It's Turtles All the Way Down

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Jacob Weisberg cheers on high gas prices and damns the dumb government oil proposals, then pauses to excogitate:

What none can acknowledge is that higher gas prices in the United States are a good thing. To be sure, oil at $70 a barrel causes hardships for working people and delights some of the world's worst dictators. But cheap gasoline imposes its own costs on society: greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and its attendant health risks, traffic congestion, and accidents. The ideal way to cope with these externalities would be with higher gas taxes or a carbon tax. But these are politically impossible ideas at the moment—Democrats lost control of Congress in part because they passed a 4-cent-per-gallon tax increase in 1993. The next best solution is the one that has arrived on its own: a high market price for oil, which spurs conservation and substitution.

Isn't that weird the way the market delivered the best result all on its own? I'm not buying it: There must be some Harvard graduate at the Department of Energy who made it all happen on our behalf.

NEXT: Don't Mention the Meth!

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  1. People just irritate me to no end sometimes. Oh, woe is me, the unbearable pain of $3.00/gallon gasonline. Oh, the suffering of paying for healthcare.

    Misanthropy … welling … up …

  2. If the price is high, there must be price gouging. And collusion.

  3. Well, to be fair to some of those who gripe about health care costs, it really is a fouled-up market, largely due to regulatory structure and tax incentives.

  4. Why is now the optimum time for a price correction (as opposed to sooner or later)?

    Why do you credit a market and not a cartel?

  5. $3.00 a gallon? Quit crying, my local watering hole just jacked the price of sweet guinness crude to $4.50 a PINT. And by comparison, 15 gallons generally lasts me about 1 1/2 to 2 weeks whereas 15 pints doesn’t even get me through a weekend.

    As a silver lining, since they’ve been cracking down more and more on lower and lower BACs, I’ve been saving on gas money.

  6. “Why is now the optimum time for a price correction (as opposed to sooner or later)?”

    It isn’t. If they charge more for it, use less. Who cares why.

  7. Actually, sage +P, it’s more like “there might be price gouging. And collusion.”

    In the long run, investigations into such allegations are good for the market-driven changes in behavior Weisberg applauds. If they find that the price increases are the result of market forces, they serve to drive home the reality of higher gas prices, and make people realize that the government is not going to same them from rising petroleum costs. If episodes of market manipulation are turned up, they can be cracked down on, which will both increase the public’s confidence that collusion will happen, and deterring would-be colluders. Both of these will end up driving home the point that future increases in gas costs are “real,” not manufactured, and convincing consumers and business to change their oil-consumption behavior.

    But that’s just the investigation/transparency element. The other proposals he describes seem useless or worse.

    Except Bush’s proposal to undo the energy-sector tax breaks.

  8. Jason Ligon,

    “If they charge more for it, use less. Who cares why.”

    So I can put you down as pro-gas tax, then? ;-P

  9. Jason Ligon:

    Gas online? Oh, sweet! I’ve been waiting for that! One click, and I’m filled up. Ahhawriight!

    People will always whine like bitches. It’s part of our national character. We’re so priveleged, we live so well, relatively speaking, that we come to expect this. And when life isn’t all peaches & cream, we whine like bitches—and expect the gubmint to fix it for us. Pathetic.

    FBL:

    “Why is now the optimum time for a price correction (as opposed to sooner or later)?”

    This isn’t so much about the timing as it is the fact that it’s happening in the first place. Whether it happened 5 years ago or 5 years in the future is really not that important.

    “Why do you credit a market and not a cartel?”

    The cartel depends on the market to operate. At the end of the day, for all the power the OPEC cartel wields, it is still the market’s bitch. If it weren’t, then unleaded would be $12/gal.

  10. I was not referring to the OPEC cartel. I was referring to the thing that Cavanaugh was calling a market.

  11. Will,

    The fundamental problem of healthcare is that people aren’t willing to adjust. “Gimme everything, give it to me now, and give it to me for nothing,” means that pricing can’t ever work at any level.

    That said, I agree that if we were in another universe where pricing signals were useful regulators of consumption, the current prices are out of whack due to regulatory messes.

  12. If they find that the price increases are the result of market forces, they serve to drive home the reality of higher gas prices, and make people realize…etc.

    Yeah, if people believe the findings! But people believe what they want to believe.

  13. Dave W.,

    Quick semirelated question: what exactly do you get out of all your little pseudonames? Has it always been your dream to walk around in public and make up names for yourself? How odd.

