Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's Swedish for tough love?

Sweden just told Saab, their major domestic automobile manufacturer, that there will be no government bailout.

One of the main reasons is that Saab is partly owned by General Motors. Sweden doesn’t want to bailout GM. And that’s partly because sales of Saab have been diminishing for years under GM ownership.

"Under G.M.'s ownership, they denuded the intellectual content behind the brand," said Peter Wells, who teaches at Cardiff Business School in Wales and specializes in the automotive industry. "Its products are not exciting enough, and Saab doesn't have a strong brand identity anymore." The same can be said of all of G.M.

This move has surprised many as Sweden has had a left-leaning government for years that nationalized banks and bailed out other industries.

Now the government is right leaning, and has said, "We are very disappointed in G.M., but we are not prepared to risk taxpayers' money. This is not a game of Monopoly."

How refreshing.

Saab is as much an international symbol of Sweden as GM is of the U.S. And the Swedish government has put on their big boy pants and said, “No”.

The Swedish labor unions are stunned. They view it as their entitlement to work at Saab.

There is a lesson here for us. The government is not here to bail you out of stupidity.

P.J. O’Rourke said it beautifully.

“I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat.

God is an elderly or, at any rate, middle aged male, a stern fellow, patriarchal rather than paternal and a great believer in rules and regulations. He holds men accountable for their actions. He has little apparent concern for the material well being of the disadvantaged. He is politically connected, socially powerful and holds the mortgage on literally everything in the world. God is difficult. God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get into God's heavenly country club.

Santa Claus is another matter. He's cute. He's nonthreatening. He's always cheerful. And he loves animals. He may know who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without the thought of quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he's famously generous to the poor.

Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.”

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