When people-who-get-it discuss the appropriate level of response to climate change and peak oil, the two most often cited examples are the Manhattan Project and the Space Program. And what do these two achievements have in common? (Hint: It says something about the myth of the free market.)
Yes indeed, both of these superhumanly successful projects were funded and managed by the federal government. People sweated blood to make the impossible happen without being motivated by a sweet package of stock options.
To faithful free market ideologues, such a scenario does not compute — it is impossible for the government to be efficient or innovative because there is no profit motive. And therein lies the poison of our dominant economic world view: it diminishes us all by negating our capacity for doing good work for its own sake.
The free market is a highly effective system for producing widgets. But when it comes to massive, transformative change, the human passion for transcendence is what matters most. The most revolutionary art, science, and political movements of history were not about making a quick buck.
All of which is a drawn out way of saying this: We should nationalize GM. Because we need a revolutionary change in motorized transportation, and we need it now. And because the free market is not up to the task.
The mission of the new GM would be simple: Produce the most efficient, affordable motorized transportation the world has ever seen. Every resource would be made available to support this goal, with the exception of excessive salaries — the nature of the mission itself would attract the best minds in the world.
Disclaimer: I have no doubt that most Americans would find the notion of nationalizing GM somewhat ludicrous. Me too. Even though logic may lead me to believe it is an option worth serious consideration, there is a gut feeling deeply embedded in my psyche that causes me to recoil at the thought. But for the moment I’m allowing myself to think outside that box. Try it.