THE ROBERT W. WHITAKER ARCHIVE

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RUSSIAN CARS | 2001-08-25

Every time I ride in a Russian car here I think of that horrible night I spent with a beauty.

I thought of it yesterday when we were traveling in a fine Russian van that costs only six thousand dollars brand new.

It was a fine van except for one thing: We spent about four hours traveling and two hours fixing it.

The good Russian who was driving me around had given me great hospitality in his genuine old Russian house out in a village. So please do not think I am complaining here at all.

He kept telling me that it was an excellent van, as it seemed to be, but it kept breaking down.

During that hellacious freezing night with my red-haired beauty, all I could think about was my cheap but RELIABLE little Volkswagen and how warm I would be if I'd taken it. It would not break down.

The most wildly successful cars in history have been the Model T Ford and the Volkswagen. They were indeed cheap. But they were cheap AND RELIABLE. Therein lies the whole tale.

If you can fix farm machinery and cars the way my Russian buddy and the others I was riding with can, breaking down is just a bother. For the rest of us, it is a fatal flaw.

My friends, I have just revealed unto you a Great Mystery. If I spent a thousand pages making it obscure and using lots of economicese, the sentences I just wrote could really impress people the way real Economic Theorists do.