This column's support for the "Buy American" movement has brought it critical letters, particularly from readers dissatisfied with American cars.
District Liners who consider me rational in other matters scoff at me for refusing to buy an imported auto.
Owen J. Remington of Lancaster, Va., is among those who think we are well advised to buy foreign cars, but his reasons are somewhat unusual. For starters, he says, "Think of the bright side. We'll never have any more wars with Germany and/or Japan."
He bases that statement on the assumption that we would try to avoid a war that would cut us off from repair parts. And of course Japan and Germany would try to avoid a war with such an important customer, and so would Italy, which also sells us many automobiles.
Our former enemies Japan and Germany may be better off than they would have been had they won the war. As winners, they would have found it necessary to feed us and lend us enough money to rebuild our industries. As losers, they permitted us to rebuild their industries to the point that they now sell us steel and autos and electrical generating equipment -- which they used to import from us.
They have a good thing going, and they're not stupid enough to louse it up with another war.
Owen worries that one of these days Congress may realize that all our World War II enemies have become pussycats. Somebody might suggest that we could save billions of tax dollars by eliminating our armed forces, and it's obvious what that would trigger. Million of former soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilan employees of the military would be walking the streets looking for jobs. Millions of production workers in aircraft, missile tank and weapons plants would be thrown out of work.
We would have to raise taxes to support them, and that would put quite a strain on the country's economy. The mere threat that peace might break out could cause a depression.
However, I think Owen would worry less if he'd keep in mind the continued existence of our loyal ally, the Soviet Union. With friends like the Russians, a country doesn't need enemies.
Of course it is theoretically possible that we will some day find a way to reduce the danger of war with the Russians, too. But I can't imagine how. Surely it will not be through the products of the Russian automobile factories. Russian factories give one the impression they are run by the District of Columbia's highway department. Or perhaps the GSA. POSTSCRIPT
While we're on the subject of potential threats to the American economy, there's one more that's worth mentioning: the possibility that pedestrians and vehicle operators might some day learn to act like prudent adults rather than irresponsible children.
Except for those who are bedridden, all of us operate or ride in vehicles at least occasionally, and even those who ride whenever possible must, at times, become pedestrians. One would think that people who frequently use two forms of locomotion would develop a sympathetic understanding or both, and a desire to see them coexist harmoniously. But alas! It is not so.
When we are pedestrians, every vehicle is our enemy. We dart in front of vehicles, jaywalk between them in heavy traffic, ignore signals that give them the right of way, and expect drivers to see us at night as easily as we see their headlights. However, when we operate or ride in vehicles, every pedestrian becomes our enemy -- an undisciplined nuisance who is mowed down with deadly regularity yet continues to challenge everything on wheels.
Drivers are even more hostile to other drivers than they are to pedestrians.
They feel they must at all costs get ahead of everybody else, even if it is only one car-length.
The ulimate in wheeled vehicles is one with two wheels and a driver who leaves his brains at home when he takes off on his bicycle or motorcycle.
There are days on which it appears to an observer that everybody on the street, rider and pedestrian alike, has gone mad. But think of the ghastly consequences if suddenly we were all to become polite, rational, cautious and reasonable.
The auto repair business would collapse. New car sales would plummet. Accident investigators, damage estimators and insurance salesman would be standing in line to apply for unemployment compensation. Doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, X-ray technicians, hospital orderlies and others in the people-repair business would be laid off. Lawyers would starve.
In short, the economic consequences of an end to the slaughter on our streets and highways would probably be even more severe than an outbreak of peace. We have killed and injured far more people on our highways than in all the wars we've ever fought.