Edition

It would be dramatic to call it a nadir, but that moment seven weeks ago where I found myself fish-flopped over a Galapagos-ish boulder on Angel Fire Mountain’s “Hungry Hippo” trail — very recently unemployed, attempting to continue a vacation with my son despite said unemployment while also freaking out about how I was going to get my new house finished, and the owner of at least three newly broken ribs — well, that certainly felt like one of the lower points in my adult life.

Thankfully, a low point is what it was. The positively luminous response to my Substack meant I could finish my house and shop. A variety of new opportunities have slouched along since then. Best of all, as of yesterday I’m back on my bike and hoppin’ to it. Can’t quite muster the two-foot hop that I had last year, but I am fifty years old, and I’ll improve once I have my own little bike park set up at the farm.

I had a couple of freelance pieces show up last week; here they are.

For the wonderful people at the Washington Examiner, I covered a future with just one customer for new cars. For the just-as-wonderful people at Bicycling, I wrote about choosing a kids’ bike. This is also in “Ride 5”, the current print issue, but it’s sold out everywhere I’ve been so I don’t have a photo of the magazine.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention my Substack, currently going from strength to strength with some of the most thoughtful comments and reader anecdotes I’ve ever seen, plus a few guest contributions from ne’er-do-well Georgia bankster “Sherman McCoy”.

As always, I want to note my sincere and humble thanks to every single reader. In a business where most people couldn’t get ten readers to pay for their work individually, I’ve been overwhelmed by people who are willing to pay twenty times the price of a Motor Trend subscription to read my random thoughts. Want to read some of it for free? By all means!

34 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: Up In The Air Edition”

  1. ScottS

    Let me be the first to say that the Substack has been the most refreshing source of written commentary and dialog I have consumed in many years. I do believe that things happen for reasons that might not be readily obvious at the outset.

    Let the light shine on!


    • John Van Stry

      I agree with this (there isn’t a like button I can click) but very much this. Very happy I subscribed to Jack’s new page. Worth the money.

      • MD Streeter

        Yes, the articles themselves have been fantastic, a delicious chocolate cake. The icing, therefore, is the comments section, a thick layer of vanilla frosting (I’m a simple man and a simple cake satisfies me far better than anything fancy). TTAC used to call theirs “The Best And Brightest,” and while I’m not sure that was ever true there it certainly seems like it is over at Avoidable Contact.

        • CitationMan

          JB’s articles always make me think, and now all the wonderful commenters do the same. I’m pleasantly surprised at the number of comments. I thought that there would be more comments than RG, but the increased amount plus the quality of the comments makes the subscription that much more appealing.
          It’s great when the silver linings in life appear.

        • Jack Baruth Post author

          I’m currently spending more time reading and responding to comments than I am writing the site itself. The stories people are sharing have been alternately compelling and heart-rending.

          From a standpoint of pure narcissism, the difference in quality between what gets written under my substack stories and what was left by the Hagerty readers is like pharmaceutical heroin for the ego. Two months ago I was slogging through a dog’s breakfast of “WHY IS THIS STORY SO LONG” and “NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN HANG WITH MY GTO JUDGE REPLICA, 1 OF ONLY 2,176 BUILT IN APRIL”

        • Thomas Kreutzer

          I am in total agreement. The comments of substack have been wonderful. I feel like we have regained a lot of what we lost when verticalscope took over TTAC. So many familiar names and faces in the comments, too. It is nice to feel really at home again.

        • Eric L.

          The comments are pretty high-quality, which is why I rarely have anything to add: Someone’s likely already articulated a finer point! It’s fun to see how many people are comfortable commenting on a harder-to-crawl, more private comment wall.

          But the fact Substack won’t render all the comments with the article is driving me nuts. Even clicking to see “all” comments, not just the highest-voted comment, can’t match the sheer utility of the humble WordPress feed

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            Not to mention that, unlike WordPress, Substack has no way to show me new comments. I have to scan all the comments every single time I pull up the article. The “New First” option will only show me (some) new top-line responses to my post, not the responses in the comments.

  2. John Van Stry

    I fear that you’re right on the whole electric car debacle. California has just outlawed sales of ICE come ’35 and SEVERAL people I know, who are tech workers are now planning on selling their homes and leaving in the next two years while the getting is good.
    It’s like the decisions that our government makes nowadays are always the WORSE POSSIBLE ones.
    It’s almost like someone else is telling them what to do, isn’t it?
    Like say one of our enemies?

    Nah, it couldn’t be that, could it?

    • MD Streeter

      It could be, but I also think there’s a whole heapin’ helping of hubris to go along with it. Our elite are smarter, better people who know better than us because they are so much smarter than we are. Their way is the future, and we proles will have no choice but to follow it. Especially if it keeps us stationary in towns/cities we can’t leave because we can’t afford the EVs necessary for it and hungry because bugs are the only thing we’re allowed to eat…

    • Disinterested-Observer

      Although the 2016 election was essentially stolen by China and especially Russia, the 2020 election was the Most SecureTM in our history so I can’t imagine what you mean.

    • ScottS

      “It’s like the decisions that our government makes nowadays are always the WORSE POSSIBLE ones”

      At times it feels like some form of twisted punishment for enjoying 246 years of unparalleled prosperity and freedom. What have we done to deserve it?

