Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Thoughts on the welfare state and the British underclass

Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Postby Gavin » 09 Apr 2012, 14:47

Among topics such as the nature of reality, the objectivity of moral values and the metaphysics of time, another mystery has preoccupied my mind for many years now, and it is this:

When I go to my local supermarket, of the people inside 9 out of 10 display tattoos. Most have either bovine or lupine expressions. None, or almost none, are dressed smartly. Most of the men resemble escaped convicts - their hair shorn short, haggard faces, a bulldog gait. Most of the woman look like prostitutes - they wear tracksuit trousers with words like "Sexy" across the buttocks, low cut tops with "Golddigga" (a brand) emblazoned across the front, since "FCUK' is now less fashionable. I look, but I see nearly no-one with an expression of intelligence, a pleasant demeanour or tasteful garb.

We know that this is the state of most towns and cities of the UK now, with the larger ones also enjoying the "vibrancy" and "enrichment" that multiculturalism has brought us (how did we ever survive without it?). But the apparently inconsistent thing is that when I walk out into the car park, during this recession, I am faced with a car show. Many of the cars are ordinary (by which I mean quite respectable, expensive vehicles), but a fair amount, perhaps 40% are luxury vehicles. We are talking about new BMWs, big 4x4s, Mercedes - many having personalised number plates.

You see them out on the roads too. Our motorways are full of gleaming black luxury vehicles, our cities full of urban "tanks" which barely fit into parking spaces and are the least suitable vehicles for London's streets. I am not envious in the least - perhaps it is a good sign that these vehicles can be purchased, but I am mystified and I am more than a little suspicious.

I used to see the same thing in London too, from the window of my house. The building would begin to shake as a large BMW passed by and man (usually a black man) would be crouching over the wheel moving to intense hardcore rap music. The car would have a personalised number plate and would be worth at least £40,000. The same person would look as though they were unlikely to be able to spell their own name.

I would joke to whoever happened to be with me: "Ah.. there we have a very hardworking chap. He must have studied for years to earn that kind of car. I dare say that is the result of many hundreds of hours of library study and a diligent attitude to work. Those things don't come easily". In reality I was mystified. I mean, can these people all be criminals, undetected?

What is going on when such evidently dim people can afford these luxury vehicles? This, while most decent people (say teachers, biologists and so on) can barely even afford to pay their rent even with good qualifications and after years of work.

I think there are explanations. First of all it is important to see that these cars are extremely important to these men in part because they are important to the kind of women whom they seek to attract. They are status symbols. It is more important to have one that to have a house, or, pretty much, anything else. Therefore in some, but not all situations, the owners will have no house, or live in a hovel, but have a luxury car.

Secondly the funds may come from crime. Probably drug dealing, theft, fraud, pimping, protection rackets or extortion.

Thirdly, many jobs which pay well do not actually demand great intelligence. In fact, intelligence can sometimes be a disadvantage since it can lead to a wandering mind. You can make a lot of money as a bricklayer or a domestic electrician after doing your City & Guilds qualification. You'll make £60 before you get out of your van if you're a London plumber, and you don't even have to care about the quality of your work because "tit for tat" (reciprocal altruism) breaks down in the anonymity of cities. There will always be some other mug waiting to employ you.

Fourthly, we must not forget about benefits. Your average Islamic hate preacher in the UK, and your average native delinquent waster with a "football team" of illegitimate children, of course "earns" far more than the average British soldier's wage for doing nothing at all. Indeed this report by Ed West details one person who would happily have killed or enslaved all of us kuffars having sponged £275k from the state including a £31k Ford Galaxy people carrier to ferry around his seven children. For this, certain people in our buerocracy should be prosecuted, I believe, at the least.

The mystery begins to be solved and leads us back, yet again, to the welfare state.

Compounding the point that one doesn't necessarily need to be very intelligent to make a lot of money are the very low cultural and intellectual interests of most British people now. To make a lot of money you would promote nightclubs or football. You might open a tanning salon or a tattoo parlour. What you would not do is learn the violin or read Milton. Nor would you study classical architecture (even with a view to having such buildings made - because nobody wants them now).

