Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nothing is Permanent: GM Passes Away.


"What is good for General Motors is good for America - Chairman and CEO, Charlie Wilson, 1955.

GM was an engine of industrial and financial growth, and now it is come to nought -- literally nought - financially speaking. Wilson's quote, which was outrageous in its day, was made in earnest and it reflected the importance of the auto industry and most especially General Motors to the economy and to America.  

This reminds me of how the Soviet Union was so powerful when I was little, and how it oppressed so many people, and then it was gone.  Nazi Germany and Imperial Rome are the same. So is the Republican majority in congress. 

"Creative Destruction" is an optimistic phrase used by economists to describe the failure/rebirth cycle. This is all believable.  I know that dislocation and unemployment are the best way to a more productive economy, and I accept that even I need to re-educate and move around the country to keep up. 

My mourning probably has its root in the problem of change. The earliest Greek philosophers argued that change did not happen, or if it did happen on earth, then it did not happen in Heaven. In heaven where everything is perfect -- it must also be permanent. (This was a serious argument against the Big Bang theory just 25 years ago. )

In this case however, our government will spend $40 billion to provide stability, and relaunch GM 2.0. It is possible this will be a great company that will take over the world. That probably depends on global macro economics more than auto design.

I love the above photo of the GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin -- now slated for closing. (Photo credit to Scott Olsen.)

I don't subscribe to the silly notion of "Future Shock," where people are disoriented by all the technological change. I am know people can absorb a lot -- like refugees, disaster victims or even new Moms.

It is normal to feel wistful when something big passes away. Like someone should notice, but lots of times no one does.  Should we put up a monument or a gravestone?