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A4790784 - A Political Economy of Junk Cars on Blocks in Back Yards

Post 1

Deidzoeb

Entry: A Political Economy of Junk Cars on Blocks in Back Yards - A4790784
Author: Deidzoeb --==-- go read the Underguide A1103329 - U96220

For Your Consideration...


A4790784 - A Political Economy of Junk Cars on Blocks in Back Yards

Post 2

FordsTowel

Interesting Piece! It's always good to hear both sides of an issue though; and even more interesting hearing each sides' take on what they think goes through the other side's mind. smiley - ok

Strangely, you mention the parts used to keep the other vehicle running, which sorta belies the 'can't get other wheels' concept; especially when few parts are likely to be interchangeable (beyond the mentioned wheels) unless they are nearly identical in make and year.

And, in many parts of the USA, I'm certain that a junkyard will haul away a vehicle for the title alone. If the engine runs, it can be cherry-picked by someone who wants to buy it. There's not likely to be much demand for an old frame with some rusting body parts still hanging from it.

Setting aside the right or lack of rights, I'm not sure I see any really solid reason for wanting to hang onto the hulk, except for the concept of hoarding that you mention. This sounds more like a mindset issue. Perhaps it is even left over from the 'hills' where there were no handy junkyards.

I think more neighbors are concerned about what happens to their property values than fearing a child terrorist forming as a result of the 'car on blocks' syndrome. It is often an early sign of neighborhood decay, or triggers an assumption about such a decay.

Jobs are certainly a problem, but not just at the low end of the spectrum. I spent nearly 13 months unemployed, and I'm hardly lacking in education, skills, or energy. Nearly lost my home and car, too (nine years old and counting). But, if I needed the money, and had a hulk on blocks, I'd try to sell it to a junkyard before moaning about my right to keep it.

Still, I respect the viewpoint and the opinion. Thanks for writing it.
smiley - towel



A4790784 - A Political Economy of Junk Cars on Blocks in Back Yards

Post 3

sprout

Yes - I'm with Fords Towel on this one - cars on blocks contribute to that run down feel, like graffitti, smashed windows and the like.

Also, the way that the complexity of cars is going, its becoming more and more illusory to think you can do more than minor repairs on the car of the future. Under the bonnet of my Renault already looks like something NASA might have knocked up...

We have a sort of similar issue here in Belgium - until about forty years ago, people living in terraces like me had a little front garden that they would put flowers in. Then people spent the last thirty years ripping out the gardens and putting in drives to park the car(s) on. Now, if you still have a garden, it's illegal to rip it out, in the name of neighbourhood aesthetics (and a few other issues, like flood protection). Bourgeois considerations triumphing over utilitarian decisions? Or preservation of the collective environment? smiley - biggrin

Thanks for writing the piece - made me think. smiley - cheers

sprout


A4790784 - A Political Economy of Junk Cars on Blocks in Back Yards

Post 4

Deidzoeb

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I'd like to shore up any of my points that are factually inaccurate or shaky, but some of these details are a matter of opinion. Since it's not meant for the Edited Guide, it's okay for this to have an opinion that is not internally "balanced". "Balance" can be provided externally by a separate entry or entries from people with opposing views.

For example, I'd like to find out whether a majority or minority of junkyards provide free towing, or whether parts are generally interchangeable or too specialized to be worth saving. However even if it's true that most of them provide free towing, that's still only a part of the equation. For some people who get a working vehicle of the same model or similar model, it still might make sense for them to hoard the junked car for parts. I still think there are a lot of situations where a person without much money, who has never had enough money to maintain bourgeois standards in his personal appearance or the state of his property, will weigh the aesthetic considerations versus financial implications and will choose financial. (Of course, they blend together when local ordinances demand fines for unsightly junkers. But for other cases, they might say hang the aesthetic considerations.)

"...you mention the parts used to keep the other vehicle running, which sorta belies the 'can't get other wheels' concept..."

I might need to clarify that part. For people with two working cars, it's a setback or inconvenience when one of them breaks down. For a person with one car who has to drive to work, it can be a showstopper. I'm assuming that the majority of people in the States could not commute to work by public transportation, so after a car passes that threshold where it's not worth paying to fix it again, then I'm assuming the poor person scrambles to buy another working vehicle. I assume they don't give up on vehicles altogether, quit their job and become homeless. Maybe they go into debt or sell off something in order to afford another car. The point is not that they already have a second vehicle ready to go, but that they are presumably forced to buy another car right away. I don't think this contradicts what I said about poor people tending to own only one car.

