Economics is to Politics, as Gasoline is to a Match

Politicians don’t make the discoveries and breakthroughs that make our lives safer, longer, and more comfortable.  Free-market, free-thinking tinkerers, inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs do that.

We know that government doesn’t build cars, nice houses and stylish shoes.  It doesn’t make espresso, or bicycle helmets, or leather sofas, or medicines.  It doesn’t make jumbo jets, computers or portable DVD players.

Private businesses are launching spacecraft and building global communications systems.  Doctors can, without political intervention, open up a failing human body, replace the heart, and allow a life to go on.

And yet, we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that without government, there’d be no roads.  Some of us apparently think that without government subsidies, there’d be no football, no art, no charity, no business, no schools.

While we don’t utter the word anymore, there is a name for this thinking.  We used to call it socialism, and Americans used to fight it body and spirit.  Now we whimper and beg for it.  So we’re getting it good and hard. 

Can we re-think this? 

It wasn’t so long ago that Democrats wanted European-like prices for gasoline.  They reasoned that if gasoline were more expensive, then more people would ride bicycles, walk, demand and use public transportation, and in general, conserve this energy resource as if it were finite.  Expensive gas would promote the development of alternative fuels and energy sources, and probably fuel a new wave of technological breakthroughs.  While we may not like the idea of expensive gas, the long-term economic reasoning is actually sound.

Curiously, Democratic politicians abandoned this reasoning when they started crying about “global warming.”  They then lifted gasoline taxes before an election (the late Governor O’Bannon in 2000), suggested that we tap into our Strategic Oil Reserves (several Democrats on state and federal levels), or (as Rep. Julia Carson had done in 2003) call for an investigation of the oil industry at the first hint of rising gasoline prices.

Of course Republicans got in on this, too.  Republicans do what Democrats only talk about.

OK, so there hasn’t been a new oil refinery built in the USA since 1976.  Americans have no objection to foreign oil drilling, but will not tolerate it at home.  So instead of doing the math of supply and demand with our own resources, we turned to global markets that have their own agenda in global politics.

This has been disastrous on several fronts.  First, we’ve become dependent upon militarism as an energy policy.  Second, our lack of energy policy foresight has raised the possibility that third-world nations may soon pass us in terms of energy efficiency and robust delivery/point of use generation …and this could mean even further erosion of USA industry and technological prowess.

Third, we’ve built our cities for cars and cheap gas; so we have seas of parking lots and miles and miles of ugly boxes we call buildings.  Such unsightly, inefficient building lowers our quality of life, steals our leisure time, and makes us a nation of red-faced road-ragers.  Oh, and of course, like most federal policies of the last forty years, this lack of clear-sighted policy has cost us tens of thousands of jobs.

What is the best policy? 

Get politicians out of our marketplaces, and let businessmen, scientists, engineers and of course, entrepreneurs, do what they do best…fill needs to our mutual satisfaction.

That is, after all, what the free market is: voluntary transactions that serve everybody’s needs and even wants.  And let’s not forget the opposite of that: power-mad poohbahs with guns who think they know best. 

We have a word for the narcissistic napoleons who destroy nations and lives; it’s “politicians.”

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This was very well written. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for reading!

  3. All you do is accuse the Democrats of hypocrisy, but do you support creating high prices, even though it is government intervention? (but good in the long run)

  4. No, Mr. Smith, I do not support government intervention. But yes, Mr. Smith, I do support high prices when values are high, supplies are low, and people voluntarily make choices based on these facts.
    I’m all in favor of voluntary interactions, and I’m opposed to government force where it doesn’t belong.

    Here’s a good illustration: http://www.vex.net/~smarry/oldbbs/bread.html

  5. Great post, Andy.

  6. Thank you sir!


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