November 27, 2014

When it comes to cars most of us are in the business of preening like peacocks

Posted in Irish Independent · 94 comments ·

The other morning in a suburban car park my son and his cousin saw a Lotus. They squealed and ogled at the thing. As someone who has no real interest in cars, this behaviour came as a bit of a surprise but it got me thinking about why we buy certain things.

What might have been going on in the guy’s head when he bought such a motor?

In evolutionary anthropology there is a fascinating theory called “signalling”. This focuses on how the male of the species signals to potential mates that he has better genes than the rest. Therefore, the choosy female should prefer him to other lads if she wants strong children.

So important is the quality of the female to animals, the theory contends that certain animals will have, over thousands of years, developed an attribute which attracts the female, but may be actually harmful to the everyday life of the male – when he is not thinking of getting his leg over! This is called a “costly signal”.

The classic example of a costly signal is the peacock’s tail. The quality of the tail – its size, colour, luminosity, and symmetry – serves as a signal of the quality of the peacock’s genes to potential peahens!

But a high-quality tail is costly because it takes so much energy and resources to grow and maintain such a resplendent ornament, which is useless and, maybe even detrimental in other aspects of a peacock’s life.

A high-quality tail is an signal of good genes because only those peacocks who are in good health and who have the traits required to survive and acquire abundant supplies of food, can afford to waste their energy and resources to grow and maintain this showy and nutritionally costly ornament

The tail is almost useless in every other area but the male peacock is signalling to the women “Hey babe, check out my massive tail and if you think this is big, just imagine what shape my ‘you-know-what is in’”!

Let’s now return to economics.

Signalling is very important in human behaviour. We all know this, but sometimes don’t like to admit it. We buy stuff that we know sends out all sorts of signals about the type of people we are or want to be.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the cars we drive.

Long ago, cars ceased to be valued on the basis of their actual functional ability – getting you from A to B. All cars get you from A to B. Granted, there are issues of fuel consumption and price, but the battle in certain areas of the car market is a signalling one.

What does the car say about me?

It is also a very costly signal because, like the peacock’s tail, a new car is also costly to maintain – a burden amplified because a new car’s value depreciates immediately.

Yet, as a signalling device a new car is extraordinarily important.

In many cases, your choice of car isn’t just a signal screaming “I like that” it is also signalling “I am like that”.

It signals that you are part of this tribe. You are a Mercedes or and Audi or Mini type of person.

A Mercedes signals something different to a Fiat, which signals something different to a VW or a Dacia.

All of these decisions are clear signals that tell the world the type of person you are. The car is your tail and this type of analysis is the soft psychological spot occupied by advertising agencies that try to frame these signals and make peoples’ minds up for them.

Most of us argue that we are immune to these brand signals, but are we?

Another crucial signal is when we bought the car and how new it is. Obviously the newer and more upscale the car, the richer we are and if that’s your thing as a potential mate, the more eligible we are.

This is where the government comes in because by introducing the annual license plate years ago, it profoundly changed people’s buying behaviour. It caused people to buy in the early part of the year and stop buying as the year went on, postponing the purchase until the New Year when the car could be new and the person could signal

“Hey look, I just bought a car.”

What’s the point of buying a 2014 car in December if people thought you bought it in January and it was therefore, not brand, spanking new? As a result, you will hold off until January when you have a bragging window of a few months to signal your wealth or income!

You think I am making this up?

I am not!

Just look at the pattern of car buying in Ireland. Look at the reality. Historically 65pc of the registrations were done in the first quarter. That’s the signalling for you.

If you doubted the extent of signaling and how important bragging is to us, consider the introduction of another new car registration date in July, introduced last year, 2013, for the first time.

The introduction of the new date – effectively splitting the year in half give an extra opportunity to brag, to signal and, it has been amazingly successful.

July used to be a dead month for car sales as we know from the sales results for 2012. Now July is the second largest month in the motor sales calendar and this second registration peak has helped boost registrations and reduce reliance of the market on the first quarter.

What is going on?

The peacock is showing his resplendent tail!

New car registrations, like much of the rest of the economy, are moving ahead rapidly. Take time to look around you and see that we are all susceptible to signaling – even if we would not like to ‘fess up to it!

  1. Good am. I still preen over my 1996 merc 320E. It looks new and runs as well as ever. Looks good, runs good and by golly makes me feel good.

    • I am that kind if guy. Made of the best. Durable, functional, smart and good looking long lasting and always in fashion. I can tell that is me without the aid of the electric mirror. I just glance at my car now and then.
      I am so fond of it I often sleep in it. Yes I am a practical kind of guy too.

      • cyberjohn

        Hands up,”Who would be seen with a Dunnes Stores packet of crisps and a tesco bottle of cola at their desk during lunch hour?.” Brands are important because they too are tails. This is why marketing is so important. People want to be seen with branded goods. It helps their self-esteem. As soon as kids are old enough to recognise brands they must not be seen with anything else.

        • cyberjohn

          P.s. In the comfort and privacy of ones own home brands are meaningless. A dunnes packet of crisps is as good as tayto. The only risk is that someone else sees all the yellow packs in ones trolley at the checkout. Pride is the worlds most frequently broken ten commandment.

          • michaelcoughlan

            Pride is one of the seven deadly sins not a commandment. The seventh sin in fact.