I think the sentence in question is: "Middle-class Americans generally have enough money to pay for towing cars to a junk yard when the time seems right, and enough money to buy another vehicle that won't break down right away." Lots of qualifiers in that last section. Poor people might be able to buy another vehicle right away, but is it a new one, or a gently used one, or a severely used car that's on its last legs? I've known people who go through a series of $500 cars or $1000 cars that break down fairly quickly, or which need a lot of work as soon as they come home. All the more reason for people in those circumstances to keep their old junker for spare parts.

"If the engine runs, it can be cherry-picked by someone who wants to buy it. There's not likely to be much demand for an old frame with some rusting body parts still hanging from it."

I'm not sure if you mean the junkyard selling an engine or the original owner selling the engine. Some people might hold on to a junker for that reason, holding on to it until they can sell the engine. How long should they wait for supply and demand to synch up? In fact, I'd say that the only difference between a licensed junkyard and a private citizen who is waiting to find the right market for that semi-valuable engine, is the license. A junkyard is basically a place where they've given up on aesthetic considerations, maybe far enough out in the country where nobody cares or maybe they put a fence around it so it doesn't "blight" the neighborhood. It's still ugly, but suddenly we put "Joe's Junkyard LLC Inc" and people shrug and ignore it, whereas the same stuff on a residential property would be cause for alarm.

"I think more neighbors are concerned about what happens to their property values than fearing a child terrorist forming as a result of the 'car on blocks' syndrome. It is often an early sign of neighborhood decay, or triggers an assumption about such a decay."

Agreed, but this is because "decay" and property values are based on bourgeois aesthetic concerns. Having a junkyard next door, whether it's owned by a company or a neighbor, does not necessarily mean that crime and drugs and violence will become rampant in the area. I would argue that property values fall because people move away or try to sell cheap when they don't like the looks of other properties nearby. In Detroit and some other self-segregating areas of the US, white people moved away rapidly in the Sixties and Seventies when black people moved into their neighborhoods. Property values plummeted. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. "My house is going to be worthless if one of them moves next door! I have to move right away! I'm willing to sell cheap!" -- not realizing that their property value plummeted due to their behavior, not the neighbors.

In some other equivalent urban areas in the US, black people moved into neighborhoods, white people stayed where they were, and the property values remained the same or increased. This is somewhat apples-&-oranges. I know racial discrimination isn't exactly comparable with trashy neighborhoods, but my point is that property values are affected by personal standards of taste. If we put this much value on people's assumptions about decay or anything else, we might be repeating the problems that put Detroit in its current condition.

I know you didn't mean to say it was right or wrong, FordsTowel. But that's why I'm still pressing the opinion that personal financial considerations ought to trump bourgeois aesthetic considerations. (Or at least, we shouldn't look down our noses at a distasteful situation that naturally results from capitalism.)

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, FordsTowel and sprout. Hope I didn't sound too antagonistic here. Please keep the conversation going if I'm still not convincing. Maybe I can recycle parts of this convo into the body of the piece? smiley - blush or maybe not.

Later,
Deidzoeb


A4790784 - A Political Economy of Junk Cars on Blocks in Back Yards

Post 5

LL Waz

That provoked a few thoughts.

Having watched Scrap Heap Challenge it's amazing what can be done with scrap.

When money's short it goes very much against the grain to throw out, particularly to pay to throw out something that might still have value or be useful. People used to 'making do' don't see scrap as rubbish, they see it as potential. Old car seats = garden chairs, the wrecked car cabin = child's climbing frame. And if your neighbours do it, and your parents do it, and your grandparents did it and were used to the idea of salvage, then you're even less likely to see a scrap car in the garden as something to disapprove of.

In the UK the towing is unlikely to be free, and there may be a charge even if you get the car to the scrapyard because of the costs of disposing of certain waste these days.


revised

Post 6

Deidzoeb

I added a few paragraphs and a footnote, tweaked it here and there. Added a few more economic reasons why a person might hold on to a junker, as suggested by my step-dad. And expanded the caveat to specify that these economic reasons do not apply in all situations.

Oh, and I noticed a spot where it did sound contradictory, people unable to afford a second vehicle but they pull tires off the junked car to use on the redneck's "running vehicle." I changed that to "next running vehicle."

I've focused on the US throughout the piece, and I really want to connect this to the silly little "hillbilly" entry in the Edited Guide which specifically mentions the stereotype of vehicles on cement blocks. Except for the bit about hillbillies, should I minimize the references to Americans, make it more universal? Unfortunately I don't know if other parts of the world have these kinds of ordinances or similar junk yards, other than what sprout and LLLWaz said about Belgium and the UK.

Please let me know what you think or if I haven't answered some of your criticisms.

Thanks,
Deidzoeb


aaaaaargh!

Post 7

Deidzoeb

I need to tear out the section on property values. It's wrong. Buyer's aren't going to change their opinions of what looks good and what looks blighted, so it could impact property values.

I'll have to rethink that.


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