Written by Chuck Gruenwald on December 6, 2014

For whatever reason, a sentence or paragraph from a newspaper or magazine story or editorial that had been read at leisure many years earlier sometimes has the ability to resurface from wherever seemingly lost memories are stored, when its time is due.

Sometime in the early eighties, an issue of Popular Science, Car and Driver or Motor Trend contained an editorial about how American automobile manufacturers would eventually mirror their European counterparts, specifically in terms of model year designations losing importance as a result of fewer changes from year to year, and the transition of V8 engines from either standard equipment or an option in nearly every car category, to that of a status symbol which is reserved for only high-end luxury cars.

While the interest that is generated as every new model year approaches is still important to both buyers and sellers alike, the availability of V8 engines is approaching extinction in all but status-level cars and trucks.

In 1980s Europe, the high cost of fuel due to steep taxes had kept V8s out of reach of all but the wealthiest automobile buyers. In the present-day US, government-imposed restrictions on minimum fuel economy standards for new cars and trucks is helping accomplish what high fuel taxes had done in Europe several decades earlier.

Of course, the usual environmentalists and other people who have taken it upon themselves to act as a social conscience for everyone but themselves will demand that we justify the need for a car or truck with a “big, gas guzzling” engine, but eco-righteousness is a story for another time.

Yes, there is a difference in the standard of living among the different income levels. And yes, left-leaning politicians, bureaucrats, activists, and American citizens are more than willing to remind the rest of us of this social unfairness. However, the ability to own a V8 engine-powered vehicle, smoke a cigarette, and soon, perhaps eat a hamburger, or heat/cool a middle-class residence at a comfortable temperature – activities that members of the lower classes had once taken for granted — are future luxuries that many people may not afford due to government-legislated restrictions or taxes.

This phenomenon of trickle-up luxury highlights a huge contrast between the free market and government intrusion.

The introduction of expensive cellular phones in the 1980s created a product that was affordable to only a select few individuals who could afford such a luxury, or needed them for business, such as doctors. With the maturation of the industry due to the purchases of those wealthy first customers came phones and billing plans that made a once-privileged purchase now commonplace.

However, when some form of government entity takes it upon itself to shape the future for an entire industry or business, items and activities that once were affordable for most people, such as purchasing certain automobile engines or smoking cigarettes, degrade into privileges for those who have the disposable income to do so.

As a non-smoker, but someone who enjoys a greasy hamburger or Italian beef sandwich with cheddar cheese and sautéed green peppers as a form of temporary paradise, I find the act of taxing what is deemed unhealthy behavior in the name of forcing others to accept more socially-compliant/healthy forms of leisure, disingenuous, at best. There is no secret that the intended goal of increasing taxes on specific activities, such as smoking, is nothing more than an attempt to increase tax revenue at the expense of people who either enjoy that activity, or who are addicted.

Besides, where is the logic in nudging people into eating healthier, exercising more, and avoiding tobacco products, only to have them live long enough to fall victim to expensive or rationed health care?

As for that lunchtime decision between having to choose between a four dollar burger that is filling for, perhaps, four hours or choosing the seven dollar salad that leaves its conqueror hungry after only two hours, which choice is a better investment for an individual on a fixed income? Before criticizing a mother and/or father who fed their family at McDonald’s, there is a possibility that they want to feed their children healthier food, but they have to make that sad, difficult choice between short-term, expensive healthy eating, and long-term, cheap filler material.

And just like owning a hated V8, or enjoying a Number Twelve or two at Johnny Rockets, the secular reverends of the church of social conformity will lecture us intellectually-inferior lemmings, especially “poor people” as to why those among us who smoke have no need to.

As someone who knows members of the military and police officers who smoke, I see no reason to deprive anyone the ability to engage in a behavior that relieves stress. Yes, smoking a cigarette helps some people who are under a lot of stress, such as in a war zone, to calm down. Taxing cigarettes in the name of exploiting smokers reinforces the theory that class warfare isn’t between the rich and poor, but between the elected and the unelected.

Eventually, history repeats itself. Perhaps in thirty years, today’s junior high school students will reminisce about how at one time, V8-powered cars were toys that were once reserved only for “rich people.”



Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for