Plenty of economists are trying to define what killed Detroit, but they’re looking in all the wrong places. “Fire the MBAs and hire a poet,” writes PJ O’Rourke in the Wall Street Journal. This isn’t a story of unions or financial crisis. “It’s a tragic romance—unleashed passions, lost love and wild horses.” Cars were once an American passion, replacing horses as an ennobling, empowering status symbol. Then, we moved to the suburbs.
Suddenly we were in our cars constantly, driving from dreary errand to dreary errand. “They were flashing swords beaten into dull plowshares. Cars became appliances.” Eggheads came and loaded them with safety features and pollution controls. The American auto industry was doomed. “When it comes to dull, practical, ugly things that bore and annoy me,” O’Rourke explains, “Japanese things cost less and the cup holders are more conveniently located.”