A Mall in the Car

When one edits a blog on cars-first transportation and a blog on market totalitarianism, news such as this poses the question of where to comment. Since marketing and market totalitarianism are the bigger, deeper phenomenon, I choose TCT.

Shopping, despite the obvious distracted driving portents, is about to enter the cockpit of the car in a serious way.

Here is a screenshot of General Motors’ initial version of its Marketplace dashware:


“Marketplace is not meant to be an in-vehicle digital billboard,” Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president of global connected customer experience [ROFL!], says to Automotive News.

That, my friends, is a lie.

Hayek’s Comic Book

I just learned, thanks to a tip by the omnivorous Douglas Pressman of Prague and an article by Bruce Campbell, that, back in 1945, Friedrich Hayek’s wildly naive apology for capitalism, The Road to Serfdom, was made into a comic book promoted by no less a (then as now and evermore) state-dependent corporate capitalist enterprise than General Motors.

Hayek, having only an ultra-abstract textbook understanding of private enterprise, never stopped to wonder about the things his theory elided that were happening right under his nose. Not least among these was, of course, the continuing consolidation of corporate marketing,which is the art and science of applying the principles of scientific management to ordinary people’s off-the-job lives.

As I argue in The Consumer Trap book, the progress and success of this overclass endeavor would make Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini purple with jealousy, if they were around to see it today. Among its many effects is what I call a market totalitarian society, where people are free to do whatever they want, so long as it’s shopping for and using capitalist products (politicians now distinctly included).

Hayek, of course, could not imagine such things would happen, as his view of private business was so deeply naive.  His supposed master work is far less critical and realistic even than Adam Smith, who, in a radically different context with a very different purpose, had written a far subtler, more open-ended, and altogether better defense of business ascendance 168 years before Hayek’s book became the favored intellectual cover for American capitalism.

Even though Hayek framed socialism as a question of class analysis — he equated all possible forms of socialism and even welfare states with feudal servitude — he remained utterly denialist that capitalism is itself a form of class domination, albeit one operating as much through the power relations of “the free market” as through state power.  Hence, here is the hugely ironic — and hilariously embarrassing to Hayek and Hayekians — cartoon from his GM-pushed comic book on the topic of “recreation” planning by the overclass:


“Once started, planners can’t stop.” Precisely, Freidrich, precisely! It’s called the marketing race, a.k.a. the primary form of big business competition. It is quite literally built into corporate capitalism, and can only stop upon the death of that system or the planet on which it operates, whichever comes first.

Can you say “idiot savant”?

Strummer’s Lament

nero fiddle“A car in the fridge. Or a fridge in the car? Like cowboys do in TV land…”

Such was the late Joe Strummer’s apt diagnosis of capitalism’s inherent pursuit of trivialities/limitation of society’s available macro-choices.

30 years and a month later, what are the great, bailout-taking entrepreneurs up to?  Serious answers to Peak OilPovertyArmageddon?

Not quite.

Holographic birthday cakes, as we’ve seen, for one thing.

The latest “cutting edge” advance?

Recharging smartphones, digital music players and other personal electronics cordlessly will be as easy as dropping them onto the console of a car under a deal being announced today by General Motors.

GM will take a $5 million stake in Powermat, a company that sells cordless charging units for home use. It is making the announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“Imagine a mat or shelf where you could put your iPhone, your Droid or other personal device and charge it automatically while you commute to work, run errands or as you’re driving on a family vacation,” said Micky Bly, GM’s executive director of electronic systems and hybrids, in a release. “The Chevy Volt will be one of the first applications, but we intend to expand it across our vehicle portfolio.”

Yes, imagine!  Will wonders never cease?  How thrilled will your grandkids be to learn that this was the sort of thing that received massive public subsidy in the early 21st century?

Same as it Ever Was…

senile egg Having lost its grifting, grafting hedge-fund-running czar, and having been relieved of its financial responsibility for the skein of toxic waste dumps it has left across North America, the “new” General Motors returns its attention to the true meat of its work. Yep, billion-dollar brainwashing:

DETROIT — Spending for General Motors Co.’s new Chevy advertising blitz that starts tonight during the World Series is expected to top the $685 million the brand spent in all of 2008, GM marketing boss Joel Ewanick said today.

Chevy television spots from Goodby featuring voiceovers from Michigan-native actor Tim Allen will air tonight when the San Francisco Giants host the Texas Rangers at 8 p.m. on Fox.

The campaign, which employs the slogan “Chevy Runs Deep” and the brand’s iconic bowtie logo, emphasizes the Chevrolet’s long history while touting new technology and safety.

Goodby called Chevy’s heritage a “tiebreaker” in competing with other automakers and said the cars are “beautiful, productive machines.”

One commercial shows a montage of old and new Chevy trucks with dogs, Hank Williams singing “Movin’ On Over” and Allen’s lone line, “A dog and a Chevy. What else do you need?”

And some say corporate capitalism has reached its senescence…

Executive Pay: Not so Limited

fraud In a follow-up to our last post, here’s today’s news:

Pay czar open to raising salary limits for new hires

November 13, 2009 – 12:01 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Two days after GM Chairman Ed Whitacre said the government should loosen its restrictions on executive pay for bailed-out companies, the White House pay czar signaled his willingness to raise salary caps for new hires.

“Caps,” sure.

GM’s New Geniuses Can’t Live on Half a Million

SEGUIN, Texas (Reuters) — General Motors Co. Chairman Ed Whitacre on Tuesday urged the Obama administration to give the automaker less restrictive pay caps and said it was too early to discuss the timing for the automaker to become a public company again.

Cash salaries for the top executives were cut by 31 percent, and only one unnamed executive besides Henderson will be paid more than $500,000 for 2009.

Whitacre said that $500,000 limit made hiring from outside difficult, and he urged a reconsideration of the limits set by the Treasury Department’s special master Kenneth Feinberg. (Source: Automotive News, November 11, 2009)

whit Whitacre, the fresh-faced rebel shown at left, was, after all paid $61 million in 2006, for his excruciating labors overseeing the AT&T-Bell South merger while also passing along illegally-gathered wiretap information to the NSA.

And what would we all do without glorious breakthroughs like the AT&T-Bell South merger?  Sure, 10,000 people lost their jobs in that process, and it also further entrenched the institutional basis for the world’s highest telecommunications bills.

But, look, those things are good for investors, aren’ t they?  And, just as anybody can sleep under a bridge, soare  we all perfectly free to become major investors.  All you have to do is get yourself $10 or 20 million to get yourself started.

And Ed and his pals probably lost a lot of their $61 million pay packets last year, too, right?  Just like the rest of us, right?  Aren’t you down to your last few dozen millions yourself?  I know I am.

carflipBesides, it’s got to be a rather thankless task, this acting as the funeral director who keeps insisting the guy in the box is still alive…