    Anyway, I fail to see the distinction that you claim exists. Please explain this “cartel”, and how it differs from OPEC.

  14. Sustained high prices will bring about behavioral and political changes: energy conservation, public transportation, less exurban sprawl, and eventually the economic viability of alternative fuel sources such as biomass, fuel cells, wind, and solar power, which may one day undermine the power of the oil oligarchs. Are politicians too stupid to understand this, or just smart enough not to say it aloud?

    Ah, now there is the trillion barrel question. Are they demogogues, or just ignorant yahoos?

  15. Wow, joe, I thought you had me on ignore or something. Yesterday I made a comment pretty much saying the same thing. I remember that a lot of noise was made a few years ago about investigations into price manipulations/gouging/whatever, and gas prices went down shortly after. If it happens again this time, that would sure lend credit to your position here.

    ” If episodes of market manipulation are turned up, they can be cracked down on, which will both increase the public’s confidence that collusion will happen, and deterring would-be colluders.”

    I asked about this yesterday: have any such episodes been turned up? One poster left a link to a story about Standard Oil, but is that germane to this day and age or just a figment of history?

    “Except Bush’s proposal to undo the energy-sector tax breaks.”

    I’m guessing that’s so they can afford the $100 free money that we’re getting.

  16. I went to multiple identities to counter malicious posters who were trying to “publicize” my real life identity.

    True, it is only a small margin of inconvenience for any malicious parties, but I do enjoy posting at HnR so I decided to take the risk.

    That said, maybe I should either stop posting here or just start going with Dave W. again. My posts have caused a lot of positive changes around here, so maybe my work is done.

  17. There needs to be a moritorium on the word “skyrocketing” when discussing gas proces on the news. Any actual skyrockets that accelerate at a rate of one-sixth per month would be considered failures.

  18. Please explain this “cartel”, and how it differs from OPEC.

    You said that OPEC is somebody’s bitch. I am suggesting that perhaps somebody is a cartel too.

  19. “So I can put you down as pro-gas tax, then? ;-P”

    Blah, pinko joe. Blah!

    The “use less” is not the end, it is the means, from where I’m sitting. Raising the tax places the big government foot on what could very well be a rational decision to use gasoline at a certain price point.

    Of course, raising taxes will reduce consumption, if those taxes are high enough. I actually recall a gas tax discussion you and I had years ago, in which I asserted that gas taxes were ineffectual at curbing demand. I’ve come around on that issue over the last few years. If they are politically permitted to exist, they can curb demand. The concern is that everyone would know they could just throw the bums out what raised their gas bill, so the gas tax would not last.

    Ala Tyler Cowen, if we are talking about substituting taxes (as opposed to just raising the absolute level of taxation), I think balancing budgets by way of a gas tax is less bad than most other balancing by tax hike proposals. I would rather see that than a reinstatement of dividend taxation, for example.

  20. sage, I’m not ignoring you. Being the only convenient liberal to argue with, my dance card sometimes gets full. I do appreciate you as a thoughtful commenter.

  21. excogitate (v.) – To consider or think (something) out carefully and thoroughly

    I am increasing my word power.

    – Josh

  22. “My posts have caused a lot of positive changes around here, so maybe my work is done.”

    Wow. Hmm. What sort?

  23. “Are they demogogues, or just ignorant yahoos?”

    Willfully ignorant, with a splattering of demagoguery. Or perhaps the demagoguery follows from their willful ignorance. No, other way around. They are political monsters; their realization that publicly accepting or even supporting higher gas prices will be bad for them politically is what drives them to willfully ignore the facts around them. Economics takes a distant second to votes.

    Gas is going to have to get more expensive. There’s no way around it. Delaying the inevitable will only make the eventual end-of-oil-supplies more painful when it comes around. There’s a fire that’s going to start in this building, and we’re going to have to get to the bottom floor somehow—we can take the stairs gradually, or we can jump out of the window later, when we’re forced to.

  24. joe,
    “But that’s just the investigation/transparency element.”

    So what you’re saying is that the truth (one way or the other) will set us free, or at least make us think long enough to stop complaining. Good luck with that! Remember, my friend, this is America: Half the population is below average.

  25. Jason L,

    “Raising the tax places the big government foot on what could very well be a rational decision to use gasoline at a certain price point.” Using gasoline is rational to the extent that the cost of that gasoline is justified. Weisberg’s point, which you seem to agree with, is that increases in the cost sufficient to make it rational to purchase less gasoline are a good thing. My reaction to a 70 cent/gallon increase in gas prices will be exactly the same if it is the result of constricted supply, increased demand, or gas taxes – it’s all the same money out of my wallet.

