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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Perspective: Big 3 bailout = Grand Theft Auto

I can't abide the anti-government lickspittles who take everything government does, from Social Security to proposed bailouts of the auto industry, as some sort of personal affront. So it's a relief to see someone who believes in good government and good capitalism providing some perspective:

Pan Am, which had been a leading U.S. international airline since the 1930s, collapsed in 1991. Like other great U.S. companies, it died in the marketplace because it blundered. Churn — of people and businesses — has always defined America. Nobody subsidized U.S. Steel or the automaker Packard in the belief that the world without them was unthinkable.

Coming to the United States from Europe, I found this constant reinvention bracing. Look at the top 40 companies by market capitalization in Europe and most have been there for decades. Not in the United States, land of Google and eBay. Churn requires death as well as birth. The artificial preservation of the inert dampens the quest for the new.

For Cohen, the issue is more than jobs or businesses too big to fail. It's a question of the American ethic.

The whole financial crisis is about the death of responsibility: the buck stopped nowhere. Everyone profited from toxic paper. Bernard Madoff, he of the alleged multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, is only the latest example.

Irresponsibility has also characterized Detroit. I don’t see how you restore responsibility with a bailout. Obama has a deeper task than changing the economy; he has to change the culture.

Rather than adopting European subsidies, put billions toward more inspiring European examples: a high-speed railroad network or universal health care.

Hear hear.

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