Friction From The EPA

I was stoked to get my new motorcycle.

I have rarely used credit and when I did I was too naive and ended up abusing it. So my credit sucks. That usually doesn’t bother me. I think debt is, generally speaking, a terrible idea. But I see now that my aversion to credit has caused severe limitations on opportunities.

Owning land, starting businesses, and various other forms of investments can be done without credit. But it’s rare. Success in any investment requires knowledge, decisiveness, risk, and the ability to assess that risk as well as managing variables unique to the particular investment. Credit used foolishly is a dangerous trap. Credit used wisely is simply; options.

So I’ve decided to “build” my credit.

This can be quite a battle. My credit rating is so bad I can’t even qualify for a small secured credit card! That’s right, even putting up cash collateral is not enough proof that I won’t default (according to some bizarre algorithm). Oddly enough, financing a vehicle is one of the easiest ways to go into debt where I live. My wife was able to go into a dealership with a “no-score” credit rating, a 1-year job history after 2 decades of being a stay-at-home mom, and a small trade-in, and drive out with a car and $13K-worth of debt.

In one year, her credit has gone from “no-score” to 700 points. All from that single line of credit.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that financing a car is a terrible investment. We’re paying compound interest on a rapidly depreciating asset (Although you can significantly cut down on the interest by overpaying each month). I look at this as a price to pay in order to gain a lot of options in the future. In essence, we’re paying to establish good credit scores, and happen to get a new-ish car as a side-effect.

I wasn’t on the loan with her (my mistake), so she’s been able to establish her credit while I’m still in the “no-score” category. And my only mode of transportation was an old motorcycle that spent more time under a wrench than on the road. So… a new bike it is!

I reluctantly decided to finance the new ride. To my amazement, I was able to walk in and find a used model with modest mileage, the style I was looking for, and the price range I can manage. I had enough Dash for the down-payment ( a fun story for a future post), and was further amazed that the loan was approved and I would be walking out with my dream bike the next day!

Of course, then there’s the “Harley Tax”.

You’ve never heard of the Harley Tax? Well, it goes something like this: The Harley culture is one of custom bikes. It’s not yours until you make it your own. Harley-Davidson long ago recognized the gold mine that this culture represents. They make stock bikes that underperform, knowing that people want to customize anyway, and have built an empire selling after-market parts for new bikes. It’s quite a racket. One I’m happy to support.


Up to this point, everything was going better than I had hoped. I entered the dealership fully expecting to be turned away. Instead, I found the bike I wanted, for the price I wanted and was able to include in the financing a performance upgrade. The changes to the bike would include a new air-intake, performance tuning computer, and high-flow (loud) exhaust pipes. The full-service dealership would do all the work for me as soon as the parts arrived.

Or so I thought.

Turns out that there is a new EPA regulation that can result in up to $250,000 fines to the dealership if they take a bike “out of compliance”. The problem is, no one is sure what that means. The performance upgrades are said to be within EPA standards, but there is a risk when you take a bike from the factory and start modifying it. Of course, the shop can work on custom bikes all day long. If it was already modified when it came in, they can do just about anything imaginable to it with no fear of regulatory fines.

Since the enforcements of these regulations are so vague, the risk of a quarter-million-dollar fine is too high a price to pay to find out. So the loophole to get around this goes like this:

They order the parts. I install them. They tow the bike back to their high-tech shop to do the digital tuning necessary. As far as the EPA is concerned, the bike was out of compliance when it came back in for the work, so the dealership can’t be held liable for taking the bike “out of compliance”.

What should have been done in a day soon after buying the bike, ended up taking weeks. I had to go pick up the parts, download the repair manual to make sure I had the proper torque guidelines, spend about 10 hours and $70 in tools before having the bike towed back to the shop.

Just to clarify what happened here. The EPA achieved NOTHING except unintended consequences.

They aren’t preventing the customizations. As I said, it’s part of the Harley culture. Instead, they just cost me and the repair shop valuable time and money.

That’s it.

Just friction.

Friction in an otherwise smooth transaction.

Friction in the economy. Friction in the relationships between businesses and their customers. Friction in people’s individual relationships. Friction in the jobs we perform.

This friction causes heat. I know I was certainly hot under the collar a few times during this whole mess.

Friction causes erosion.

Friction slows us down.

It’s difficult to imagine the progress we would be making if not for this constant source of friction in our lives. This is why I’m so excited for the paradigm shift that is crypto currency. As technology continues to outstrip government interference, we are able to witness the breakup of the centralized violence that is the State. People will choose the paths of least resistance. The friction that the state causes, will ultimately be the source of its own erosion.

Of course, friction will always exist. But right now, the state is the primary source of friction in almost any human interaction. I, for one, am looking forward to the smoother ride.

Oh. And fuck you EPA:


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