Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sans American Auto

I've been hearing a lot about a potential government bailout of General Motors. Of course my first thought is, "We are winning!", but I don't actually think that is true. While I think that the vast majority of car drivers should be on their bikes far more often than they are, I do not think that cars should be completely eliminated from 'the system'. Even more importantly, I recognize that GM going under would not only mean that lots of jobs will be lost by car builders in Detroit, but car lots and mechanics across the nation may feel the impact. I don't like the idea of people losing their jobs, even if I think the products of their job is destroying the health of the world and it's people.

This is quite a situation we have here. The American automobile industry provides a lot of jobs, that is good. Evidently the American automobile industry is unable to provide a desirable product because they have been in financial distress for a decade or more (companies with desirable products are generally not in financial distress because they can sell them and make money). Is it worth pouring tax payers' money into a company to prevent jobs loss so they can continue producing a product that has a decade of demonstrating that they produce a less desirable product? You may find this hard to believe, but I would prefer that my tax money be used for something else. Lets convert Detroit into a city producing solar electric cells.... and then they can sell them from car lots around the country. OK, maybe that's not the answer. I don't have an answer.

This leads me to bigger concerns for the economy. One of the big messages going out is, "BUY, BUY, BUY!" That will help the economy. Well, I understand that more money going through businesses will improve the economy. I understand that. BUT, that happens to be against what I stand for. People don't need a bunch of junk that they don't need (That is the profound statement of the day). While the economy is tanking, I am glad to see more people out on their bikes and saving money rather then spending it on stuff that they don't need. Sure, it's contributing to the economy tanking, but isn't frugality a good thing? Isn't living within one's means a good thing? Isn't conserving resources rather then meaninglessly buying them and disposing of them a good thing?

So here's what we've got:

Economy tanking-Bad
People buying less- Good
Less Waste- Good
Job losses- Bad
Increased frugality- Good
More bikes- Good
overspent people- Bad... although it's their own fault

I'm going to call it a push. I think that we need to take advantage of this financial crisis and change the economy in this country. Lets run all of the little shops selling disposable goods out of business (Just to be clear, those shops would include Dollar stores, Circuit city, Wal-Mart, much of what is in grocery stores, and most of the other stores at your local strip mall). Remember that I really do care about people and I want them to have jobs that pay sufficiently. We need to replace those stores with businesses that sell durable goods. While we're at it, I think we need to redefine durable goods. $200 Dishwashers that will break in two years are not 'durable goods'. Appliances that last 50-100 years and then can be repaired are durable. Yes, durable goods cost more, but they also last longer. Since people will need to buy fewer things, fewer stores will be needed, but we will need more repair shops to keep these durable goods in tip-top shape.

I know, I'm dreaming; and that's the problem. People have become more conservative with their money so instead of investing in long lasting items, they are finding the cheapest (and most disposable). How do we move to an economy of durable goods and repair instead of disposable goods and growing landfills? Hopefully someone out there is better at economics than I am, but I see that we are in need of some drastic changes for the sake of the people, for the sake of the economy and for the sake of the environment. Our current economy is quite troublesome.

This is the first of a six part PBS program from quite some time ago. It's worth watching ( you know, like all six of them).

I'm done. This whole economic thing just keeps me in a state of confusion. I know about milk and my dissertation is moving forward (I hope), but economics isn't my thing. This entry was intended to flow much more smoothly than it actually did. Oh well.


The Woulfes said...

here's the this point we're far past the point of no return. Meaning that in order to change the way we do business, it's going to have to hurt a lot.

For example: When England introduced the National Health System, it was after WW2 when eveything was in disarray there was nothing to change, they started from scratch. It would be impossible to introduce now in the US becasue the current system is so entrenched. Hundreds of thousands would be affected negatively during the transition.

It's the same way with our economic system. While the best solution would be Eleutheros' system, to get there would be impossible without essentially starting over.

The government is scared to let that happen. 50% unemployment means they don't get reelected. So they're doing everything they can to string us along and protect the status quo. Unfortunately, they might just be able to do it.

Here's the ideal plan for them, they'd prop up GM for a while until they can get spending approved (say to increase the national debt to 15 to 20% of GDP [we're at 5% now]). This would create a lot of jobs in other sectors which would employ those displaced auto workers. GM can now fail (maybe we lose the few billion we loaned them but do avoid social unrest the pols continue to be reelected) and in its place comes a new industry (maybe Green) or better auto maker. Who employs those folks once the national spending dries up.

Seamless transition...except for the half a trillion dollars of our money we lose during that process.

And in the end, nothing least not substantially

The CATO insitute (yay Libertarians!) has some more good info on this.

Emily A. W. said...

Down with GM. They should have predicted their demise 20 years ago when they decided to make crappy cars -vs- foreign cars quality.

I've been studying the electric car thing for awhile, and I can't believe that car makers have gotten away with these crappy cars for so many years.

When we switch to electric vehicles, we are going to put a lot of mechanics, gas stations, and car makers out of work, but so be it. Its time to move on and change.

I often wonder why people want to buy crappy products rather then save and spend a lot on a high quality durable good. I prefer the latter, but its not in style or cool to do that right now. I would rather live with less, but have stuff thats quality and gonna last forever...

What drives me even more nuts is that when I go to the store I and I WANT to buy a high quality product I can't find it even when I visit 5 different stores. I have to shop online or through catalogs to get quality. Grrr...

Tanya Seaman said...

Thank you for sharing this video. It's entirely true; our ego and status has become tied up with our possessions. As people tighten the reigns on personal spending, they'll find that there are better ways of living. As a reader of Impact Man, you can see there are some measurable results we can achieve if we can impart a new vision of bounty and fulfillment.

As for cars -- I don't think that new car technologies are the answer, as personal vehicles still require the infrastructure to build, maintain, and drive them. I think we need to change the vision toward one in which city centers become more desirable, such that walking, biking, and public transportation become the most amenable modes to use. We have a long way to go, but in cities with car sharing, this is the direction.

Incidentally, the first adopters of car sharing are those with the highest educations; my hypothesis is that their education is more important than the car they drive. Once they join car sharing programs they can then tout THAT as their new "I'm cool" status. It's all what you make THE thing.