Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bunk? You don't know the half of it.

Comes Paul Ingrassia to re-tell a story even the U.S. government saw through years ago;

However it unfolds, this year’s U.S. presidential election is unlikely to be as close as the one America experienced in 2000. That election was decided, after months of contention and suspense, by disputed ballots and a razor-thin result in Florida.
The historic events, however, were set in motion 40 years earlier by a badly flawed automobile, the Chevrolet Corvair. In the mid-1960s the Corvair made Ralph Nader famous. It also made lawyers ubiquitous, thereby making lawsuits one of the great growth industries of the late 20th Century. And decades after its demise, in the election of 2000, the Corvair’s legacy improbably helped to put George W. Bush in the White House. The car’s story is one of genius, hubris, irony and tragedy, not to mention unforeseen long-term effects on American life and thought.
Admittedly, blaming Bush--from the groove-yard of forgotten favorites--is a novelty for this one.   However, that 'badly flawed automobile' was designed with the same idea in mind that inspired the recently deceased Ferdinand Porsche to produce the classic 911:  Putting the engine over the rear wheels for better traction and handling.

Incredibly, Ingrassia seems to even be aware that his tale of woe is essentially bunk;
Ironically, in June 1972 a government panel officially exonerated the Corvair. A furious Nader condemned the report as a whitewash. But though he had lost the legal battle, Nader had won the war in every conceivable sense.
Yes, in politics it doesn't matter what the truth is, only what a majority of the people think is the truth.  At least the episode gave the economics profession a good laugh;

....Witness the arrow of consumerism. 
It started simply enough:  various people--and especially a young man named Nader--found automobiles less safe than they wished....These zealous patronsof the public furthermore insisted that defective products be corrected, and that damage arising in spite of the most conscientious efforts of the manufacturer should be his financial responsibility.  Similar arrows were soon launched at a score of nonvehicular industries. 
This quiver of truth- and safety-minded arrows was thrown for a time at perfectly appropriate targets--businessmen accustomed to public abuse, who were naturally able to charge their customers for any amount of safety, frequent and successful lawsuits, and obloquy.  But the arrows of reform pass through--if they hit at all-the targets at which they are aimed, and in 1973 they hit a professor.  Evil day! 
So maybe it was worth it.  Those who click on the link and follow through will be rewarded by David Friedman's remark;
I used to assign that in class. The funny things was how many students took it for granted that it was real, despite the dates.  

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