    I do appreciate your point about the political drawback – that the tax can be undone. But as a balancing factor, consider this: the increase in cost that results from market forces enriches those who have an interest in selling petroleum, and keeping that market healthy. The increase in in cost from gas taxes, on the other hand, can go towards programs such as alternative energy development and pollution control that directly facilitate the positive outcomes we’re hoping to see from higher gas prices.

  26. Dave W,

    If you go through so much trouble trying to protect your identity (I’m guessing that your little game is all in your head, but I digress), then why keep putting the same website link in there?

    “You said that OPEC is somebody’s bitch. I am suggesting that perhaps somebody is a cartel too.”

    I said that it was the market’s bitch. The market is not “somebody”, it is not some kind of singular entity. But please, explain more.

    “My posts have caused a lot of positive changes around here, so maybe my work is done.”

    Be careful to wipe real well before kissing your own ass. The only “positive changes” you’ve made (along with Jersey McJones), as far as I can see, is made us all less likely to feed the trolls. Half of your posts are little one-liners that, by any rational measure, can only be meant to incite furor and derision.

  27. If you go through so much trouble trying to protect your identity (I’m guessing that your little game is all in your head, but I digress), then why keep putting the same website link in there?

    Some people want to completely hide who they are.

    Other people are completely comfortable with as much publicity as they can get.

    I am somewhere in between. And I feel strongly about that.

    Don’t forget, my Greatest Hits album is now out at:

    http://www.farceswannamo.com

    That is part of how I know I’m so Great. How else would I have a Greatest Hits?

  28. My posts have caused a lot of positive changes around here, so maybe my work is done.

    It used to be that everybody would beat up on joe because he’s our token lefty. But now we all go after you instead.

    joe, you owe Dave W. a beer.

  29. joe:

    I didn’t say this very well, but reducing the use of gas per se is not my primary interest. When I said that using gasoline could be rational at a given natural price point, I meant in an overall self interest way. If you start thinking of joules per unit cost, it would take a hell of a hike to make other forms of energy plausible. Conservation yes, but replacement would take a lot.

    What I’m saying is that raising the tax is bad for all the reasons raising any tax is bad. It may incentivize irrational behavior and strangle growth for no real reason. My suggestion was that IF you have to raise some kind of tax, the gas tax seems better than most.

  30. Joe,

    “But as a balancing factor, consider this: the increase in cost that results from market forces enriches those who have an interest in selling petroleum, and keeping that market healthy.”

    But given the undeniable fact that petroleum is a scarce (read:

  31. it cause of the gouging (the hi price of those gas and oils) as has be said by the peoples on the TV that we look at there no peek oils it a libral plot caused by the evil musical chemicals radio waves thay beem us with those supplys of those oils is completely infinite the hi price has done gots to be cause of gowging there be not no other explinashun that there words done be the truth no other truer words have been spoken to my peoples from the profits it is the end of discussion peeriod

  32. Oh good, now he’s also using a lowercase “j” in his name. How will we ever tell them apart?

  33. Ah, sorry, joe, most of my post got cut off, and I’m not in the mood to retype it. ugh.

  34. T.:

    Leave Joe alone on this. Just like I was training u 2 b better last Christmas season, Joe shows me that I can aspire to a nicer persona too. I take him seriously on that, even tho my progress is slow and uncertain. He owes me nowt.

  35. sage,

    the email addys are different.

  36. What were you training me for, exactly?

  37. Oh. Thanks, Evan.

  38. What were you training me for, exactly?

  39. Thoreau:

    ice cream sales??

  40. Dave,

    Is that “Farces Wanna Mo” thing a joke?

  41. Oh. Thanks, Evan.

  42. Other Joe,

    Use a capital J. The original joe has been here since the Carter Administration.

  43. My suggestion was that IF you have to raise some kind of tax, the gas tax seems better than most.

    How about we just raise taxes on people who want to raise taxes? You want it, you pay for it.

  44. And Lo! I revealed unto them corn syrup wisdom and conspiracy theory!

    And lo! They became wise …

  45. People just irritate me to no end sometimes. Oh, woe is me, the unbearable pain of $3.00/gallon gasonline. Oh, the suffering of paying for healthcare.

    My friends and I can longer even afford to have a good, clean, wholesome, old-fashioned gasoline fight.

