Believe in big government? Buy a Volt.
Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM & FM, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011.
If you are having trouble imagining the problems created by a government that expands relentlessly into every corner of American life, a government that in trying to do everything succeeds at nothing, you need look no further than the Chevy Volt.
If you’re not familiar with the Chevy Volt, it is the collaboration of General Motors and the United States government. It is perhaps the most politicized industrial product of the past one hundred years.
The Chevy Volt was supposed to be a pure plug-in electric vehicle. It was to be the vehicle of the new, green 21st century of transportation. When if finally came off the assembly line, it wound up being a very poor hybrid, an electric vehicle with a small gasoline engine.
Touted relentlessly by the Obama administration as an example of cooperation between industry and government, and given as one of the justifications for investing $50 plus billion in taxpayer money in an otherwise defunct GM, the Chevy Volt is supposed to be a giant step on the path to ending America’s so-called “addiction” to oil.
Better not cut up the Exxon card just yet. To say that the Chevy Volt is a lemon would be to insult lemon growers.
The Chevy Volt would not exist absent taxpayer money. The cost of manufacture is so high that the car cannot sell at a price that anyone will pay. At a sticker price of over $41,000, every Chevy Volt comes with a buyer’s subsidy of $7,500 funded by, guess who – you. You own a piece of every Chevy Volt sold, despite the fact that you yourself would likely never buy one.
Consumer Reports magazine’s review of the Volt is pretty hard to misinterpret. “When you’re looking at dollars and cents,” says the magazine, “it really doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Volt isn’t particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and it’s not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel economy.”
The Volt is selling fewer than 700 cars a month. Nobody wants one.
What the Volt does well, however, is clearly illustrate why a big, activist government is a bad idea. The government is particularly ill-suited to the task of competing in the free market. No matter how much President Obama pushes the Volt as the green energy car of the future, two things will always be true. He will never own or ride in one and he can’t make you buy one.
Just imagine the same government managing the health care industry. Or managing the food retailing industry. Imagine the government and say, Commodore Computers, (a long-dead name from the early days of personal computers), collaborating to create the iPad. The thing would way ten pounds and would support only a handful of government created apps, instead of the hundreds of thousands that have been created by the far-flung and creative forces of the free market.
In the Soviet Union, the big cheeses in the Communist Party rode around in Mercedes that had had the hood ornaments and emblems removed. Government bureaucrats and functionaries were consigned to the rattle-traps produced by the Soviet-owned car industry.
Maybe we can use the Soviet example and put IRS field agents and EPA inspectors in the fleet of Chevy Volts that no one will ever buy.