Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When government owns the means of production

HotAir.com's Ed Morrissey posts a daily "Obamateurism of the Day" that picks up on the daily gaffes, misstatements, and maddening things that President Obama says and does on a daily basis.  Today Ed hit upon Obama's latest attempt to influence the free market.  You see, Pres. Obama thinks that General Motors makes too many SUVs and trucks and not enough compact cars.  Of course the government always knows how to run a business far better than the free market concept of meeting demand with supply.  Government just demands more crappy cars like the Chevy Volt, and people will swarm to buy one, right?  Well no, the Volt is a dismal failure.

After reading Ed's blog today, I got to thinking about just how good the auto industry was in a truly dynamic socialist economy, that being the former German Democratic Republic (aka East Germany) and it's leading edge technology triumph the Trabant 601.  I found this fascinating 2 part promotional video (part 1, part 2) on YouTube produced by the GDR government in 1965 showing the production of the "Car of the Century".  While capitalists in West Germany were wasting their time building Volkswagon, BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz automobiles, the high minded socialist economists were busy producing a vehicle with a 2 stroke engine, plastic body, ran on 83 octane gasoline and had a maximum speed of 100 km/hour (62 miles/hour) that was so popular there was a 15-20 year wait just to be the proud owner of  one of these triumphs of a socialist planned economy.  The imperialists in the west could only dream of owning one of these truly magnificent vehicles.

For a little compare and contrast, lets have a look at a similar era Mercedes Benz.  The superiority of the socialist car is glaringly obvious.

Ok, that's enough snark for now.  The Trabant was a truly awful car, broke down frequently, and was very good at turning low octane gasoline into noise and smoke.  I had the opportunity to take a test drive in one about 10 years ago at an antique car show.  The one I drove was impeccably maintained, and the steering wheel still pulled to the left, the top speed was 40 miles per hour, and struggled to get up a small hill. When you open the hood to work on the engine (something required at least weekly), it took a rubber mallet and crow bar to get it closed again, because the body parts were just so poorly fit.

For anyone going to Berlin, there is a Trabant museum there that is very interesting, and has a lot of good demonstrations on just what went in to making this hand manufactured car.  This was no assembly line vehicle, which may explain the long wait list just to buy one.

So there you have it folks,  this little exercise is a perfect demonstration what you get when the government .controls the means of production, as well as what is available on the market.

Update: Here's a look at the Trabant factory as filmed by a West German film crew.  This film really shows just how ugly the factory was, and what an awful car it produced.  And this demonstrates their quality control.

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