Is Idol the only American business that works?

American Idol works better than almost any American business I can think of. Last night's finale, with its 100 million votes, presented Idol (it leads the industry with 26.3 million weekly viewers) as an island of success in a sea of business failure. From banks to automobiles, American executives have been woefully out of touch with their customers, betting on financial engineering to make up for an inability to offer customers more compelling products than the competition.

But Idol -- which is a British import tailored to the U.S. market -- works because it taps into the American dream. Its basic premise is the American one: that talent, not pedigree, is what determines a person's economic fate. And throughout the season, advertisers, particularly Ford Motor (F) (the only U.S. automobile manufacturer not owned by the government) have tapped into Idol's popularity.