  46. Perhaps, Thoreau, Dave is trying to show you why your damnable habit of being level-headed and fair is, with many people, a waste of time.

  47. I think we should all beat up on the new joe.

    You can’t play in our sandbox! Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!

  48. Douglas F:

    The point here is one of two perfectly libertarian lines of thinking:

    1) The budget defecit is gigantic, and spending isn’t going down. To close the gap, taxes may need to be raised. Rather than some other form of taxation on investment or productivity, a tax on gasoline has some advantages.

    2) If you can drop spending somehow while maintaining our current total levels of taxation, I think I’d rather see another cut in marginal income tax rates offset by a tax on gasoline.

    I’m just saying that there are worse taxes out there.

  49. My friends and I can longer even afford to have a good, clean, wholesome, old-fashioned gasoline fight.

    Perhaps prices haven’t risen to the point where siphoning makes sense.

  50. Derek:

    Drop Magnum on us!

  51. Well, Jennifer, Dave has brought out the worst in me. I feel kind of bad about all of the jokes about corn syrup, guns that fire when bumped, secret designers, and the discovery process.

    I think I’ve been rather mean-spirited, and if I can’t think of a constructive way to engage then maybe it would be better for everybody involved if I just ignore.

  52. Jason,

    Well, that argument can be used to excuse every tax except for the very worst tax ever.

    Furthermore,

    “The budget defecit is gigantic, and spending isn’t going down.”

    It’s pretty silly to concede this point. It isn’t,, but that doesn’t mean it can’t. Let’s say an irresponsible kid keeps maxing out credit cards. If his parents keep paying them off, he’s go no incentive to ever tighten up.

  53. Haven’t had a chance to read the comments or the blog or the article but I just wanted to say NICE RECYCLED HEADLINE, Tim.

  54. Evan:

    Defecit spending is taxation. Good libertarians can disagree on whether current taxation is better or worse than just spending more.

    Starve the beast clearly doesn’t work.

  55. I feel kind of bad about all of the jokes about corn syrup, guns that fire when bumped, secret designers, and the discovery process.

    Why are you wasting time feeling bad about that, when you should be feeling bad about you and your wife’s sick little fantasy of getting rich by selling ice cream to kids who are fat enough already?

  56. The increase in in cost from gas taxes, on the other hand, can go towards programs such as alternative energy development and pollution control that directly facilitate the positive outcomes we’re hoping to see from higher gas prices.

    Few Economists deny the rationale behind using taxes to implement incentives which influence policy. There are debates about the efficiency of this policy, as it is rather blunt. But the primary problem is that the tax simply becomes another revenue source to expand government. As you say joe, the tax could be used to finance those things you mention. Current gas taxes are supposed to be used to maintain highways, but considering how much is siphoned off, it is simply just another tax. So, on small government principles, I object to any policy driven taxation.

  57. May I suggest that the original joe start signing his posts as “curly joe,” and that the new joe sign as “Joe Besser”? That would even leave room for a third, “Curly Joe DeRita” in the future.

  58. Is that “Farces Wanna Mo” thing a joke?

    On the Greastest Hits LP, trak 12 is a 14 minute interview with the band from 2002. The interviewer asks me the same question.

    IIRC, my answer was: “The band is no more of a joke and no less of a joke than anyone else you care to name.” Its funnier in the actual interview bcs I sound *just like* Jello. Download it now!

    Side note to T.: Your progress has been just fine. Not as quick as I initially hoped, but always marginally productive and somewhat enjoyable. It was my own damn fault when I went off on Jennifer that day.

    btw, IIRC I supported T.’s wife bcs she wanted to displace some corn syrup consump with cane.

  59. I find new joe to be flatter and too sweet. joe Classic has more carbonation and doctrinaire flavor. Of course, both are better than Pepsi.

  60. btw, IIRC I supported T.’s wife bcs she wanted to displace some corn syrup consump with cane.

    Huh? When has my wife ever been discussed in regard to corn syrup, cane, and all that? I don’t even recall mentioning her in those discussions. The closest I’ve ever come to discussing my wife in regard to corn syrup is when I mentioned that she and I have talked of selling ice cream some day. (It’s still something we just speculate about, nothing we’ve made firm plans for.)

    I mentioned it after offering a hypothetical where I’m selling burgers. You patted yourself on the back and crowed about how you’re minds here, because you assumed that (1) you had talked me out of selling burgers (something I had never actually contemplated) and (2) you had talked me into making some sort of altruistic decision where I make less money by selling healthy food. Cuz, you know, ice cream is so healthy and unprofitable. Just look at the health fad started by Ben and Jerry!

