To the Editor:
Victor Dial’s riveting account of swooping into East Berlin in a corporate jet to visit the Trabant factory just after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and encountering the malign effects of government ownership in the wide corridors and empty spaces of a grossly deficient Communist auto plant has all the color and fascination of an Ayn Rand novel. But it is sadly marred by the concluding sentence: “For all of our sakes, but especially for them, I hope General Motors and Chrysler will be denationalized soon.”
That may have been a vivid experience of what happens when governments make cars, but it has nothing to do with GM or Chrysler. GM and Chrysler are not and never were nationalized. Far from the government wanting to nationalize them, the companies, supported by Ford, begged the Bush administration for help to avert an industrywide collapse of interdependent manufacturers, dealers and suppliers. Help was not easily granted.
In a reversal of the Trabant example, it was the government that accused the companies of bloat and
mismanagement, finally injecting substantial cash in exchange for equity shares and tough conditions and with hopes of receiving the money back with profits as soon as possible -- a reasonably capitalist expectation.
Far from bloating the companies with bureaucracy, the government made the CEOs ditch their corporate jets, shed brands and workers and become leaner than ever. The only empty corridors at those companies are the ones vacated by staff thrown out of work by the decisions and lapses of previous managements.