In a very short while the world will come to view car manufacturers as no better than the tobacco industry.
Actually, in some ways, the tobacco pushers are better: since the 1970s it has been pretty clear their products are addictive, deadly and with no redeeming features. Only the foolish or self-interested could deny it.
Is that not the same of the automobile? Forget, for the moment, the massive number of deaths from traffic accidents every year; forget the addiction to oil that they have driven the world to; forget even the irreversible environmental destruction that their manufacture and daily use is wreaking; they have reshaped our cities and towns so that we cannot imagine living without them. Suburban living is impossible without them. Could you get to work, go to the shopping mall, pick up the kids, do the supermarket run, buy some made-in-China products from the DIY superstore on a Sunday without one? In short, could you live your life without your car?
The answer for many in urban Japan is "yes". There is excellent public transport (at least in the most populated places) which means that you really can live without one. (Our Man knows, he and his family of five have lived without one for 18 months, and counting).
The answer for the rest of the industrialised world though is "no". The American city, a role model for all the world's cities since World War II, does not work without the car.
Our Man doesn't want to get into discussions of whether we have hit peak production of oil - we either have or we haven't - but at some point in the near future we have to accept there will be no more of the black stuff to burn and we have nothing even remotely close to replacing it as a power source. And here's the point: Propping up the Big Three (or Big Three Stooges as Japan Without the Sugar calls them) would be a woolly mammoth waste of resources. By all means, pass the $14 billion to the auto industry - but spend the money on closing it down and retraining the redundant workers to do something worthwhile to a post-automobile world. Think Our Man's lost it? Why not ask someone from Michigan what he thinks: Senate to Middle Class: Drop Dead.