Every now and then there is a brilliant idea or product that’s actually creative (as opposed to the usual “glue tailfins on the last model” incremental creep of mediocrity). Some newfangled consumer goods really do transform the “way things are done”. Examples that made it to everyday use:
- Microwave ovens: “Welcome to the Jetson future where a common way to cook food is to jam frozen stuff in a box and blast it with space rays.”
- Automatic transmissions: “No matter how unaware you happen to be, just point the lever at D and steer between the lines, the car will take care of the rest and never stall.”
- Cell phones: “I shall pay many dollars per month to make sure I am never peacefully beyond the reach of a telemarketer. Bonus: it allows law enforcement to track me and the government gives them free to people who (unlike me) are on the “get free shit” list.”
Other ideas run aground on established interests and bureaucracies. They’re killed in their crib and never make it to prime time. Here are a few examples near and dear to my heart:
- Adaptive eyewear: (I’ve previously discussed “Crusader Product Inhibition” and how it was the Deathblow to Adaptive Eyewear.) Adaptive eyewear are cheap simple glasses that can be easily adjusted (when needed and with no special training) to any person who needs them. Stuff one in your backpack and you’ve got replacement glasses for anyone in your party. Stuff one in your truck and you’ve got a backup for anyone who needs them. Toss a set in the medicine cabinet and you’ve got a handy backup for the whole family. Opposition: Cheap glasses!?! Where’s the profit in that? It’s better to force every American to buy personalized glasses at great expense and no small hassle every few years. Also an optometrist has to tweak the prescription every time; as if spectacles are heart surgery. Result: Adaptive eyewear glasses are sold cheaply by the case to NGOs. NGOs will only distribute them to peasants in the third world. I, a rich, fat, indulged, American with money to burn can’t have what might be dropped by the crate on a village of mud huts in Africa. Apparently I’m not worthy? Ironically, I can charitably buy a crate for shipment to any one of several places of misery. Yet I cannot have one for myself.
- The Mahindra Truck: A cheap, stout, 4×4, fuel efficient, diesel, workhorse of a little truck. It takes a beating and works like a dog world wide. Opposition: A cheap truck in America? Where’s the profit in that? A fuel efficient diesel in the nation that is host to California? California is so schizophrenic about diesels that it’s easier to buy a behemoth than half the fuel efficient cars on Germany’s autobahn. Money Quote from Car and Driver’s “Mahindra Pickup Failure Shows Difficulty of Launching New Brands in the U.S.“: “You think today’s politicians are petulant? In the 1960s, we got into a trade war with European countries because of an import tax charged on American chicken. In retaliation, we established the “chicken tax,” which survives to this day. Light trucks are smacked with a whopping 25-percent tariff.” Result: I own a four ton truck that burns twice the fuel of a Mahindra, can tow an aircraft carrier, and makes Gaia weep while it shits the equivalent of a Fiat out of it’s tailpipe every time I start it. California got what it wanted; good and hard! Note: The same forces bludgeoned the cheap and fuel efficient Smart Car to death.
Now comes another transformative idea that is/was/and will always be unavailable to the theoretically free people of America. The flat pack truck. Americans can build kit tractors, “experimental” airplanes, and all the guns they can machine (or recently, print) but a flat pack truck funnels no money to middlemen so none will ever grace our roads.
It’s a shame because there’s no truck so ugly that I don’t want one. Also I’m in love with the idea of building a kit. Why should such things be limited to children’s toys and shitty Ikea furniture? I’d love a kit for a Honda Fit but I could never match the quality of the OEM. Maybe I could slap together a Ural Patrol with the quality that made Russia great? Some things just sound like fun aside from their fiscal logic and a truck in pieces (provided it’s reasonably well thought out) sounds cool.
Hat tip to In the Middle of the Right.