Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First the banks, now the auto makers, what's next?

General Motors and Chrysler want to merge.  But they're asking the U.S. Government (read you and me as taxpayers) to fund the merger with a $10 billion "rescue package."  (Link to story here.)

And why not?  After all, the feds ponied up a lot more of our money to bail out Wall Street and nationalize the banks.  Why shouldn't Detroit have a turn at the trough?

Just when did this become a nation where bad business was rewarded with government money?

First the banks.  Next the auto makers.  What's after that?  Insurance companies?  Breweries?  Retailers?  Fine dining restaurants?  Convenience stores?  The guys selling pretzels on street corners?  What the heck, just nationalize the whole economy.

Enough already.  The American economy was grown by market forces.  In the marketplace, businesses succeed when they create products or provide services that people want to buy, and do buy, for more than the cost of production.  But, when businesses do not control costs or do not produce and sell their products or services at a profit, the market requires that they change or die.

Tinkering with the market to prevent the consequences of bad decisions is like passing a student through a class, even though he failed the final exam - or paying a salesperson a commission, even though she didn't complete the sale.

Selective tinkering in the marketplace is also fundamentally unfair.  Why was AIG bailed out but Lehman Brothers wasn't?  Why should taxpayers step in to save GM and Chrysler but ignore Linens-N-Things?  For that matter, why doesn't the government step in to protect Joe's Bar and Grill?  Or any other business?

Allowing businesses to face the consequences of their mistakes may seem harsh and our economy would certainly suffer in the short term.  But market corrections are necessary.  And in the long run, we would all be better off allowing companies that make good decisions to be rewarded and companies that make bad decisions to fail.

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