There is also the possibility that many of these people may not own their cars - they will lease them. But this doesn't fully answer the question for me as they will still need a regular income to do this leasing. They would presumably be credit checked, and in any case many probably do own their vehicles.

This "mystery" which we face every day as we go about our business, then, is quite instructive about the state of society. Perhaps I have answered my own question here, but I still certainly welcome the views and observations of others.
Gavin
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Re: Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Postby Caleb » 10 Apr 2012, 05:39

Gavin: Your observations and explanations are all good, but I think you downplay the role of readily available credit. Maybe the situation is slightly different in the U.K. (welfare and crime providing significantly more of the funds, though I don't think such nefarious activities would account for all of the issue), but in most countries (I am most familiar with Australia and the U.S.), there has been an explosion of personal debt in the past couple of decades, and people's lifestyles have been funded almost entirely by this.

This is as true of the middle class as the underclass. To some extent, this is undergoing correction in some places (though Australia is still doing fairly well economically, so its people haven't had to grasp this nettle yet), but still not nearly as much as it should. Aside from my sister, I have to scratch my head for a long time to really come up with anyone I know back in Australia (all middle class, most university educated, and many professional) who isn't simultaneously "living the life" (big car, at least one overseas trip every year, lots of electronics and new clothes, etc.) and up to their eyeballs in debt. I even struggle to think of friends of friends or relatives who are doing okay. My sister earns a lot of money, and all of her friends are similarly well-paid professionals. Yet what she tells me about their spending habits horrifies me. I am not kidding when I say that I probably earn somewhere from 10-20% of what they earn, but probably save a multiple of what they do.

Where this level of consumer/personal debt has really exploded is in the developing world. I remember reading something about major issues with credit card debt in Turkey a few years ago. Likewise, my wife's friends would best be described as urban hipsters (they studied commercial design). At face value, they look much more prosperous than her, but they are also living from pay to pay.

To get back to the topic of cars, until my father could get his car through his business, my parents always had pretty ordinary used cars right through my youth. My mother eventually bought a Mercedes Benz in her fifties, I guess, but at that point, my parents were quite wealthy. I've never paid more than about $3,000 for a car either, and the car we recently bought (a Ford Festiva) here in Taiwan cost us about $1,700. I'm actually really opposed to the concept of buying expensive cars, especially anything new (due to depreciation), for anyone who isn't quite wealthy simply because they're such money pits. They're a liability, not an asset, because they cost you money (including the afore-mentioned depreciation). Also, I subscribe to the 75-20-5 principle. Most people have way too much car.
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Re: Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Postby Andrea » 10 Apr 2012, 17:57

Hi, I agree with Caleb - the availability of ready credit is no doubt one of the factors which enable these types of people to get these kinds of vehicles. Where once these cars were status symbols showing either hard work, years of study (as Gavin said to his friends) they are not as potent a symbol now, in my opinion.

The availability with which credit can be obtained is one the worst things that has hit our economy. People splashed out goods, vacations, restaurant outings and used credit cards. It is all part of the "live for the moment" lifestyle, which I do not agree with. The most responsible way to live is to plan for the future and save. It never makes sense to spend money you don't have or have no means of repaying. Goods formerly labelled "luxury" are bought by people outside the wealthy economic bracket - a rudimentary look through which companies are profiting during this recession will indicate that the so-called "luxury" goods have sky-rocketed, whereas regular goods have declined. I believe this is down to our society being more interested in appearances than in content.

On a personal note, a member of my immediate family was often driving the most expensive vehicles without making a sufficiently high income to be able to lease, let alone purchase these vehicles. These cars were on lease and this individual was often late with payments, and sometimes the vehicles were repossessed, but only a few days later there would be a brand new luxury car from another dealer.

I asked my amiable postman in London how such people could afford these cars and he said, "It's all drugs - they deal the drugs and get these cars." I believe there is a great deal of truth in what he said.

