Both Posner (who has changed his mind) and Becker agree that the Detroit Big Three automakers should be allowed to go bankrupt rather than continue to suck up subsidies and produce cars the world market do not want. It is hard not to agree on principle, and in this case, also in practice.
The thing is, if the big three go bankrupt, this does not necessarily mean that Detroit is finished when it comes to producing cars. The designers, workers and machinery will be put to use – if nothing else, other automakers as well as entrepreneurs will come in, buy up the assets (free of dept), and start to compete by producing the most popular models, licensed models from other auto makers, or new ones.
The failure of the Big Three is complicated: A disastrous decision back in the fifties or sixties to make pensions the responsibility of individual companies rather than the government, short-sighted management, ossified unions, overfocus on automation (GM in the 80s), bad product quality, old-fashioned or just bad designs, short-term product development, financial rather than real innovation, slow product development (7 years per new model vs. the Japanese 3-4 in early 90s), too much focus on the domestic market, focus on what you can measure (such as parts commonality) rather than new customer needs and segments, political lobbying as marketing, and on and on and on….
Why not just let it die, and have something more sustainable (both in business and environmental terms) rise from the ashes?