          • DB4545

            But an expensive car doesn’t indicate wealth. It signals debt not wealth and that you’ve been suckered into debt by buying a fast depreciating asset and that you are managing you’re resources very inefficiently. Sam Walton of Walmart drove an old pickup. I’m aware of one D4 resident sitting on millions who drives an old volvo estate. Wealthy people don’t drive flash cars, they don’t need to,flash cars are for the socially insecure.

          • michaelcoughlan


      • Ducklady

        The older I get the more I value quality. I’ve heard it said the wealthy don’t shop, they invest. I’m willing to cheap it out on a lot of things but when I want something to last I know there’s a point at which I’m going to have to Pay the Man. I try to do my best at that.

        Not being attached to a particular vehicle at the point of sale is a huge asset when you’re at a dealership. I usually have two or three cars in which I’m interested. I always know what total price I’m willing to pay long before I go in. I have the financing lined up or the money in hand. I’m not willing to engage in irrelevant discussions about monthly payments or anything besides the final price.

        If a Ford salesperson starts to waste my time on dealership games I stand up and say “I’m off to the Chevy dealership. They have a comparable model. I’ll buy from whoever doesn’t waste my time.”

        Basically I hate shopping so I’ve pretty much picked out what I want and what I’ll pay before I walk in the door. Actually, I’ve been known to buy a car over the phone from a dealer who totally understood this sale would be quick, less lucrative and painless or time consuming, less lucrative and annoying to both parties. That car lasted over a dozen years.

    • Safe driving Tony, but cars don’t run on gold dontcha know?!

      Happy Birthday 2 days ago – same birthday as my Dad who would have been 74 but he died in 2012.

      Thanks for recent comments, just been too busy to get on here although have been reading as much as I can!

      • Interesting debate that I was aware ofbut listening to the clip I was struck by the fact that no solution tendered required the state to control its own currency WITHOUT the assistance of a central bank.

        Having a committee, banker of politician or anyone else deciding to increase of decrease the money supply only leads to disastrous results. The money supply must remain static. There is always enough in existence to do the job. Increasing the money supply is the very definition of inflation.

        Non of the debaters exhibited the vital knowledge to solve the monetary problem. Admittedly the debate is a start in the right direction.

  2. Salata Lamborghini

    The signal I usually receive is ‘hunger’ and the colours are found in good Italian Salads. I often prefer the chassis to be Green as in Epinard or yellow as in Penne . I like the body works to show many coulours Courgettes , Fromage , and plus de Poisson .

    The speed is very important and huile de moutarde ou basilic makes it worthwhile.

    The Place must be Monaco


    There is very few things that get more attention than the woman who pulls up in a 142, i.e. latest model, of anything when dropping her little gifts to the world off at the school gate. It has immediate effect on the other women and it spreads like wildfire. “Well there is obviously no recession in that house” etc etc. And while I cant afford a new car, I can barley afford eeping my 04 Fiat on the road, I most certainly would by a new one if I could afford it. Not only to piss the neighbors off, which is a bit of sport in and of itself, but the feel and smell of a new set of wheels is one of the greatest joys in life. That said I come from a country where car culture is ingrained in your DNA. Ive owned more cars and motorcycles than just about anyone I know, and I miss the inexpensive offering of a USA dealers lot. But for now I will continue to keep the old banger on the road until it is necessary to trade up, given my champagne taste and beer pocket book, it will probably be an 08 Fiat when the time comes!

  4. McGoo

    As someone who really does just see cars as a machine to get from A to B, all this “costly signalling” stuff works fantastically in my favour. It means that perfectly good, fully functional transport machinery is available to at very low prices, often free of charge, simply because it’s over 10 years old or is covered in dents and scratches. So what? But all those stupid “preening peacocks” won’t be seen in it, so it’s all mine for pennies.
    Plus, I have wonderful peace of mind! I am normally the last owner of my cars, so I don’t have to worry about resale value. Another scratch or dent? Who cares? Stolen or written off? I can replace it with the cash in my wallet. Ferrari in the fast lane? Unless he’s willing to seriously break the speed limit, I can sit on his tail in my banger and ruin his very costly signalling :-) And best of all – I have no debt!! That’s what expensive cars really signal – “I am hocked up to the eyeballs in order to compensate for something else”!

    • Ducklady

      I’m moving to Ireland in March or April 2015. This article is of great interest to me because we’ll need to be buying a car. We’re interested in a used Toyota Aygo at the moment. We can hold out for a bit before buying so we will be able to time our purchase.

      Do you or anyone else here have any suggestions in that regard? Based on the info in the article I’m thinking June or December would be the best times in terms of prices. But does this timing business hold for used vehicles or is it mainly useful in regards to purchases of new cars?

      I live in the land of trophy houses, by the way. My husband and I are constantly amazed by them. What on earth do people do in them, anyway? They’re so huge! And most families here have only a few kids. And where on earth do they get that kind of money? What do they do for a living, we wonder. And why would anyone sign up for the burden of caring for a huge place? They do look nice, though. Really.

      We usually end up reminding ourselves that we hate debt and tend to save up for most purchases so that’s how we got a smaller place. We bought a small four-room cottage because that’s all we need and the lower price enabled us to pay off the mortgage in 7 years instead of 30. Also, there will always be a market for those kinds of houses. People will always want to get into the market or downsize upon retirement.

