Cargo Cult: Why America Cannot Have Nice Things

(MENAFN- Asia Times) Well, I've been afraid of changing

'Cause I've built my life around you

But time makes you bolder

Even children get older

And I'm getting older too

– Fleetwood Mac

According to media reports, the Biden administration is planning to announce 100% tariffs on imports of Chinese electric vehicles. The President needs to nail down the union vote and protect his right flank from“weak on China” accusations before November.

EV tariffs are a cheap solution to both problems. Americans won't feel a thing. China exports a negligible number of cars to the US. Fat, stupid and happy – American life will carry on as if nothing happened.

The average price of a new vehicle in the US is US$48,000. In the Ford F-150 line-up, that's a mid-range XLT variant. It's a Toyota Crown in mid-level Nightshade trim.

And it's a Tesla Model 3 with the long-range, dual motor, all-wheel drive package. These are all commendable vehicles and Americans should be the envy of the world for having such excellent motoring choices.

No... no they should not. Compared to what's now on offer in China, Americans are paying outrageous prices for absolute dog piles. For $40,000, Chinese buyers can get a top-of-the-line Tesla Model S equivalent dual-motor 4WD BYD Han.

Hyundai cut prices on its Sonata sedan from $42,000 to $17,000. And for $11,000, Chinese consumers can buy a BYD Qin plug-in hybrid for less than half the US price of Toyota's equivalent Corolla hybrid.

Biden's saving grace is that most Americans do not know that they don't have nice things. Few Americans lament the lack of high-speed rail. How can you miss what you never possessed?

If you've never experienced 300 Mbps download speeds, you won't question AT&T marketing 100 Mbps as 5G. If every student goes $40,000 into debt to pay for college, it's not considered a burden on America's young.

New York City's subway has always been like that. And if Chinese EVs are not available in the US, people will continue to buy $48,000 dog piles and like it.

Of course, the pretense can't go on forever. There are intelligent well-traveled people in America who know what goes on in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, they haven't had much success bringing those nice things home.

For decades, China has systematically on-shored the best the world has to offer. While still missing a few key pieces (cutting-edge chip fabs and commercial airplanes), the systematic process has been a spectacular success.

Cargo cults were religious movements in Pacific Melanesia where members aped the behavior of advanced societies in hopes of summoning valuable“cargo” to their islands.

This sometimes involved the construction of elaborate but comical copies of advanced technology and infrastructure like wooden airplanes and mock landing strips which always failed to achieve the desired effect.


Asia Times

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