Imagine for a second, there is a ship filled with people and it is sinking. Let’s also imagine, you only have enough time and resources in the here and now either to plug holes which are almost certain one day to unplug again or make sure every person on the ship has a life-vest so he or she can make it safely to some other sea-worthy ship. Which option do you choose?
Now imagine also the ship is sinking because the ship’s captain allowed it to happen through a combination of negligence and incompetence. Imagine also that the ship is responsible for huge society-wide costs that are never accounted for by any accountant. Imagine also, this very ship has received trillions in dollars of subsidies, incentives, and bail-outs over the years only to become the derelict it is today. Imagine also, by keeping this ship afloat resources are being used which could be used instead to create newer and better ships. Imagine also, by keeping the ship a-float, it is ensured even more people will board and remain dependent on it for their livelihood for years to come. Imagine finally, in order to keep this ship a-float, wealth must be borrowed that future generations will be forced to repay. So, which option do you choose?
This is the choice North American governments are facing with the auto industry right now and instead of making the sensible choice — letting the industry collapse and protecting workers in the short term for their long term benefit — they are trying to keep the auto industry a-float to the detriment of everyone — including the auto workers themselves.
Think about it. It is sometimes claimed that as many as 1 in 7 Canadian jobs depends on the auto industry. If this is true, the correct response to this dependency is not to prop up a failing industry but to eliminate our dependency on that failing industry.
What is the alternative? Let the industry collapse and use government money to soften the short-term pain experienced by workers and others. Spend money to give workers the resources, skills, and tools so they need never be dependent on a single perpetually failing industry ever again. Give or guarantee loans to the very many persons in the industry who may have great ideas on how to make the industry more efficient but go unheard in the colossal mega-corps culture of the auto-industry.
Meanwhile, the failed companies will sell off their assets for a song and more competently managed companies will swoop in, buy them up, and put them to more efficient and beneficial use. That’s how it is suppose to work and that’s how everyone, in the long run, will be better off.
Protect workers, not industries. By propping up a chronically mismanaged and failing industry, governments do little more than enslave its citizens for the benefit of a corporate aristocracy.