It should come as no surprise that the federal government is using GM as an outlet for its rampant paternalistic urges. The most recent example, coming from the Wall Street Journal, is particularly disturbing given the potential safety problems it will create.
Starting Jan. 4, General Motors Co. plans to do something unprecedented in the U.S. car industry: It will run its assembly line here around the clock on a permanent basis.
While common in other industries, not even car-efficiency benchmark Toyota Motor Corp. operates its plants routinely with more than two shifts. Car-assembly lines need too much scheduled maintenance and restocking for such intensive production to make sense, many industry experts say.
The Obama administration auto task force that oversaw GM’s reorganization last spring was startled to learn that the industry standard for plants to be considered at 100% capacity was two shifts working about 250 days a year. In recommending that the government invest about $50 billion in GM, the task force urged the company to strive toward operating at 120% capacity by traditional standards.
This situation is not without precedent. Government regulations frequently move behavior in the opposite direction of public health and safety. Increased regulations on average MPG for automakers results in lighter cars and, as a consequence, a higher number of fatalities. While government safety regulations for cars increase costs and incentivize consumers to keep older cars longer, resulting in greater emissions. At the very least, however, the preceding examples of government paternalism had some roots in good intentions. Running GM plants at 120% capacity has the potential to cause deaths for the sake of providing jobs and stimulating the economy. Unfortunately, such Keynesian policies do not provide jobs and do not stimulate economies. So the result of this latest act of paternalism will simply leave us with decreased safety and increased economic inefficiencies.