      Anyway, now we’re going to need to buy a small car to get us back and forth in Waterford. Any and all advice is welcome.

      • Try

        My daughter was successful purchasing a mini cooper .Of course always remember as a standard precaution ‘ let the buyer beware’.

        • Ducklady

          Thank you, Mr. Allen. I think I’ll start reading Done Deal regularly to see if there’s any seasonal pattern to the car prices.

          • McGoo

            My rules for buying a cheap car:
            1. Buy privately. Dealers charge crazy prices and add no value.
            2. Buy locally. Travelling a long distance or getting the vendor to travel to you creates a feeling of obligation to buy. Always be prepared to walk away.
            3. Wear old clothes and bring a torch (flashlight) and a cloth (to wipe dirty hands).
            4. The age of the car does not matter. The mileage matters. I don’t touch anything over 100,000 miles.
            5. Test that EVERYTHING works. Every door lock. Every window. Every light. If the vendor says it will be cheap or easy to fix, ask yourself, why hasn’t he fixed it then?
            6. Insist on the phone that the engine be cold when you arrive. Put your hand on it. If it’s not cold, walk away.
            7. Look under the car for leaks. Any leaks, walk away.
            8. Start the engine. Any smoke, walk away.
            9. Take it for a test drive:
            9.1. Press the brake, without pressing the clutch. The engine should stall. If it doesn’t, the clutch is slipping. Walk away.
            9.2. Try to drive away without releasing the handbrake. If you can, handbrake is slipping. Acceptable, but will cost some money to fix.
            9.3 Do a full-lock U-turn in each direction. Any clunking noise – walk away.
            9.4 If you see a speed-bump, drive over it at about 10mph. Any clunking noise – walk away.
            9.5 Get up to about 30mph, take your hands off the steering wheel, and slam on the brakes. Car should stop in a straight line. If it pulls sharply one way – acceptable but expensive to fix.
            9.6 Get up to at least 65mph. If the car vibrates or pulls to one side – walk away.
            10. Look at the tax disk. This will tell you how much read tax is going to cost for this car. For bigger cars it can be frightening.
            11. Never buy a car in Ireland without getting an insurance quote. That can also be frightening.
            12. The vendor will probably expect to be paid in cash.

          • Ducklady

            Mr. MGoo,
            That is such an amazingly helpful list, no matter where you live. Thank you very, very much. Some of those items I knew, some I never would think of.

      • Bamboo

        Where are you at the moment?

        • Ducklady

          New England, in the USA. I’ve also noticed the trophy houses in Ireland as part of the now collapsed boom.

          Three things strike me about them, on both sides of the ocean:
          1) the sheer size
          2) the monotonous sameness in the architecture. The architecture in the US is particularly egregious, either just a giant plain block plunked down on a plot of land or a mash up of conflicting architectural doodads. The houses are *always* described in our local Sunday supplement as “colonial” here, no matter what they look like–or how far they are from the actual small homes of the early settlers.
          3) the timing of construction of these big place, often just as the children are leaving the home. Do these people think their kids will be coming back to establish a Kennedyesque compound? Not likely.

          My guess is they’re dieseling. They go for decades planning their dream house. When they can finally afford it they simply don’t notice one kid is at college and the next nearing high school graduation. They end up in an empty house with a big mortgage right before they need to start winding down and saving up that $250K we’re told we’ll need for medical care alone in the US.

          • McGoo

            I’m not sure about the sates, but in Ireland there is no capital gain tax on profit made on selling your primary private residence. And, until recently, there was no property tax. This incentivised everyone to live in the most expensive house possible, even it they didn’t need the space, in order to maximise their tax-free profit.

      • Good luck with your move but why would you want to exchange New England for Waterford?! I know where I’d rather be.

        • With no Habeas Corpus, where you can disappear in the middle of the night not to be seen again if accused of being an enemy of the state! The war on terror is aimed at the average citizen. The rule of law is being destroyed. The constitution is being eroded.

          • Ducklady

            Not to mention, Mr. Brogan, a bone-deep shame at this country’s behaviour in the world, the proliferation of guns and a general tone of narcissism and division.

            We just spent a month lining up the details for our move: GP, vet, rent of a house, etc. I’d lived in Ireland and NI before, years ago. At that time health care in the US was much different than it is now. Of course the topic of the Irish medical system cam up frequently.

            After a month of absorbing the Irish attitude towards health care (mainly that sick people actually deserve it) I was increasingly appalled to hear the online comments from the US, knowing they reflect the general attitude. The two countries both have their problems in delivery, but the underlying difference in attitude is profound and disturbing. When you view sick people as economic opportunities… it changes things more than you realize.

            I live in the Richest Country in the World, yet we begrudge even our own citizens the basics others take for granted. I live in the safest country in the world (well, unless we seriously piss off Canada), protected on two sides by large oceans. Yet we are awash in guns and paranoia.

            Plus I hate snow. I really do.

        • Ducklady

          In a word: snow. I hate the stuff. Right now most of my county is without power, thanks to a heavy, wet fall of a foot. This is only the beginning of our five-month white imprisonment.

          There are lots of other reasons, but the climate tops the list. My family in Ireland complain about the weather in Mayo but I always remind them you never have to shovel rain.

          • Fair enough. You could always move to a more southerly location in the US. Anyway, was just curious.

