You Can Keep Your Van if You Like It

The last of Volkswagen’s iconic vans will roll off a VW production line in Brazil later this year:

Safety regulations mandate that every vehicle in Brazil must have air bags and anti-lock braking systems starting in 2014, and the company says it cannot change production to meet the law.


My issue with the end of the VW van is effectively the same as an issue with the Affordable Care Act. By mandating the one-size-fits-all solution (in this case, that every car have air bags and anti-lock braking), it’s not just innovation that’s lost, it’s products that people like and are willing to buy despite not having Important Safety Features That Experts Agree Are Necessary. We unfortunately lose many choices we might like because someone else has decided we need something else even more.

Brazilian lawmakers could trumpet this safety equipment as a lifesaver while simultaneously crowing that the change would not affect commercial production of any popular products. They’d be wrong on the last part, of course, but because the cascading effects in the economics of these situations makes it a challenge for most people to piece together causes and effects, they retain plausible deniability.

In the case of the Affordable Care Act’s claimed lack of any substantive impact on every single last doggone insurance plan, when an insurer or employer makes the calculation that offering certain insurance products (or offering them to certain low-productivity employees) won’t be profitable, ACA supporters get to grouse to their fans that these companies are emblems of vanishing public spiritedness and the entrepreneur’s crass focus on the bottom line.

In any case, wouldn’t you love to drive one of these things?

A Modest Proposal for the D.C. Tattoo ‘Waiting Period’

punishmentD.C. wants you to make sure you really want that tattoo:

A mandatory 24-hour waiting period is among the provisions included in a 66-page package of draft regulations governing the “body art” industry released by the city Health Department on Friday.

If the waiting period is adopted, D.C. will become one of a very few places in the nation where a person cannot walk into a tattoo parlor and walk out with a tattoo.

I have a better idea. Let’s get tough on “impulse tattoos.” Instead of forcing people to wait a day to get the tattoo they’ve chosen, let’s turn the tables. Let’s instead make them get a tattoo that they’ll regret.

unknownYou don’t want to get your tattoo spellchecked before you have someone ink you? Fine. We’ll give you a tattoo riddled with spelling and usage errors.

You think a tattoo of “#sharknado,” “Robin Thicke Forever” or the URL of your LinkedIn profile will stand the test of time? Okay. We’ll give you a tattoo that enshrines your bad decision better than parachute pants or a Hypercolor shirt ever could.

You don’t want to spend even one day discovering if your tattoo artist can do a faithful, tasteful reproduction of your child’s face? No problem. We’ll make sure you receive a tattoo that screams, “Why didn’t I spend even one day discovering if my tattoo artist could do a faithful, tasteful reproduction of my child’s face?!”

These punitive tattoos imposed by the D.C. government will serve as a lifelong reminder of the choice they made and they’ll serve as a warning to others to seriously think about the tattoo they want before they get it.

Some might call this proposal “too much.” I think anything less is too little, too late.