Pedal to the meddle

I found this in a Usenet ( thread titled “Yes, there is a difference between American and Japanese cars.” The difference, suggests a fellow identified as “Brent,” is more philosophical than physical:

Japanese companies don’t understand a particular irrationality of americans. Americans by and large expect something to be done immediately… they don’t care about details such as if it fixes the problem or not… or even if makes things worse, they want something done. This is why we have the TSA, tire pressure monitors, countless government programs and agencies, tons of regulation, various wars in progress, and so on… because people want something ‘done about it’ and the US government takes full advantage. Essentially americans want to see a fix, no matter how slip shod or more damaging than the original problem immediately. That is if the attempt to cover up the problem failed.

Japanese culture on the other hand tends to cause people to deny there is a problem in the first place and then quietly fix it hoping nobody will notice. The fix will generally be a reasonable step or kludge that actually does at the very least make things better. Even when it doesn’t things don’t usually get worse and nobody seems to use it as a chance to expand their power. There is a sense of shame there was an error or problem in the first place.

This explains much about the Toyota “unintended acceleration” debacle, in which dozens of our aggrieved countrymen insisted it could not be floor-mat placement or, worse, driver error: something had to be wrong with the electronic throttle. Government research determined otherwise, but that made no difference to the aggrieved.

Then again, Americans always clamor for their day in court, and we didn’t get to be the world volume leader in litigation by telling would-be plaintiffs that their complaints have no merit.

And on the larger scale, this is how the government grew from manageable to unwieldy to Leviathan: voters demanded that something be done about Problem X, and the candidates proposed Action A or Action B, regardless of whether A or B had any relevance to X or of whether either A or B could possibly work. (Whether the Constitution permits any action at all is never even considered.) The candidate that says “Government doesn’t need to be involved in this sort of thing” goes home in third place, or worse, on election day.


  1. Jeff Brokaw »

    27 June 2011 · 12:21 pm

    Pretty interesting stuff. Thanks Chaz.

    Somewhat related: I read a good book back in the 80s about the car industry called “The Reckoning”. It compared Ford with Nissan, all the way back to the beginnings of each company, the differences in labor unions and how they affected the company, the rise of the Harvard MBA bean counters entering the business world en masse after WWII (including Robert McNamara, who ran Ford in the 50s until he joined the JFK administration), how bean counters are not “car guys” and why this is bad for a car company, etc. Long but interesting and revealing.

    One key point he made: Japanese labor unions could only organize within a company, not across the entire industry, which completely changes the balance of power compared to American unions, who acquired too much power for the good of the industry and the unions themselves, leading to the inability to compete on price when Japanese companies entered our market with fuel-efficient cars during the oil shocks of the 70s.

  2. fillyjonk »

    27 June 2011 · 2:47 pm

    “SOMEONE should DO SOMETHING!” are words that always make me cringe. Especially when the implied “SOMEONE” is “the government.”

  3. McGehee »

    27 June 2011 · 4:44 pm

    We may be past the point where “Loser Pays” will get the job done, and I fear “Loser Goes Feet-First into the Wood Chipper” won’t appeal to enough people.

  4. Dan B »

    27 June 2011 · 6:34 pm

    Let’s give Loser-Pays a shot first, after all, someone should do something. :=)

    Loser-Goes-Feet-First-Into-The-Wood-Chipper has a certain visceral satisfaction, but if the Loser is a corporation, who goes into the chipper? CEO? Chairman of the Board? Lead investor of the mutual fund who is the largest shareholder? Someone has to go, after all, a corporation now has the same rights as a human being thanks to judicial activism.

  5. CGHill »

    27 June 2011 · 6:40 pm

    Yeah, they were doing a lot of that in 1886.

  6. McGehee »

    27 June 2011 · 7:45 pm

    How about the articles of incorporation, followed by the individual responsible for the tort, if the corporation was the defendant, or the officer who ordered the lawsuit if the corporation was the plaintiff.

  7. McGehee »

    27 June 2011 · 7:46 pm

    …but we can try Loser Pays first, if we must.

  8. Charles Pergiel »

    27 June 2011 · 10:10 pm

    A great insight! I have seen / heard it many times, but I have never been able to figure out what to do with these jackasses who are making demands but have no idea of what the problem is or how to solve it. Shooting springs to mind, or a baseball bat to the head, but that generally leads to more problems, though I am not sure, taken all together which would be worse. Arrested and tried for justifiable homicide, or running in circles, screaming and shouting and spending all your time and money on Potemkin fixes?

  9. Dan B »

    28 June 2011 · 12:13 am

    Mr Hill, you’re 125 years behind the times.

  10. CGHill »

    28 June 2011 · 7:16 am

    Or you, 125 behind. Corporate personhood, such as it is, has existed for over a century. Citizens United merely provided reinforcement for one particular aspect.

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