          • Ducklady

            Yes, Mr. Byrne. And we have considered that option. But culturally I am a New Englander through and through who was raised in a home of Irish immigrants/emigrants so I can’t see myself enjoying southern US. I love New England in summer. If they’d heat Canada I’d move there, but they don’t seem to have that on their dance card. I feel at home in Ireland (although I’m straddling two cultures, of course) and have citizenship so Ireland it is. I even like the overcooked cabbage, though I do not tell my trendy Dublin friends that, of course.

          • Jill Kerby

            I certainly share your aversion to snow. Having lived here for nearly 35 years(ex-Montrealer) we’re very lucky in having such a wonderfully temperate climate. More sunshine would be welcome, even on the sunnier east coast.

            Ireland is an interesting choice for retirement: Our personal tax rates – and stealth taxes – are very high if you are planning to work or revert income here. It’s also very important that you get really good tax advice as the US and Irish systems are very different and Americans are liable to increasingly intrusive FATCA and FIBAR regulations. You might want to find out how your Irish bank will deal with your accounts. You should also review your wills and how inheritance tax will be calculated on assets in both countries.

            That said, the health care system is under pressure, but medical care is accessible and affordable, especially with a good private health insurance plan and a good GP (who are also very affordable compared to American fees.)

            The primary roads are much improved, the quality and safety of food is high and we have some of the most wonderful sports to play and watch all year round. Radio is terrific, TV not so much, but who watches the networks anymore?

            I miss watching ice hockey and going skating but not enough to return to six month winters and Singaporean-like summer humidity. I do miss the Autumn colours.

            It isn’t fair to compare the huge wealth and inherent stability Canada to Ireland. But for all the bitching I do about this country (and especially the endless economic booms and bust) I have built a happy, prosperous life here and it is my beloved home. I hope your move works out well for you…

          • Ducklady

            OMG, Ms. Kerby,
            What a great posting. Thank you. I love Montreal, by the way, one of my favourite cities.

            Yes, we are retiring there. We found a GP in October and were amazed at how low the price of an office visit is. The food in Waterford is fresh, local, inexpensive (if you cook like I do) and abundant. I’ve already found my butcher and green grocer. I make a point of seeking out local foods and am happy to be cooking with Irish carrots (the best), potatoes and cabbage again.

            Since I lived in Ireland 40 years ago I missed the boom and am basically in a time warp that does not include supermarkets and a lot of other facets of modern life. I work with farmers here in New England so I’m kind of off the grid here also.

            My husband is a CPA in the US so he’s pretty familiar with FATCA and FBAR. He actually may try to do US taxes for ex-pats in Ireland after our move. Or not. There comes a point when you’re ready to put down your pencil.

            Our income will be mostly Social Security. I work as a bookkeeper very part time and was able to do the job remotely during our last visit of a month, a total of 12 or so hours. I’ll do that until I finish training my boss to do my job. I write a newsletter for farmers and can do a lot of that remotely also, but I need to sell more ads to pay for someone to do the on-the-ground photography and farm profiles. Again, the time is coming when I’ll want to put down my pencil. We’ve both been working since we were teenagers.

            Everyone complains endlessly about the Irish medical system. But when we asked specifically, everyone in our area of Waterford was quite happy with their care. We currently pay $400 (about 360 Euro) per month for insurance in the US. I doubt we’ll be eligible for private insurance in Ireland (well, I will be because I’m a citizen) so we’ll have to be self insured for outpatient and public for any (god forbid) inpatient.

            We found a GP we really like and he’s arranged for a cardiologist for my husband. It was a huge relief to once again have a GP who is actually a partner again. That’s not really allowed any more in our area. The GPs here are all owned by a corporatized hospital so you no longer interacting with a person, you are interacting with policies and algorithms.

            We do need to figure out the will stuff. Our US will needs updating and we’re clueless about the Irish system or which one prevails in the event of our deaths. We don’t have children so in a way it really doesn’t matter what happens to our worldly goods as long as we don’t leave a mess for others to tidy up.

            THANK YOU for understanding how an uncongenial climate can, over time, suck the joy out of life. As I type this I am surrounded by a foot of heavy, wet snow that needs to be shoveled. We need to haul in wood. Most people in our state are without power and have been so for several days. Yes, it’s beautiful. And it sucks lemons. I can enjoy snow on a Christmas card. I’ve done enough of that in person, thank you, and cannot wait to return to mostly snowless Ireland.

            Thank you.

  5. CorkPlasticPaddy

    Bullshit! Even if I won the Lotto I wouldn’t buy any of the so-called ‘status symbols’! I like a car that is functional while at the same time being practical in getting you from A to B. All the ballyhoo about buying a certain make and model of car is just bullshit. It just goes to show that there’s a ‘sucker’ born every minute.

    Give me the old, trusty Ford Fiesta any day!!

  6. StephenKenny

    It’s be interesting to know what proportion are of German origin. As this shadow Tiger inflates, I look forward to the nostalgia of breakfast roll man, bouncy castles, and the German autos.

    Will it, this time, it’ll be a sign of the glorious sunny uplands rather than a warning of impending trouble.

  7. mishco

    Kia for mia. As my wife is Korean I’m signalling my faithfulness. How many of you chaps can do the same?

  8. michaelcoughlan


    “Obviously the newer and more upscale the car, the richer we are”

    Really? Not if you borrowed up to mebollicks to buy it!

