Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What is "Better"? Part 2

What makes one thing better than another? Are there attributes that are universally recognized as better? I have a car angle here, trust me. When I started my year with the car I wanted to understand and to the extent I could, catalog the things that combine to make a Ferrari a Ferrari. I want to take this a step forward I want to know how these things affect the goodness of the Ferrari.

This will sound strange. The car is in the shop today. As near as I can tell I did curse myself by writing “I don’t expect anything major to be wrong with the car and I hope I do not have to eat those words in two days” but only mildly. Here is the strange part. The expense of maintaining a Ferrari contributes to its Ferrariness. Expensive and relatively frequent, when compared to say a Porsche, repairs help make a Ferrari a Ferrari.

I understand why the car needs frequent service. It is not because it is poorly made. It is because it is a highly strung, tightly engineered wonder. Race cars need frequent service. A Ferrari is a slightly detuned race car with comfy seats and a leather dash. Why expect the engine to run for 100000 miles without a hitch?

Oddly enough I am totally happy to replace parts that have worn out after 27,000 miles of driving. Why, because Ferrari’s consistent and single minded focus on making an absolutely brilliant car requires it. While I am sure the engineers cut corners to keep costs down and reliability up I am happy with the balance they achieved.

Oddly enough high maintenance bills are part of what makes Ferraris better.

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