September 14, 2011

Spy Shots! 68 Passenger Van Concept


It's Frankfurt Auto Show week, so of course, I"m expecting lots of kid-friendly car news, but then DT reader Sara sends along this BBC link with a headline, "Van overloaded with 66 children in China."

And I'm like, uh huh, pics or it didn't happen, BBC, and then woah-hoh, the video loads up.

And I guess I'd have to dispute the characterization that it was "overloaded" as typical Western media bias, because I'd merely call this one "full."

Van overloaded with 66 children in China [bbc]


This is a helpful illustration as we debate stimulus and jobs bills that are essentially pointless given the global dynamic between countries like the US and China. To get these kids to school in the US would require two large yellow buses equipped with seatbelts and adorned with blinking lights, folding stop signs and wheelchair access. Is our model safer? Sure. Is it more comfortable? Of course. But that van sure is an efficient and cheap way to get a bunch of kids to school.

apples and dragonfruit, my friend. the wage differentials between Chinese and American peasants is real, but folks in the US still gotta work, and there are plenty of things that need to be done that can't be outsourced.

And yes, it's true that the per-kid cost and process of transporting 66 daycare toddlers is going to be higher in the US. but kids' safety on the road, and daycare centers and preschools complying with basic safety and performance regulations is arguably something we can still afford. And anyway, the point of the BBC report was that this clown car of disaster was illegal, even in China.

China's advantages can be attributed to much more than wage differentials. I regularly work with suppliers domestically and overseas. The regulatory environments and obstacles to getting things done cannot be compared. Throw in some currency games and you've got the recipe for the economic condition we find ourselves in today. Sure there are things that can't be outsource but there are fewer and fewer of them. Just a year ago we were told that "Green Jobs" would be safe because we were investing ahead of China. How long did that lead last? About 5 minutes?
I make no excuses for China's policies or practices. (Piling all those kids in the van is a terrible idea.) But we must acknowledge these policies and act accordingly. Pretending they don't exist or that we can build a strong economy on the handful of areas where China can't/won't compete is a huge mistake.

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