    I drive a 1998 1.8 20v sport passat. Beautiful car to drive. Labour of love to keep going but not too onerous. Paid cash of 8k 10 years ago and could still get 1k if I sold it now.

    To answer the question you ask at the end: the country is signalling the same madness in purchasing cars with borrowed money as the head cases gazumping properties with cash purchases in Dublin.

    It seems Brogan myself and others send a signal which only someone with depth in their personality can see. A purchaser clued in enough not to have his ass blowing in the wind when everything goes balubas shortly unlike some people with personalities shallower than some of the potholes they drive their leveraged wasting chattels into.

    Excellent article.

  9. gcy_1980

    Velben and the consumer society…I’d always hoped our fairer opposite sex would look through all the material stuff…but I drive a 2001 Nissian Primera and use an even older phone…it doesn’t even have a camera…I guess in marketing language I am a “laggard”…
    And of course I’m single…such is life…:)

  10. McGoo

    > hoped our fairer opposite sex would look through all the material stuff.

    Is that irony or naivety? Either way, it nearly made me snort coffee out my nose!

    • cwallace

      Growing up, one of the parent’s mantras was “your only paying extra for the brand”. I’ve lived with that, particularly for clothes and supermarket goods, but after reading David’s article must confess to having gone down the expensive German car route.

      There are other economic factors at play here, e.g. there is a higher resale value for a newer registration car, but I suspect there is a good deal of ‘Peacocks feather’ is in the mix. Flash houses are usually bought as a couple, so there is less signaling here to a potential mate, and more to the rest of society.

      It was interesting to see in Japan, during the recession, it became fashionable to be seen to be getting a bargain; think of whipping out your Aldi ‘bag for life’ at the Brown Thomas checkout!

      There is more on the “Peacock Problem” here, with the academic references.

      • Colin

        I’ve noticed both male and female singletons taking out a mortgage (with some help from Mammy and Daddy of course) for buying a house, getting a foot on the property ladder and going out on their own. This pushed up the demand in the 2002-2007 period, which added fuel to the fire. The funny thing is, owning your own property should theoretically make you a better catch, but most of these singletons I know remain single. Maybe they are paranoid that each suitor is only after them for their house? Maybe this clouds their judgement when it come to choosing a mate (from an ever decreasingly sized pool of prospectors). Single female primary school teachers come to mind right now in particular.

        ‘Be careful what you wish for, as it may come true’

        • Ducklady

          It’s also possible that the singles in question tired of waiting for Mr/Miss/Ms Right for their lives to start, got their own place and are in no hurry whatsoever to get married.

          • Colin

            No. You will find that many singles bought houses in their mid 20s, an age band not associated with being ‘left on the shelf’. More a case of ‘Oooooh, look at me!!! I own my own house, I’m a winner, not like you losers paying dead money renting!’.

          • Ducklady

            Ah, you need some better friends, Colin. Are you in the Dublin area? I love Dublin a lot, worked there also. But I’m noticing more and more that it seems quite competitive in the way you describe. I have little patience for that sort of one upsmanship.

            As for owning a home. We done that for over 36 years and I’ve found it to be a burden more than a pleasure. I was always a happy little renter, as long as I had a garden plot. I love our wee home but I don’t love the burden on constant maintenance. You really do get something for your rent–a place to live. If you want to invest, try the stock market.

            Or a woodlot. Trees in my area grow at a steady 3% a year and the taxes are low on unoccupied land. In Ireland I hear they grow more like 7-8%. Better than my bank CDs are doing now or stocks during the downturn. It’s a long term investment, but so is a house.

          • Colin

            Ducky, I wouldn’t live in Dublin even if you paid me a salary of €200k a year plus expenses as a cushy quango head honcho.

            Friends come and go. They key is being open to forming new and varied friendships, even some which may appear unlikely.

  11. Mike Lucey

    What I find amusing about many Irish people when it comes to cars is that they currently glance at the reg plate to determine if its a new or old car. Prior to the introduction of the year figure on reg plates it was more difficult to determine the age of the car as the models really don’t change that much in most cases.

    I’m not sure who came up with the idea for the current style of reg plates but I think it certainly helped with car sales. I suppose Gov had the final say but they should have had a bit more foresight as car purchase money for the most part goes outside the Irish economy.

    Personalized plates might be another money spinner for Gov as there could be a good number of Irish drivers that would be interested in getting good value car wise and at the same time not having comments made on the age of the car.

    Most folks now really don’t give a damn about the age of the car provided its going well. I would even suggest that many that can afford to upgrade are not doing so as regularly in order not the be seen as too well off.

  12. Deco

    The CSO average earnings statistics indicates that the average employee, is seeing their earnings decrease.

    In other words, on average nobody is finding new cars (or indeed older cars) affordable.

    Therefore the sentiments expressed are constrained by a grinding reality – unless the average wage earner can find a way of reducing their outflows. And it is state policy (of an expanding, unrelenting, unreserved, aggressive institutional state colossus) to prevent this. And this is clearly the most effective state policy of the entire state system. The state is highly effective at constraining people.

    Therefore, as per the context, I detect that outside of certain professions, (which tend to predominate in the same district of every urban area with more than 5K residents) the above article is “beyond the means”.

    Though you might see such peacock behaviour in the form of new clothes, runners, etc….

  13. Bamboo

    David, Isn’t this an old topic that we’ve heard so often? Or am I getting old?