That being said, I would not be concerned with the women such vehicles attract- for in my experience, they are not the types of women to respect; for they are easily bought by visions of wealth. I personally find conspicuous consumption a rather loathesome aspect of society, for I have never been comfortable with extreme importance being placed on the superficial.
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Re: Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Postby Gavin » 10 Apr 2012, 18:38

I agree, Caleb (and Andrea) - credit no doubt plays a role. However, we are already in the recession. Banks have largely locked down now - they're denying credit and repossessing where they can. Yet still there appears to be a fair amount of wealth about: everybody has their plasma screen TV and iPhone and many people, apparently, one of these cars.

I can only conclude that many people, for the kinds of reasons I suggested in the original post, are able to service the debts with which they live (and no doubt those debts are high, and most people have them). They're not yet having to trade in that BMW for the Ford Fiesta, because they can meet repayments.
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Re: Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Postby Caleb » 11 Apr 2012, 02:34

Gavin: That's probably the case then, if indeed banks are really clamping down that much. For a bank though, their incentives are often perverse in that it may not necessarily be great for them to have "responsible" customers. The person who has a credit card and rarely uses it, and pays it off in full each month so he doesn't pay interest, is a terrible customer. Sure, the bank extracts some nominal fees from such a person, but those are small potatoes.

However, in terms of profitability, the person a bank wants is the person who maintains a constant level of debt but can just keep his head above water. Such a person pays a lot of interest, plus additional fees.

In fact, the incentives are often so perverse that it may only be necessary for such a person to be able to keep his head above water for the earliest part of the debt (because that's when debt servicing is going mostly towards interest payments, which is where a bank makes its money, rather than paying off the principal). If they default after that, the bank will still get the principal back when it sells the car at auction or whatever they do (and in this respect, a car's resale value is probably a lot more predictable than that of a house in a collapsed market, plus a car is quicker to sell), but has already made its profit.
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Re: Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Postby Michael » 11 Apr 2012, 21:40

The New York Times reports that lending to people with damaged credit has begun again, at least in the United States.

I too am astounded, and more than a little disgusted, by people who live the high life on credit. I would like to say that it strikes me as irrational, but if people are willing to lend you large amounts of money with only minimal repercussions for failure to repay (repossession, increased interest rates) then borrowing vast sums of money is rational. The problem I have is that it is not virtuous - it demonstrates a lack of temperance, the inability to moderate one's desires, as well as a terrible lack of wisdom, of knowing what is actually good for us in life and what is merely glittery distraction.
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Re: Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Postby Caleb » 12 Apr 2012, 01:16

Michael: Indeed. It is rational because they won't have to pay it back. The banks won't have to pay it back. They've been bailed out before. No one has learnt anything from the GFC if they're back at it this soon. Usually it takes a generation for the financial idiocy to start again and the next recession.

You're right that it represents a much deeper flaw in the character of individuals. I think it actually represents a much deeper flaw in the character of the culture.
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Re: Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Postby Mike » 12 Apr 2012, 01:22

Caleb wrote:Michael: Indeed. It is rational because they won't have to pay it back. The banks won't have to pay it back. They've been bailed out before. No one has learnt anything from the GFC if they're back at it this soon. Usually it takes a generation for the financial idiocy to start again and the next recession.


They were back at it straight away once they were bailed, which sickens me. What was interesting was that the OWS movement and its various poser copy-and-paste versions elsewhere in the world didn't get going until nearly two years afterwards. What did they think at the time? That Wall Street would suddenly turn over a new leaf? It would take astonishing naivety to believe that.

And typically, when they did begin protesting, they directed their protests 180 degrees in the wrong direction.
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Re: Expensive cars, unlikely owners

Postby Caleb » 12 Apr 2012, 03:34

Mike: The U.S. has virtually zero credibility anywhere else in the world now. In the past decade or so, we've witnessed a farce of an election (I don't know who really won between Bush or Gore, but the following six weeks, or however long it took to sort it out, became an absolute circus), a completely bogus war (if they'd gone about it differently, there might have been support for going into Iraq, but the WMD issue really hurt them, as did all the follow up issues with torture and so on), and then the GFC. The U.S. used to lecture other countries on how to behave, but why would anyone listen now? The place is a complete shambles in ethical terms.
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