Americans do not care
I am not sure what else to call it, but there seems to be a collective myopia in a America.
We only care when something happens to us, personally. We don’t care if the government is being fleeced, if the press is bought, or whether schools teach us how to think for ourselves, or how to learn. We hardly care who is president, and that’s why we don’t vote.
There seems to be several different real America’s. Some American’s have been systematically disenfranchised. Think minorities, women and economically poor neighborhoods in general. The latter would mean poor caucasians are also disenfranchised. This likely creates a feeling of victimization among many of these groups. Victims likely do not speak up, and certainly not at once, or when they have incomplete information. Perhaps it is a form of Stockholm syndrome that explains why victimized Americans are myopic, at least in peaceful and constructive ways. Then there are Americans who won the lottery genetically, through randomness, drive, hereditary or what have you, and they collectively have gradually moved up to high enough areas in the food chain so as not to care what happens to everyone else even when they know how the system actually works to disenfranchise most Americans. Think in terms of tax policy as an ideal example. America is a salad bowl, it has been said, but there would still have to be millions of people in the middle, with unheard of voices, anxieties, worries, and they do care and are not either victimized or genetic winners in the short term. But they don’t care enough.
It doesn’t matter enough to American’s when multinationals lie, steal , or cheat their way to success. It never occurrs to them that it would have a knock on effect that could ultimately affect them or their kids personally.
Partly this is just the consumerization of society. We have been taught to want, and to expect that companies will provide for those wants, and not needs. That could be new sneakers, lipstick, computers or any vanity that comes to our mind. Don’t get me wrong, this was decades in the making. No one generation bears responsibility. There are signs of hope as well, as the sharing economy, but primarily only Airbnb so far I think, point to equitable ways Americans do more with less.
But what has this myopia gotten us and what will it get us into? When will the voices cry in unison? When will real leaders emerge? Will it be after it is too late? When the rug could be pulled from all of us collectively, it is probably time we care about something or anything and not take what we have been told as the way things are, should be , or will be.
I happend to care whether Elon Musk was what he said he was and whether he could change the world. I was one of Elon Musk’s biggest fans when he said that there was an electric revolution on the way. That Solar energy would provide free energy for all indefinitely, soon. I was naive. But so are many people and it is only foolish and selfish to then not learn from one’s mistakes and point them out others. Elon Musk isn’t Bernie Madoff. He might be a younger Bernie Sanders, but he’s not running a deeply unjust ponzi scheme. With enough money thrown at Musk’s pie in the sky auto company, it would have no choice but to eventually work. Elon Musk is Elon Musk. But if this Tesla dream blows up, as it looks like it should, what were all those billions of dollars from the government for? These billions represent American tax payers interest. Were they not an economic opportunity cost. What Musk is doing is far more perverse than people think.
If Elon Musk’s model 3 can sell 200,000 cars a year it is not even 1% of the global auto market. Further, without real breakthroughs that drive down cost significantly, battery powered cars will only be a minority of the fleet. The material and energy cost are just too great for it to be otherwise, or others would have done it before Musk. The $50,000 dollar model 3, as nearly all Musks skeptics expected, is not what US tax payers dollars were there to fund. Nor did it have to be that way.
Tesla didn’t have to be just a vanity project. It could have been much more. If Musk took his promoting skills to selling souped up Nissan leaf’s with less range, but increased affordability, and technology, it could have scaled much faster and had greater environmental impact.
More perversely, getting beyond the cost of one product, billions in state and federal credits, Musk has perversely distorted the financial markets with his promises. There is more capital being committed than Tesla is worth. What is the economic cost of that capital if it could have gone to more product businesses? Tesla is the most shorted company on the US stock exchanges. That is largely a function of its size, limited float, and capital structure, which includes convertible bonds that create natural hedges. It is partly perhaps a function perhaps of bank hedges either on the behalf of themselves or Tesla. Who knows, who really cares. But he’s gotten billions of dollars to doubt his cause because the economics never made sense. But the private capital is stuck fighting government policy. Wouldn’t that effort have been better spent on real businesses?
Tesla is the story that will never be told because most people don’t understand it, don’t care, or are consumerized. It is a product of our let them eat cake society.
It is easy to criticize and not put forth an alternative solution. The automakers did, with less sexy than Tesla, and it is the reason the Nissan leaf is the best selling ev globally, and not Tesla, to this point.