    • Bamboo

      Certain numbers are an absolute no no among the Chinese culture. Estate agents are finding it impossible to sell a property with a 4 in the house address in Singaore or Malaysia. The number 3 is also a very sought after number and is often found in car regs. If you can’t buy a car reg with a 3 in it then you are most likely doomed.
      I wonder how many Chinese people own property in Dublin 4. 2013 registration is most likely a very popular year among the Chinese community.

      It looks that if it suits the industry the Irish people are all of a sudden to blame for the superstitious number 13. This is a very clever move by the car sellers. I guess when it comes to 2016 Centenary there will be a digit added to each month and that will be for the foreseeable future.

  14. Colin

    I would feel sorry for the guy who pulled his bird while having his brand new wheels centre stage in the courtship. When things progress and eventually she gets her feet in under the table, she will want a brand new kitchen (with island of course), upgraded bathroom, all the latest mod cons etc…… and her own brand new little motor for herself. All this becomes a lot of hard work to maintain.

    • Ducklady

      Don’t most women work nowadays? The days of the Sugar Daddy are pretty much over, unless you want to be a trophy wife.

      • Colin

        Well now ducky, working women like Donna Hartnett are getting fed up having to work AND raise a family. She will start the ball rolling to end this madness. They now realise they cannot do it all.

        • Ducklady

          Quite correct, Colin. We cannot. But I’m not sure the solution is simply going back home, especially as long as no accommodations are made for that sort of career path. Women have been ping ponging in and out of the labour force since WWII.

          It will require a great deal of effort and accommodation on the part of individual men and woman and on a corporate and governmental level to pull off anything that resembles some sort of equitable division of labour and goods in the work/home/child bearing and rearing arena. Can we do that? I don’t know.

          I apologize if I was snarky earlier. We’ve had a lovely dose of the flu here, not that it’s much of an excuse. But it has gotten pretty old and caused my skin to be thinner than usual.

          • I have thought for a long time that we do not want the state involved in inculcating morals and attitudes in our children. That means no state sponsored day care and much less time in school where the primary objective is Socialization.
            That leaves us to look after our own which we have largely abandoned. This is causing a breakdown in society and a problem of loss of culture and sense of belonging.
            Abandoning our children to the morals and mores of others is abandonment of our civilization.
            Debt and interest is the overall cause of this happening. this is the result of the current monetary system which indebts and enslaves each person. It is the reason that 2.5 family incomes are required to survive economically.
            It means nobody at home as all are working. our children handed over to strangers and alienated.

            If the Swiss vote yes to Sunday’s referenda questions then we just might start on the road to recovery. If not, as a functioning society we are doomed,controlled and lead into economic serfdom by the banking family elites.

            We must remove the central bankers, and return to sound money principles. If we can do this then we can really preen ourselves
            in congratulations for becoming a cohesive society once again.

  15. Most people are all show and no go, just like their cars. Used to be that if you had land you could get the bird, Colin. Providers are still valued. Beware of all flash and no cash!!
    I was a single wage earner in the family, not a sugar daddy, and proud of it. My wife was fully employed raising and educating the next generation. Certainly not a trophy wife Ducklady, but a most valuable contributor to society.

    • Ducklady

      Mr. Brogan,
      What you’re describing is a partnership. I was reacting to Colin’s apparent assumption that women are out for a free ride. Yes indeed, being a homemaker and raising children is a time and energy consuming occupation requiring administrative and hands-on skills, not the passive consumerism Colin was describing.

      • I think Colin was saying (although he is very capable of speaking for himself) was that if a woman is attracted by the flash she will likely be high maintenance. The flash guy would then get what he deserved and so would the superficial lady.

        Nice talking to you Ducklady. Hope you enjoy Ireland.

      • michaelcoughlan

        Hi Ducklady,

        But a diesel car. Buy it in Northern Ireland (UK) or Britain (UL). If it is 2008 or younger it will qualify for much lower car tax which is charged on the emissions.

        French diesel cars have engines with very favourable mpg results. You will have to pay to clear the car with the Irish Revenue service but you will usually get a higher spec vehicle with a full main dealer service history with lower miles for a lot lot less even with all levies paid.

        Try autotrader or carzone.


        • michaelcoughlan

          UL should be UK

        • Ducklady

          Thank you, Michael. I was told diesel was better if you drove a greater number of miles per year and petrol if you drove less. I don’t go terribly far or terribly often.

          I never would have thought to buy in NI. I lived and worked in Belfast in the early 70′s, would love to go back to see it now that it’s not such an active war zone. It was a beautiful city. Car shopping would certainly provide a great excuse. I’ll peruse those two sites also.

          • DB4545

            Hi Ducklady,
            McGoo gave excellent advice. I drive an aygo and it hits all the key numbers for poverty motoring. Low car tax, low maintenance 1.0 engine(60mpg), there’s an auto version available which is great in city traffic, and insurance is cheap too. If you’re going in with cash even a main dealer will discount 10% to 15%. Don’t touch diesels in the north unless it’s from a main dealer as the engine is likely to be damaged from contraband diesel. Done deal is an excellent site but don’t buy cars with Northern/UK reg plates which are sometimes advertised on the site( there is usually a story involved and never a good one). I don’t know where you intend to live but consider the North as housing is considerably cheaper
            (and you have the NHS) and the road network gets you to most places in the South very quickly these days.

