Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No, Virginia

Last night on NPR's "Marketplace" program, Virginia McConnell of a think tank called Resources for the Future spanked us all for being happy about gas prices having re-entered the atmosphere, which to her is very bad news. We should pray for higher, much higher pump prices like they have in Europe.

Ms. McConnell said:

Now we are at a crossroads. Companies that survive this economic downturn must continue the transition toward greener vehicles. But this transition will be neither quick nor cheap. Recently passed fuel economy standards are a step in the right direction, but high gas prices are essential. They provide incentives to manufacturers to produce the new generation of vehicles, and for consumers to buy them. The recent run-up in oil prices showed us what a powerful force the market can be in influencing purchase decisions and spurring innovation. Now, with gasoline back to $1.50 a gallon, sales of hybrid vehicles are faltering.

So, let's stop expecting the car companies to protect us from ourselves. If we want less dependency on foreign oil and reduced greenhouse gases, we'll have to put policies in place to achieve this. If we do, the automakers, whichever ones remain, will figure out how to get us there.

The trouble with think tanks is that they don't think much, at least not outside their laser-like focus on the particular issue that makes their heart beat. It's called single-valued logic: you rivet yourself onto one goal, which might be good in itself, and the context and all competing goals melt into air, into thin air.

Virginia, pull your head out of the clouds for a moment and look around you. I know it's hard to take this aboard, with you having a no-doubt secure and well-paying foundation job, but quite a few of those slugs who need to be saved from themselves are going through a sticky patch. Many of them are not as well connected as you, hence they have no visible means of support at the moment. Lots of others will get no raise or bonus to spike the punch at the office party this year.

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There are also quite a number of poor working people in this country who depend on their cars to get to their employment sites, and for whom more expensive fuel could be a personal disaster.

For all of these lesser breeds without the environmental law, the merciful fall in gas prices is the only economic blessing they have to count.

But that's too good for those swine, in your enlightened view. They stand in the way of reaching the Promised Land where everyone will drive little kiddie cars or, better yet, be packed into sediment on public transportation. There's no way individuals or car manufacturers will do the right thing based on their own needs or good sense, so we've got to wheel up the Big Gun of the government and put it to their heads.

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You think it's a disaster that our government lacks the moral fiber to tax its citizens till they bleed from the ears and surrender to the supreme wisdom of the State. I happen to be proud of the fact that, at least for now, I have the privilege of mobility and can afford it. Incidentally, Ms. McConnell, even when gas was at a dollar and change a gallon before the big run-up, I bought a fuel-efficient car no larger than was practical for my needs.

You see the big picture — environment! With environmental needs so pressing, people can't be trusted with outdated ideas like liberty. Well, there's a bigger picture. It includes both the environment and (excuse the expression) the choices of individuals.

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4 comments:

Terry Morris said...

LOL. And I imagine that in Ms. McConnell's tank thinking a gallon jar of pickles ought, by all rights, to cost the consumer twelve dollars U.S. And the consumer ought to be forced to buy at least two gallons of pickles a week. You know, so all the shelf stockers out there can earn their $25. an hr. due.

You showed an amazing amount of self-discipline in the entry, telling Ms. McConnell to pull her head out of the clouds.

Rick Darby said...

Liberals like to pose as the champions of "the people" against big organizations. But they distrust the ability and willingness of people to solve problems on their own; their proposed solution is invariably for the biggest organization of all, the federal government, to step in and force people to make the "right" choices.

David said...

"Progressives," and even old-line liberals, tend to think of government as an idealized parent-figure, rather than understanding that it is made up of people who are themselves economic actors and are pursuing their own desires for money, power, and security.

I suspect that many on the left are people who have serious issues in their relationships with their own parents.

Elaine Meinel Supkis said...

The US is going down the tubes due to too much oil importing. All trade rivals of the US have HUGE taxes on gasoline. But not the US. We are going bankrupt.