Don’t Bail Out the Big Three

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One day before the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler told the Senate Banking Committee that their industry faced imminent collapse without an emergency infusion of $25 billion, a new automobile assembly plant opened for business in Greensburg, Indiana. Although the hearing on Capitol Hill received far more media coverage, the unveiling of Honda’s latest facility in the American heartland speaks volumes about the future of the U.S. car industry—and shows why the proposed bailout of Detroit’s Big Three is so misguided.

The intellectual arguments against an auto industry bailout are well established. Taxpayers should never be forced to subsidize any company, let alone a poorly run company. Subsidizing the Big Three would be tantamount to subsidizing failure. That’s bad policy.

Corporate bailouts are clearly unfair to taxpayers, but they are also unfair to the successful firms in a particular industry, who are implicitly taxed and burdened when their competition is subsidized. In a properly functioning market economy, the better firms—the ones that are more innovative, more efficient, and more popular among consumers—gain market share or increase profits, while the lesser firms contract. This process ensures that limited resources are used most productively.

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Date published: Nov 21, 2008

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