Saving General Motors: Dogs Chasing Cars

Jun 4, 2009

NOTE: This piece was originally posted on the American Solutions Website on June 4, 2009

There’s a folksy old musing that goes something like this: “Why do dogs chase cars? I mean, what would a dog do if it actually caught one?” Excellent question. What would happen? Best case, the dog gets some exercise, and motorists get a little entertainment value from watching a 30-pound spaniel try to hunt down and kill a two-ton metal beast. But worst case, the results are tragic: the poor dog could get run over, or motorists trying to avoid doing same could end up having or causing an accident.

We can think of the world economy, or maybe even just the U.S. economy, as a big highway with lots of cars barreling down it. All these cars are large, powerful machines, with agendas driven by the way markets work, and by the collective urges of billions of entrepreneurs. They’re certainly not going to alter their direction, or even slow down, just because someone is trying to flag them down to ask for a handout or offer bargain car washes, or there’s a dog chasing them.

Some of these cars zooming down that highway are, ironically, actual automobile companies. And some of them, like General Motors, seem to be having some engine trouble, or steering failure, or whatever malfunction is ailing them.

There are also in this world a lot of national governments, which are the dogs. There’s an English spaniel, a German shepherd, a French poodle, . . . you get the point. (The U.S. dog is, of course, a mutt. A really big mutt.) And they’re just itching to get out on the freeway and chase some cars. Why? Because they’re dogs, that’s why. It appears that they’re really trying help, because they’re good dogs. Oh, yes, they are! Maybe they want to herd traffic in the optimum direction, which (they think) will help all the cars get to their destination faster, or maybe they want to foul up traffic just enough that the cars driven by their owners get there first. Maybe the really smart dogs think they can repair their owner’s car while it’s rolling down the highway. And maybe if there is an accident they want to get there to pull some of the passengers out of the wreckage.

But any way you slice it, it’s still just dogs chasing cars. Best case, we all get warm fuzzies from knowing that our dogs love us and are trying to help – in the venture capital community, this is called having “good optics” – and maybe a few needy passengers get pulled out of the wreckage. Worst case, though, they cause accidents, or even cause so much disruption that the entire freeway grinds to a halt. And then nobody gets to their destination.

Dogs are great to have around. They protect our homes from intruders. They make sure we get exercise and stay healthy. They help us remember to respect and be fair to everyone. When we go out with our dogs, they help us meet interesting, attractive people, who are happy to talk to us because we have such a nice dog with us. They are an endless source of entertainment and amusement. But please, keep your dog in your yard or on a leash, because if you don’t, even the smartest, friendliest dog will head straight for the freeway and start chasing those cars!

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