Riding my dinky fifty-dollar bicycle out of the basement parking lot of the Hanoi Sheraton the other day, I stopped to admire a sleek roadster with a coke-bottle shape and a back seat so tiny you could just about squeeze into it, sideways, if you were unconscious and made of foam rubber. I haven’t paid attention to cars since I was about 21, and had no idea what this thing was, so I took a look at the logo on the back. I didn’t recognize it; you will no doubt sneer at my ignorance. It looked like this:
But for some reason it seems to me it was just the wings, it didn’t have the words “Aston Martin” written on it.
An Aston Martin, I am told by my reliable friend Mr. Webnets, goes for a minimum of $113,600 in the United States. Vietnam has an auto import tax which unless I am mistaken was recently reduced to 80%. So we’re looking at about $200,000 right there. Per capita GDP in Vietnam is $650 per year.
I have an initial reaction of baffled awe when I see something like this, just thinking about the capacity of the human mind to ignore such colossal inequality. My secondary reaction is: why is it any more obscene for a Vietnamese guy to be riding around in a car that costs more than the lifetime earnings of the average Vietnamese worker, than it is for an American to be doing so? We’re all human beings; why is inequality within one country any more objectionable than inequality across the globe? My third reaction is: why is he spending his money on a sports car that barely even fits through most of the alleyways in Hanoi, that will spend most of its life crawling through swarms of motorbike traffic, and will never exceed 60 mph because there isn’t a road in Vietnam on which you can?
Poor little Aston Martin. Maybe Angelina Jolie will adopt you and set you free to roam the autobahns of Germany. A car can always dream.
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