Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Unholy Trinity

Watch your back and hold on to your wallet whenever you see industry, government and greens singing off the same sheet music: it's usually the consumers or taxpayers who are about to take it in the shorts. There's a quid pro quo here somewhere: probably billions more in federal "modernization" payments to automakers for "re-tooling" their facilities, which the President alluded to in his SOTU speech.

And as for the car-buying consumer? They're screwed. One recent report indicates that this will add $5,000 to the sticker price of a new car. But those future car-buyers weren’t represented, much less taken into consideration, by the unholy trinity touting this “deal.”

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Che What?

Luxury automaker Mercedes Benz is apologizing for using the image of Marxist icon and hero Che Guevera in a marketing campaign, but why?

Had he lived, Guevera undoubtedly would have found some posh nest on which to perch, as one of those privileged proletarians commonly found in "classless" societies, who live in relative splendor while their subjects subsist in Marxism-induced squalor. Think North Korea -- you'll get the picture.

Of course Che would have owned a Mercedes, maybe even three, as long as they were painted camouflage green.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Automakers Make Lousy Social Engineers

There's good news and bad news out of Detroit this week.

The good news, according to this blog, is that greens and automakers, after decades of being at loggerheads, now seem to be singing from the same sheet music on the need to produce environmentally-friendly cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf. The shaming, badgering and blunt-force bludgeoning of automakers by Gang Green and government regulators finally has bent Motown to the will of the efficiency enforcers. Now these former adversaries are as cozy as two peas in a pod.

And the bad news? The bad news -- and it's a minor glitch, really -- is that American car-buyers just aren't interested in buying most of the environmentally-correct rides Detroit is selling. Paint them any color one chooses, green cars are by-and-large a flop with the people who count most. But that's what happens when you listen to social engineers instead of the market.

The full extent of the flop has yet to be publicly acknowledged. Government Motors has not been eager to honestly report sales figures for the Volt, and, as the piece linked just above explains, the blow has been cushioned (not surprisingly) by government fleet purchases, which are obviously being done for public relations benefits, since paying more for a vehicle that can do less, performance-wise, certainly isn't doing the taxpayers any favors.

One can't help wondering, especially in GM's case, how great an influence government ownership had in the decision to vest so much in a model, the Volt, that any layperson could have recognized as a longshot. Perhaps, sometime soon, an enterprising investigative writer will tell the whole terrible tale. And might it not be easier for a company to take such risks when it knows it has a direct line into the U.S. Treasuy if this misadventure in social engineering undercuts the bottom line? How could it not be?

Such are the hazards when the line between big government and big business becomes as blurred as it is now.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Adding Insult to Injury

There's only one thing worse than a president buying votes with taxpayer money.

That's a president who buys votes he doesn't have to buy with taxpayer money.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Compassionate Capitalism

"Compassionate" capitalists can now showcase their virtue in California by seeking legal standing as a "benefit corporation," which protects against backlash from shareholders cold-hearted enough to actually expect a return on their investments. But such legal theatrics slander all business by implying that capitalism is by nature uncaring and uncompassionate, when the opposite is usually true.

Aren't all companies "benefit corporations" that provide a good or service people want -- a benefit -- through fair and voluntary exchange? Each party benefits through such transactions, the company and the customer. That old bogeyman "exploitation" only applies in cases where such exchanges are forced, which shouldn't occur in a truly free economy (which ours isn't). Both parties recognize and receive some benefit from the transaction or it wouldn't take place.

Compassion and altruism don't animate the actions of either party, company or customer, as Adam Smith famously pointed out. Both are moved by self interest (even though no one ever accuses the customer of greedily "exploiting" the company). The ultimate (and happy) result is mutual satisfaction and growing prosperity for all, which is the magic of the free enterprise system.

Corporations don't exist for long that don't provide a benefit to their customers: serving or pleasing others is what makes them profitable. That qualifies 90 percent of California's companies as "benefit corporations," even if they lack such a grand title. That shareholders also benefit through this arrangement is frosting on the cake. And from where does the money that funds most private charity and philantropy come, if not from the people who do well in business?

No wonder businesses are leaving California in droves. Why continue to serve as a cash cow for state leaders who have such mindless contempt for those who put the gold in the "golden state."