        • Thomas Kreutzer

          College was supposed to be the way for the working class to climb to the next level and student loans were supposed to be one method to ensure that they could afford do it. The issue is that so many of us from the working class lacked real guidance when we were working our way through college. Since most of our parents hadn’t gone to college, we didn’t get a lot of advice, didn’t know how to set goals and didn’t make effective plans to get through in the most expeditious fashion and graduate with the most lucrative degrees.

          Colleges caught us unprepared and turned that hope into a boondoggle. They loaded us up on courses that were fun and engaging but packed little value and did not serve to prepare us for the future. Many of us left school without professional certifications that would have led to jobs or failed to do internships or make important contacts that would help us in the future. We graduated with a mountain of debt and no real entry into the better paying future we had assumed awaited all college graduates. And the thing is a lot of us worked pretty damn hard and did our best, we just didn’t know what we didn’t know. Sure, our ignorance played a role in our situation, but we were also cheated.

          Money to colleges, or students, should come with some requirements. First, everyone who goes to college on loans, grants or other public funds should be required to prepare a business plan. They should have an actual goal and a plan of study. They should comparison shop at least three different educational institutions, know what positions their degree of choice usually lead to, fill rates, starting salaries, benefits, promotion potential and how many people are still in that industry (or a closely related industry) ten and twenty years after graduation. No fucking around. If you don’t have a workable plan, no money for you. If you want to study ancient Sumerian poetry you pay for that out of pocket.

          When my son went to High School, we sat down with the full schedule and graduation requirements and planned his entire four years. He has changed some things since then, mostly to take more difficult classes and to add more math and science, but there is a plan. My oldest daughter was surprised to find out that I expect to do the same with her when we register her for High School this year, too. We will do the same thing for college. Of course, the kids may want to change course once they get there and find other things, but we will go back to the planning process every time and do a cost/benefit. The money we spend will be targeted at goals and effectively spent.
          This is an advantage I didn’t have when I rolled off my last steamship and into college but I learned.

        • LynnG

          Jack good point, colleges have no incentive to maximize return on investment, ergo, as cost increase they just pass them on to the consumer (student/parents). It works because as colleges increase cost, the amount of money for students just increases though scholarships and loans. For example, in 1980 tuition at WVU was $350.00 a year, fall and spring semester, in 2022 tuition is $8,976.00 per year. At Harvard, it is $54,200 per year Look at the top 20 or so richest colleges (in terms of endowment, with Havard No. 1). The elite private colleges are the richest, and those same schools are the ones that charge the students/parents the most.
          This chart should be footnoted, that both the University of Texas ($11,448/year tuition) and Texas A&M ($12,783/year tution) systems endowments are funded by the Permanent University Fund which are the proceeds that the state of Texas recieves from oil producers, ie: a natural resorces fee for oil taken out of the ground. Just FYI

    • LynnG

      John, a author on Substack pointed out that one of the reasons that even with the best effort by the prior administration to make government work for real people is that the gears of government agencies are populated by lizard people. Let me define: Lizard people in government are there to protect their budget and turf. Any attempt to reduce their turf and God forbid thier budget, is meet with stonewalling that would make the builders of the Great Wall of China jellous. An author on Substack put forth a multipoint plan to address this. It involved having the new incoming administration put together a force of people to drop into all the agencies on day one and if six mohths later if the agency has not be reduced to its bare functions then someone is slacking. I liked the idea as being a witness to the ability of the lizard people in agencies to fight changes posed by a new administration it would take an extreme effort. So it is not so much that some person like the Cigrette Smoking Guy from the X-Files, is telling them what to do. It is like in the electric car example, with the funding available from the US-DOT at stake and the power that goes with the appropration, preferences will be communicated and stakeholders will respond generating a feeding frenzy by the interesed parties. Just a thought.

      • hex168

        Yes. Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy:
        “In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals that the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.”

  3. Daniel J

    The more I keep reading about the EV push, the more I keep wondering that my next car purchase in the next few years might be a car I hold onto for 15 years.

    What happens when customers want to buy nothing but ICE cars at the dealership?
    What happens when dealerships can’t get rid of the inventory of their EVs?
    What happens to automakers when they’ve spent money into EVs and none or few sell?

    The Government can demand supply all they want of EVs, but that doesn’t generate demand.

    The used car market is bad now, it will only get worse.

  4. G. Whillikers

    my friend just got her catalytic convertor stolen for the second time in 18 months, she is ready for an EV now. she works at home goes in one day a week uses her car mostly for local errands.

  5. KoR

    Here’s an endorsement: Jack takes enough time to engage with his readers that I asked him a question and he wrote an entire article only a few hours later, AND it’s compelling enough that I actually took his advice and bought a friggin NC1 Miata. Which, as an aside, is a perfectly delightful little thing. It has made me fall in love with driving again.

  6. CliffG

    In terms of perverse incentives, the drive to all electric cars my be at the very top. Given that it guarantees the average age of automobiles on the road will spike even higher than today, which rises every year, it also guarantees more pollution and less safe highways. When I was in high school, late ’60s, early 70’s, even seeing a fifteen year old car in the parking lot was rare. My family was lower middle class and I never drove a car over 10 years old. Now the average age is over 15 years. If you want cleaner air and safer roads, make new cars cheaper. Since that is not even discussed, there must be other reasons. Ah, the poor/lower middle class should walk or take mass transit. That solves all of our problems.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.