You Have to Buy a Rolls Royce — a short story

Posted on 2013 September 5

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I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. — James Madison

You ask why I’m standing in line to buy a Rolls Royce. Long story. Are you sure you wanna know? Actually, you know some of it already, so bear with me.

It all started back in 2013, the hundredth anniversary of the first big victories of Progressivism. Like the income tax, the creation of the Federal Reserve, stuff like that. Well, out in California they were running short of doctors, especially in the boonies, so some smart people suggested the state let nurse practitioners do basic medical procedures — giving shots and making simple diagnoses — in rural areas where doctors refused to work. After all, nurse practitioners are like sergeants to doctors’ lieutenants: they know pretty much everything the lieutenant knows, except they have more experience in the trenches. (But don’t tell that to a doctor! Or that he’s anything less than a captain.)

The California Medical Association, basically the state doctors’ guild, didn’t like this idea. For one thing, they didn’t want the competition. It’d lower costs and they wouldn’t make as much money for themselves. So they lobbied ferociously, called in some chips, and used generous campaign contributions to “persuade” legislators that nurse practitioners weren’t competent or safe to work without the supervision of an MD. And the bill died in committee.

Well, we’d seen it before, like when big airlines lobbied against deregulation because it would allow small airlines to compete. (“It’ll be unsafe!”) Or when unions fought against easing trade rules because they liked their high-paying jobs and didn’t feel like vying with the outside world for your business. (“Foreign goods are dangerous!”) Above all, it’s nice to have a Congressman in your pocket, ya know?

Anyway, maybe it was the century mark for the Progressive movement, which loves to use government not to protect us but to manage us. Or maybe it was ObamaCare — that boondoggle of a twisted mess that big insurance companies and left-wing activists both loved with a passion — which set the precedent that central government could tell us what we had to buy. But after the California doctors had their day, other big businesses got to thinking.

First it was the food industry, which argued that we should all be required to buy only the very highest quality produce and meats and so forth. The best foods were “safer”, they explained. Their campaign succeeded, and soon the weaker players got run out of town, while only the most expensive brands survived. Stouffer’s and Lean Cuisine frozen foods made it, but Banquet and Swanson got killed. Marie Callender’s had to pay hefty bribes to get past the FDA on account of the high fat content, which activist businessman (and ex-New York Mayor) Michael Bloomberg had loudly condemned at hearings. Progresso tried to have Campbell’s Soup banned, but Campbell had more friends in high places, so they’re still around. Needless to say, nearly all store-brand foods, including soups and cereals and juices and all that, got banned. So nowadays food costs a fortune. But at least the big companies and their unions are cleaning up. And we all eat only the best, safest food. Those of us who can afford to eat, that is.

Then, oddly, it was the gun lobby. They used their powerful friends in Washington to push a bill that outlawed all cheap Saturday Night Specials, requiring gun buyers to purchase only the premium, “safest” weapons. Now, you’d think gun makers would never stand for such a restriction. But they were clever. At the same time, they got a clause that guaranteed freedom to purchase such top-shelf equipment. The liberals were happy because guns were now more expensive, and the NRA and gun manufacturers were happy, since high-end weapons sales were sandboxed and protected.

Finally the auto industry got the message. Already they’d been rescued from the aftermath of the Great Recession, when the government’s foolish attempt to fight two wars and give everybody a house blew up in its face and nearly sank the American economy. So the automakers were used to being coddled. Taking a cue from the California doctors’ campaign, they lobbied to require that all car buyers purchase only top-of-the-line models, on the same grounds the doctors had used, that anything less than a premium product was “unsafe”. Smaller, more efficient cars were banned altogether, despite warnings from environmentalists, because the Big Three promised fancy solar-cell paint jobs in the near future.

The classiest vehicles just happened to have the biggest profit margin, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. So, despite a big fall-off in sales, the car companies would make out like bandits. Congress bought it — or, rather, Congress got bought — and suddenly every new purchase had to be, like, a Cadillac or a Lincoln or a Mercedes or a Lexus. Honda abandoned the American market, except for its Acura line. Other foreign manufacturers adapted, and most of them are still in business here, but they sell only luxury brands.

(Are you still with me? Hang in there, ’cause I’m almost done.)

The problem was that demand for the best cars skyrocketed, so right away there were big shortages. I put off the purchase as long as I could, but the other day my Chevy gave up the ghost and I had to buy something. I need a car now! Trouble is, the only one I can legally get — the only one that’s not sold out — is a Rolls Royce. That’s why I’m standing in this line outside their showroom. Thank God they still have a few entry-level models left. (Rolls got a ‘bye for its entire fleet and can still sell any of them.) But even the cheapest Rolls costs as much as a house! I’m gonna be making payments for decades.

I sure hope the car lasts that long. At least it’ll be really safe.

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Posted in: Fiction, Politics