          • Ducklady

            I can’t quite figure out the comment system here, can only hit Reply and not always below the comment to which I’m replying. I must say, everyone is really nice here. Thank you all for your advice. I never heard of the Aygo before this last visit. We’ve been renting Fiat Puntos for years and like the size, but Fiats are not all that reliable over the long haul. Even a Corolla seems large in Ireland so we were delighted to learn about the Aygo as we have Toyota in the US.

            We will be settling in Waterford, initially in a cottage my Irish friends and neighbours are sure we quite mad to be renting. But the neighbours are really lovely, it’s way out in the country where we prefer to be, there’s lot of great walking to be had, the view from the kitchen window is a never ending delight. But there’s also something ineffable about the place. We have a handshake agreement with the landlord for six months, will reassess then. The landlord, by the way, is a huge plus. My family and friends are in Cork, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Dublin area so we have no real connection to the southeast other than really, really loving it down there. This gentleman is very well known in the area. We’ve discovered mentioning his name opens doors. We met him by accident two years ago so it’s one of those blind pig and truffle things that’s been a huge help.

            Waterford has trees and outdoor swimming–two things I was having a hard time leaving behind. Now I don’t have to. The hospital is not that great, we’ve heard.

            Thank you for the advice. We will be paying cash, need to sell his car and my truck here first. I will be sure to obtain a discount.

          • The site functionality is not the greatest.

            Best of luck with your move, you should come to Kilkenomics next year and meet a few of the contributors in person.

          • Ducklady

            I hadn’t considered living in the North because I’m not a UK citizen. I got a work permit when I lived there, but I think probably I was lucky.

            Northern Ireland is a beautiful place. County Antrim, outside of Belfast, reminded me of Vermont which is one of our most beautiful New England states. I worked at a huge hospital in Belfast.

          • Ducklady

            Mr. Byrne,
            I appear to be Replying to myself but it all seems to work out somehow.

            I think the Kilenomics is how I found David McWilliams’ blog. I was intrigued by the description. Now I can’t recall when it’s held or where. Killkenny? Summer? It’s on my dance card.

          • Yes, Kilkenny.

            A weekend in early November, every year.

            Edition 5 just finished.

          • michaelcoughlan

            Hi DB4545

            Contraband diesel is smuggled in HERE for use not from here to NI.

      • Colin

        Ducky, the really clever women are not up at 5:30 every morning and arriving home at 7:30 in the evening.

        • Ducklady

          I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. The really clever men aren’t doing that either.

          • Colin

            Clever men spend long hours away from home, either working, pursuing hobbies, keeping involved in the community, further education etc…. Some commute weekly from Ireland to London, Germany etc… and have the best of both single and married worlds and are perceived as heroes for their get-up-and-go attitude.

            Father of the year, take a bow.

  16. Better buy that car today before inflation puts it out of reach. Leasing is now prevelent as it is easier than buying. Few pay cash for a new car.

  17. DarraghD

    Oh yes indeed, Paddy loves his signalling, once word: BMW.

  18. michaelcoughlan


    Off topic I know but I am so sick of people telling me about deflation the following is for you yorkie casualties like myself. The yorkie was 70g in 2002 and was reduced this month to 46g.

    “Size Changes;

    Yorkie was originally composed of six chunks of chocolate, with each chunk having a single letter marked Y-O-R-K-I-E, weighing 2oz or 58g. More recently, in an effort to reduce costs, the number of chunks has been reduced to five with “Yorkie” moulded into each chunk. The weight of the bar has varied over the years. In 2002, Yorkie bars were 70 grams. This had been reduced to 64.5 grams by 2010, and was reduced further to 61 grams in 2011 and then 55 grams later that year. Yorkie King size bars have also reduced in size. In 2011, standard Yorkie bars became available in 3 packs and the ‘Not for Girls’ slogan was dropped around that time. The Yorkie was shrunk again in November 2014 to 46g”

    • Ducklady

      Trying to wrap my mind around the concept of a smaller “king size.” Failing.

      • Just a name to delude you into thinking it is larger when in fact it is smaller. When it gets small enough they will come out with a “grand” that is the size of the original king size but at double the price of the original.

        Inflation under the radar is 8% per annum not 1%. We are constantly deluded and thus defrauded.

  19. Emmet Fox

    Such anthropological theorizing is based generally on circular reasoning. The usual narrative is that everything to do with human behaviour is built around some hard-wired evolutionary patterns from our ancient past. Any behaviour pattern observed is then explained by inventing some ancient occurrence that no one was around to witness. The real problem is that the thousands of years of civilization, social institutions and culture gets ignored. The reality is there are plenty of people who avoid sending out such signals (why if they are supposedly evolutionary hard-wired that way?). Those that do send out signals, their peacocking practices might well have a lot to do with consumerism, the types of ‘rewards’ and status recognized by a capitalist consumer-obsessed society and an education system built around meritocracy (while ignoring underlying inequality) – also an educational system that lacks higher order critical learning which would possibly enable ‘consumers’ to become active ‘citizens’ and see through the bling and malarkey. Stronger communities and institutions which encourage relationships based on how you treat people, as opposed to what you have, might go a long way towards unravelling this kind of superficiality. Such evolutionary theorizing is problematic to politics and society for if its presumed ‘hard-wired’ and the societal influences involved are written out of the narrative then there really is not much hope for genuine social change. Believing human beings to be fixed entities driven by a very narrow form of self-interest is one such form of this thinking that allows Rand followers to wish the worst on the most vulnerable in society.

