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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 29 September 2017 > DANGEROUS AT ANY SPEED

DANGEROUS AT ANY SPEED

DONALD TRUMP’S POLICIES COULD TURN SILICON VALLEY INTO ANOTHER DETROIT
KIM KULISH/GETTY IMAGES
DAY AT THE OFFICES: The U.S. headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California, and the abandoned Packard plant in Detroit.
TUDOR APMADOC/GETTY

By 1908, when Henry Ford started building the Model T in a factory there, the automobile was the most important new technology in the world. The industry coalesced in and around that city as inventors and investors rushed to the region. Out of a torrent of startups—Cadillac Automobile Co., Dodge Brothers, Durant Motors, Mercury Cyclecar Co.—a few global monoliths emerged and consolidated. For the next four decades, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and the city’s carmaking ecosystem dominated every aspect of the global auto industry—and, for that matter, the U.S. economy. Charles Wilson, who was the president of GM before becoming President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s secretary of defense, coined the phrase “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”

IF YOU WANT AN OMINOUS WARNING ABOUT THE IMPACT OF THE TRUMP ERA ON SILICON VALLEY, LOOK AT A FORMER AMERICAN BEHEMOTH OF INNOVATION: DETROIT.

The 1960s were Detroit’s apex. In the early 1970s, dubious U.S. economic and foreign policy led to disaster when the OPEC nations initiated an oil embargo. Gas became scarce and expensive, and Detroit was caught focusing on the wrong products—ostentatious gas-guzzlers—at the wrong time, giving Japanese makers of small cars an opening in the U.S. market. Pulitzer Prize–winning auto historian Joseph White wrote about two fateful mistakes that made things worse. First, “Detroit underestimated the competition,” he said. The likes of Toyota and Honda had become much more adept than industry executives realized. Second, the U.S. companies “handled failure better than success.” Detroit’s decades of triumph set up the hubris, waste and bad practices that came to haunt it.

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About Newsweek International

INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE During the 2016 election, conservatives turned on the principles that had once animated them. Somehow a movement based on real ideas,such as economic freedom and limited government, had devolved into a tribe that valued neither principle nor truth; luminaries such as Edmund Burke and William F. Buckley Jr. had been replaced by media clowns such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. Icons such as Ronald Reagan, with his optimism and geniality had been supplanted by the dark, erratic narcissism of Donald Trump. With anger and bravado, Trump declared war against Reaganism during the 2016 campaign and some people loved him for it.
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