Hopefully, the first thing that pops into your head about the title is, huh? What can the color of cars teach us about government? Let’s look at some history.
Most people assume that all early cars were black. Not so. In fact, some of the early automobiles were quite colorful. The cars were very expensive, relatively speaking, and were a status symbol in addition to being a novel mode of transportation. Many were actually quite ornate as the paint and methods of painting were a carryover from the carriages of the day. Bright multi-colored carriages with detailed striping and accents were common.
The problem was that the paints and processes required time, too much time for assembly-line production. There was the time for all the detail work, added to the drying time which took several weeks. On top of that, the colors tended to fade and yellow over time leading to a need to repaint.
Cars made by hand, one at a time, were expensive. Henry Ford developed an asphalt based baked enamel paint which was more suited to his assembly line process. It dried much faster, and the dark color did not fade. Without this innovation, cars would have been much too expensive for the average American. The roaring 20s might have been the biking 20s had Ford not developed the paint and assembly line process.
In 1918, the Chinese developed wood oil (tung oil) based paints. These dried in about one-third the time of the paints being used. In addition, these “spar enamels” allowed for colors that would not fade. This sparked the interest of the public to leave the old saying of Henry Ford and his “any color as long as it’s black” in favor of the colors they wanted.
Competition began, as well. In the 1920s, General Motors began an effort with Dupont Chemical to develop more advanced paints. A substance known as Pyroxylin made the new Duco paint available in a rainbow of colors that didn’t fade and dried in minutes rather than hours, or weeks. Suddenly the people were offered an attractive, colorful product they could afford.
Ford resisted the change since he had so much invested in his process. In fact, he voided warranties of any Model Ts painted other than black. But the genie was out of the bottle and would not be put back. In spite of the poor economy of the 1930’s, metallic paints were developed and by the end of the decade chrome was being added for more flash.
What has any of this got to do with our government?
A free market is able to respond to the wants and needs of the buying public. Imagine, in less than thirty years the average person went from a horse and buggy to an automobile in shiny colors. In fact, in 1908, a Ford Model T cost $825 but by 1925 its cost was under $300. Meeting consumer needs and competition drove the cost down. And we can see, in spite of Ford’s insistence on black cars, the consumer won out in the end.
Private businesses have to make a profit as a return on their risk and investment, so they have to be careful and prevent waste and abuse. They also have to respond to market forces and competition. The government has no such requirements, as products of government are neither paid for nor used by those making the decisions. The government is a third party payer and operates a monopoly. Here is an excellent video that explains why this never works.
Most would agree that we simply do not have a free market in much of anything. Government regulations, incentives, along with lobbyists make an uneven playing field called crony capitalism. That’s being kind. In reality, it is socialism. Healthcare, education, banking, the auto industry, wind and solar – the government picks winners and losers. It repays those who play along and punishes those who don’t.
It’s no longer, “You can have any color as long as it’s black.” Now it’s, “You can have whatever the government says you can.” Except, the government has no competition to force it to respond to the people. From our city and county to our state and federal government, the problem is the same. The Constitution restrains government, not the people. Until we realize it and become involved to force a change, nothing will happen. All the squabbling over peripheral issues only serves to maintain the status quo.