Monday, December 8, 2008

Transparency (again)

The comment-ocracy (I don't like "blogosphere" because it doesn't include enough; there are plenty of professional bloviators who bring little more to the table) is atwitter because the automakers came back to Washington and offered up plans with little substance. Andrew Sullivan points us to posts by Jim Manzi, Joseph Romm, and Matt Yglesias, and the consensus of these (and, it seems, many others) is that the Big 3 didn't offer real plans, that these were profoundly unserious attempts; some have even termed them "political" business plans.

Golly, what did we expect? I mean, really expect. Did we believe that the auto companies were going to lay out their future strategies in exacting detail, including precise plans for closing plants and jettisoning workers? Should they have gotten together and parceled out the new-energy strategies (OK, Bob, you guys take biofuels, we'll stick with flex, and we'll let Ford pursue the nuclear car, snicker, snicker)?

I wrote about the general concept of transparency a couple of months ago, and I'm sure there's more that can be said. Businesses don't, and shouldn't, believe that transparency is what their business is all about. Real business plans have to remain secret; otherwise, there's no competitive advantage to be gained. I wouldn't invest in a transparent company, as it would have no way to gain through their specialized knowledge.

Furthermore, these auto CEOs aren't stupid. They recognize that the sentiment, at least in a fearful ignorant Congress, is leaning toward helping them out. All they have to do is give a little, flesh out some generalized, semi-technical "business plans," and our legislators will cave. The first time they came to Washington, they offered nothing but need. The second time, they say, look, we tried, we told you stuff, and the effort, no matter how minimal, is seen as significant.

And this was all predictable, and easy to foresee, and should not engender the least bit of surprise or outrage...but, to the comment-ocracy, it does - when do we realize that they're as much captives of "conventional wisdom" as everyone else?

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