    • Paragraphs make opinions easier to understand .Clunking and clanking words in very long sequences spoil the fun of experience . I have missed that in your statement.

      • Emmet Fox

        Apologies, I wrote in haste.

        Such anthropological theorizing is based generally on circular reasoning. The usual narrative is that everything to do with human behaviour is built around some hard-wired evolutionary patterns from our ancient past. Any behaviour pattern observed is then explained by inventing some ancient occurrence that no one was around to witness. The real problem is that the influence of thousands of years of civilization, social institutions and culture gets ignored.

        The reality is there are plenty of people who avoid sending out such signals (why if they are supposedly evolutionary hard-wired that way?). Those that do send out signals, their peacocking practices might well have originated with societal structures such as consumerism, the types of ‘rewards’ and status recognized by a capitalist consumer-obsessed society and an education system built around meritocracy (while ignoring underlying inequality) – also the educational system lacks the higher order critical learning which would possibly have enabled ‘consumers’ to become active ‘citizens’ and see through the bling and malarkey. Stronger communities and institutions which encourage relationships based on how you treat people, as opposed to what you have, might also go a long way towards unravelling this kind of superficiality.

        Such evolutionary theorizing is problematic to politics and society for if its presumed behaviour is ‘hard-wired’ and the societal influences involved are written out of the narrative then there really is not much hope for genuine social change. Even worse believing human beings to have fixed natures can be used to justify existing social injustice. For example the belief we are driven by a very narrow form of individual self-interest, is one such form of this thinking that allows Rand followers to wish the worst on the most vulnerable in society.

  20. [...] these approaches in a previous post). David McWilliams fits the latter class of economists. His recent article is uncritically built around the notion of peacocking or “signalling” which in evolutionary anthropology amounts to the display of males to [...]

  21. coldblow

    What David calls signalling I (and it isn’t just me) call typical extrovert behaviour.

    Without going into detail your extrovert (according to my phone app. that’s 50.0000% of people) lives in his external reality, which is more real to him than his internal one (himself). It’s the opposite with introverts: we don’t need to get out of bed to know who we are but the Beatles had to travel to India and still didn’t find out.

    Apparently there is a scientific foundation to this. According to psychologists (who I don’t believe anyway) extraverts need stimulation while the rest of us find too much painful. My guess this is the real reason for the battle of the sexes: extrovert wife wants to talk all the time while her introvert husband literally can’t bear it. This leads onto to Dorothy Rowe, who really understands this stuff and whose big insight (IMHO) is that the two types always pair with the opposite. I have been checking this for the last few years and found absolutely no exception. I wouldn’t say it makes it easier to spot the difference so much as makes it *possible*. What Rowe hasn’t noticed (as far as I know), nor has anyone else but me, is that this spills over into opinions and political views. I learned that from this blog a few years ago. (By the way, where are my favourite extrovert adversaries, Colm (CBWeb) and the giant German they call Georg? – I owe them quite a bit for the insight. Andrew Mooney too, not to forget David himself.) In short, they will defend and enforce conventional opinion (currently pc) but there are exceptions (eg Myers, Clarkson). Further details on application.

    From what I have seen they are the ones who will pay over the odds for the latest gadget now, snd I mean right now. For those who live in their outer reality image is crucial as in a very real sense (at least to them) it defines who they are. These are our people-persons, those who say ‘Me? I’m an optimist!), messers at school (mostly), glass-half-fullers, and since this is an economics blog, entrepreneurs and carriers of animal spirits. Most people on blogs are extroverts.

    They write Wiki entries (and *believe* what is on there), prefer the last five minutes of Dad’s Army to the first five, think David Brent’s funny dance is the funniest moment in The Office, lie more easily, affect not to understand VS Naipaul (because they don’t like him), are the heart of New Atheism, say things like ‘Communisms is wonderful in theory, the problem is putting it into practice’, and would ring up Radio Kerry during a programme of Dean Martin (as I heard last year) and request Let It Snow not despite, but *because* you hear it all the time anyway *because* ‘everyone likes it’. Further details on application.

    The extrovert will enjoy such things as fireworks and parades and adore an ice bucket challenge. I don’t know, but I would guess that it is they you will see, as adults, jumping around on bouncy castles. As children they do mad things and break limbs. Homer and Bart: yes (Marge and Lisa: no).

    Those who buy expensive cars, or who would buy them if they had the money, are extroverts in general.

    I am telling you all this because it is true. I wish it weren’t, I really do. Extroverts won’t, probably can’t, believe it because most other people don’t already believe it, and in fact might find it difficult even to *imagine* it. Introverts won’t because they all have their own pet theories about everything and would probably begrudge it anyway. In any case their reaction would probably be, “So what?”

    I told you anyway and my secret is safe. (And, of course, I don’t have a phone app, in fact I don’t really know what they are.)


    Proving that I never have an original thought, I recently received an epiphany from Alan Greenspan, evil erstwhile chairman of the Federal Reserve who is directly responsible for the fatal mess we are in. He was recently casually “explaining” how it was absolutely necessary for him to destroy the United States by creating so much excess cash….Mogambo guru

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