Thomas Friedman Explains that if The World Is Flat, The Car is Electric

Do you find the idea of a government “car czar” courtesy of the Big Three bailout as strange as we do? Do you find it odd that we’re throwing crazy amounts of money at a business model that’s clearly marked “do not resuscitate”? Have no fear. The World is Flat author Thomas L. Friedman — who is no stranger to parsing dense issues into digestible sound bytes for the masses — has put things into cultural terminology that makes it easy to understand in his New York Times column.

“… our bailout of Detroit will be remembered as the equivalent of pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the mail-order-catalogue business on the eve of the birth of eBay. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into the CD music business on the eve of the birth of the iPod and iTunes. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into a book-store chain on the eve of the birth of Amazon.com and the Kindle. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into improving typewriters on the eve of the birth of the PC and the Internet.”

Thank you, Friedman. We knew that we didn’t agree with what’s about to happen in Detroit, but now you’ve given us a clever way of explaining why to our friends.

He goes on to single out a California-based electric car network company called Better Place, which he dubs the innovative Apple of Car 2.0 — you can almost picture him smiling as he came up with that one. The company already has plans in the works in San Francisco, Israel, Denmark, and Australia.

“What Agassi, the founder of Better Place, is saying is that there is a new way to generate mobility, not just music, using the same platform. It just takes the right kind of auto battery — the iPod in this story — and the right kind of national plug-in network — the iTunes store — to make the business model work for electric cars at six cents a mile.”

If only this man and his helpful analogies had been around when we were struggling with AP Physics.

What do you think of his argument for innovation? Are we, the pseudo shareholders, the ones to blame if the current, backward-looking bailout goes through?