Recently Instapundit linked to this story from Popular Mechanics on the Top Ten Startup Car Makers.

These are ten new companies that are either in production, or near production of automobiles. Some of them are performance gas-guzzlers. Others are electric cars. One is a speciality police car.

Historically in the United States, and it has served us well, businesses came into being and passed out of being--a constant state of creative ferment: Darwinism in the economic realm where the fittest survive. Remember A&P? Montgomery Ward? Remember America before Wal-Mart? Before Apple? Ultimately the consumer benefits.

Preserving the Big Three with government money freezes the status quo in place. May be the best thing that can happen to American auto manufacturing is for one or more of the big guys to tank, and a new collection of car makers to grow.

New technologies also contribute to this creative ferment. The demise of demand for whale-oil hit certain New England seaports hard. But the increased demand for petroleum did wonders for parts of Pennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma, etc. Overall, as old jobs disappeared, new ones appeared.

Transitions are tough on people. No doubt about it. But what are the alternatives?

Think of a continuum--a line where one color gradually shades into another color without sharp breaks. This contimuum represents Industrial society. At one end is laissez-faire capitalism--Capitalism with no restraints. In Capitalism the means of production are in private hands, and the decision-making is in private hands. At the other end of the continuum is pure Socialism--the means of production and decision-making are in public (read government) hands. Various combinations are in between. Pure Socialism has never been very good at benefitting the masses. While the elites do OK, the masses stand in line for toilet paper. On the other hand, at the end of the nineteenth century we learned that pure laissez-faire Capitalism led to monopolies, abuse of workers, and other bad things. So we moved to regulated Capitalism. The means of production remained in private hands, and decision-making remained in private hands within the bounds of regulations to ensure competition, humane treatment of workers, etc. This has worked out pretty well. (Distributivism, such as G.K.Chesterton espoused following Pope Leo XIII, results in a pre-industrial society, I think.)

We are now, I think, at a point in our nation's history when we may be sliding a bit farther down the continuum from Regulated-Capitalism toward the Socialist end. That direction does not promise prosperity.

And there is another worry. Liberty is a fragile condition. Most human beings in the history of the world have not had much. Moving toward the Socialist end of the spectrum, taking more out of private hands and putting it under government control, creates a stronger and stronger government. Stronger governments are threats to Liberty, even if the government thinks it has noble motives.

We may be moving in this direction because we have come to believe that life should have no risk, that there should be no suffering or hardship. Not possible. A world without risk or hardship is a world without Liberty, and without personal responsibility.

Am I being callous? No. I want reasonable Unemployment Insurance for American workers. And I want government limited so that there is money for private charity. But sometimes people must move to find work. Sometimes people must change jobs. The European model is becoming unsustainable even in Europe. We should take a lesson.