Cash for Clunkers: The Bribery Stimulus

What does the wild popularity of Cash for Clunkers tell us about how to solve our other problems?

Hadley Hooper for TIME

In the closing days of Cash for Clunkers, car dealers were turning buyers away, the government website crashed trying to keep up with the paperwork, and even the purple cars were selling. So, what does it tell us about our national character when the most popular government program in years is an economically dubious, environmentally negligible, politically lazy handout from 99% of the population to the other 1%, all aimed at reviving the economy from its vegetative state?

It used to be, when we wanted to use public policy to nudge private behavior, we poked people with a stick: 40 years...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!