If you look at our auto and energy industries and the state they are in today, they are perfect examples of where market forces failed us. They are. at the least, strong arguments that the economic Darwinism that free marketers promote may result in stronger markets in the long run, but that the path they take can have brutal consequences for people living under and functioning in those markets, for whom those markets presumably exist and are meant to serve. Maybe we could accept a little less growth for corporate entities and a little better quality of life for human entities.
In the 1970s, we in the U.S. experienced the oil embargo. Long lines at gas stations, skyrocketing fuel prices, economic recession and a real wake up call that our dependence on foreign oil was a huge Achilles heel. Republican president Richard Nixon declared a war on energy dependence, promising a future of alternative fuels, greater fuel efficiency and other efforts to break the stranglehold of Middle Eastern oil on our economy.
Then fuel prices went down, and the investment market dried up for all these efforts and solutions. Government programs and incentives dried up. America went back to its old habits. And the percentage of oil we import has been growing ever since.
The American auto industry promised new, better quality and more fuel-efficient cars. In the 1970s, Detroit offered few if any models that could be remotely considered fuel-efficient or environmentally friendly. The Big Three turned to foreign automakers in Japan to supply small, economical vehicles, while developing some pretty sad versions of their own. Anyone remember the Ford Pinto or the Chevy Vega?
And then, when gas prices dropped, Detroit went back to its old ways, only returning seriously to the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles and lower emissions vehicles when foreign competition and government environmental regulation beat them – the domestic auto makers – like a rented mule.
Detroit, which had killed the electric car, suddenly found itself confronted with hybrid gasoline electric vehicles. Dragged kicking and screaming to the party, Detroit finally started to see the light when its market for gas guzzling SUVs and pickups started cratering. It gingerly stepped into the hybrid game more than half a decade after the first Prius showed up in the U.S.
And where was the government?
More on that in our next installment.
And don’t forget to forward this to your friends, family and socially aware people you know. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a global community to empower an idea.
May the Higher Power of your choice motivate you to do something today that will make a difference.