photo credit: Mike Licht
For his entire adult life, with the exception of a few years of military employment, my grandfather worked for General Motors. His father had worked there as well, both adding their contributions to a growing industry through an innovative, respected company. Known for his problem-solving capabilities and management experience in running the Seville assembly line, he was most proud of his work with the Cadillac brand. He took early retirement after a dedicated career spanning almost four decades.
Were he still alive, you might imagine his reaction to the recent news story describing the individual who now helps to call the shots for this pillar of American industry: a 31-year-old law school dropout. This single story is Atlas Shrugged come to life—the nationalization of private industry deemed too important to fail (all in the “public interest”) and placed in the hands of unqualified politicians and their friends. Truly, it pays to know people in high places; inexperienced, power-seeking bureaucrats thrive on executive appointments, government takeovers, and “emergency situations” in order to rise to the artificially-created occasion.
Prior to its declaration of bankruptcy, GM had received $20 billion from Uncle Sam (this amount ignores, of course, the billions of dollars thrown at other car manufacturers, and the additional $30 billion still to be “invested” into GM). With 243,000 employees, this amount represents $82,304 per person—a staggering sum that, in the aggregate, adds up to a lot of malinvested money. But inflationary investments aside, the American taxpayers must come to terms with the fact that Obama bet the industry on his ability to infuse hope into the economy, doubled down, and lost. Suddenly those $640 government-approved toilet seats pale in comparison.
And so, in unprecedented fashion, the federal government has intervened into the private sector not only to inflate and prop up, but to manage, regulate, and control. Any pretense or promise of cleaning up GM’s balance sheets and returning it to private hands should be rejected as dodging the fundamental argument that is, of course, institutionally ignored: what authority does the government have to take over a private company? Dismissive claims of the necessity of doing so are ignorant at best, and hope-induced delusions at worst.
The “Government Motors” now created with the taxpayers‘ 60% ownership is but a visible reminder of what has long been a subtle, pervasive reality. While observant individuals understand the repercussions of government involvement in the economy, their less insightful countrymen will now be treated to a display of guaranteed incompetence and politicking—a demonstration that “political intervention in private business is an invitation for the most brazen sort of corruption”.
Thus, the new “Government Motors” is simply a tangible manifestation of the government’s motors of the controlled economy; a steady stream of subsidization, regulation, taxation, and legislative manipulation are the tools wielded by tax-feeding central planners who lust for control over your wallet. Contemptible though it may be, the government’s aggressive action to take over an industry and control its future brings into sharp focus something that has been occurring under the cover of fog for decades. Proponents of free markets can only hope that the GM takeover will be a widely-publicized case study in government incompetence to further catalyze the liberty movement. Perhaps what we need is a true resurrection of the Boston Tea Party—the first Obamabiles off the line should be commandeered and driven into the Detroit River to their symbolic, water grave.
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