Reading Werner Lang’s obituary in the Telegraph provides an interesting insight into socialism. He was the designer of the Trabant 601 (the one on the right, above, if you’re not sure), in production from 1963 until the fall of the Berlin Wall and an enduring emblem of communist East Germany. The story of its production reveals much about the effects of a totalitarian state (and is a credit to the ingenuity of Werner Lang and his fellow engineers). It was powered by a two-stroke engine because that was all that was available in the workers’ paradise that was East Germany, with a body made from a plastic material comprising compressed cotton and a resin derived from brown coal. In the course of nearly thirty years in production it was never improved because East Germany’s rulers saw no need for the people to have anything better. As the Telegraph describes it: “The engines were two-cylinder models because all that was available were motorcycle motors. There were no disc brakes, no radiator, no oil filter or oil pump and no fuel gauge; the flow of petrol was powered by gravity (the tank was above the engine), so there was no fuel pump.” It was a noisy, rattling, smoke-belching indictment of state control and how governments can suck the life out of the people.
Meanwhile, what other car first hit the roads of the Western world in 1963? The Aston Martin DB5. James Bond’s car, no less. Top left of the two shown above. What a contrast between two opposing systems. It’s easy to mock the Trabbie, as it is affectionately known to its fans, but it’s not the car that should be mocked but socialism. I wonder what Lang could have done with the same opportunities? Which is the point of it all, really, isn’t it? Give opportunities for talented people to excel. It doesn’t matter what at because it’s not the role of government to decide what the priorities are. That’s for the people to decide.