Rising to the Moment

November 14, 2008 3:25 p.m.

We’ve been fielding emails all day in response to this morning’s post on ‘drift‘. And the ones that have particularly stuck out to me are the ones about bailing out the auto industry. Quite a few readers are of the opinion either that the Big Three are ground central for global warming and/or they’ve spent thirty years making cars that can’t compete with Japan, etc., so just let them fail. It’s over. They’ve had their chance. It’s done.

I have to tell you this just strikes me as nuts — and beyond being nuts represents a great failure of imagination.

The auto industry — directly and indirectly — employs a ton of people. Even in ordinary times having that all gone down the tubes would mean a massive shock to the economy. If we can avoid having that happen now, why would we possibly let them happen in the face of what already promises to be a massive recession?

Second, on the question of the environment. There is no question that the internal combustion engine is at the heart of the climate crisis. But getting rid of Detroit won’t get rid of cars. More to the point of creativity — one of the things about crisis is that it opens opportunities would never exist in normal times. People have been looking for ways to get Detroit to get serious about developing cleaner, more fuel efficient cars for years. At this point, we’re beyond that. We need to get serious about cars that don’t use gas at all. If the whole domestic auto industry is all but asking to be taken into federal receivership, that tells me that the people running the federal government now have quite a lot of leverage.

I don’t pretend to know the mechanics or precise solutions. But these are times that call for boldness — and more than just boldness, which gets said a lot — but creativity to rises to the challenge of the moment.

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