  61. If only the market could make food prices go up dramatically, we could solve the obsesity problem.

  62. thoreau:

    don’t feed the highly delusional trolls

  63. I swear to Christ I thought that was Jiminy Glick in the picture.

  64. There may be (and probably are) a lot of ways to sell fattening food in such a way that people tend to use it properly. Opening a fast food outlet and having people sign waivers is a bad way to do this. Opening a shop that makes and sells its own ice cream, on the other hand, can be a good way. Especially if you are displacing some portion of peoples’ HFCS consumption with cane. Charging a high price to reflect the quality ingredients can help, too. They don’t let you do these things at a fast food outlet (at least none worth suing), but with an ice cream stand you will have much more *choice.* Embrace it.

    Comment by: Ghost at March 6, 2006 06:12 PM

  65. And let’s recall that you wrote that after I raised the idea of selling ice cream. You didn’t give me any ideas or talk me out of anything.

    But if you want to think that you’re putting me through some sort of training regiment, well, have fun.

    Beware the dangers of critical thinking!

    Get crazy fast! Master your own insanity!

    The Ultimate Weirdness Program!

    No facts required.

    (Imagine some guy humping a corn stalk while these words flash across the screen.)

  66. Google remembers and so do I.

    Comment by: Dave W. at December 1, 2005 09:52 AM

  67. Not a regimen, T. Think of it more like The Paper Chase, except I’m Houseman and you’re Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters. And Jennifer is Sam from 16 Candles and Jersey McJones is her pudgy younger brother. And RB is the guy from Jaws, the bearded ocean scientist one.

    *Cue music: “If You believe” by The Thompson Twins*

  68. If only the market could make food prices go up dramatically, we could solve the obsesity problem.

    Bring on the chow tax!

  69. thoreau, did you ever hear the saying about wrestling with a pig?

  70. But joe, I’m on the verge of mastering my own gray matter! 🙂

  71. I can now say I agree with two things when it comes to classic joe. Thoreau, leave Dave be, he’s just a psychic vampire.

  72. Lot of uncalled for namecalling in here tonite.

  73. Ayn Randian-

    I like that name: classic joe.

    Let’s face it, new joe just doesn’t have the same cool, refreshing perspective of joe classic.

  74. Oh, Dave, your lunacy makes the name calling entirely deserved…as much as classic joe irritates me (mostly because he makes good points…mostly), you’re just a total pain in the ass.

  75. yeah, well, i didn’t realize the negative feeling ran this deep into the board. ok. bye.

  76. I cannot believe that you have done it yet again, thoreau. INFRINGER!!!!!! I’d say see my 5:24 posting, but it is all too clear that you already have. At least you and your consultant failed to steal my brilliant line about joe Classic’s “doctrinaire flavor”.

    Forget the tasers, I’m just going to beat you with all ten volumes of Nimmer on Copyright. I’ll have my bond!

  77. PL, that one was unintentional. I swear.

  78. How can one conclude that the “market is getting it right” with the massive subsidies petro currently receives. Perhaps we are moving in the right direction, but that does not mean we are or even can get where we need to be.

    In a free market with externalities accounted for, there would be a lot less driving. Right now, drivers do not fully pay for the roads and pollute for free. Until this is changed, we are not “getting it right” – we are driving too much.
    The market is not going to solve this problem.

  79. Chad-

    I’m not sure how much driving would cost. On the one hand, with private roads people would have to pay to drive and certainly drive less. OTOH, gas taxes are currently a very crude proxy for a user fee. Yes, yes, I know, on a moral level it’s totally different, and even on a practical level it probably isn’t the precise pricing structure that a free market would yield, but still.

    And while private roads with user fees would impose a cost per mile and hence discourage driving, if the private sector could build and maintain roads more efficiently then the costs passed on to consumers would be less than current road spending would suggest.

    So, bottom line: Add in user fees, but make the roads cheaper, remove any favors that the oil industry receives, but remove the gas taxes as well, and it’s anybody’s guess what the net effect would be. My prediction is that a lot of things would cancel and the effect would be small. But no clue which direction it would be in.

  80. I would agree with thoreau’s bottom line assessment. I don’t think gas taxes are that crude a proxy for user fees. And since the private sector actually does build most of the roads there isn’t much to be saved there. Mostly administrative costs. Maintainence costs may or may not be lower, but IMO only for minor maintainence.

  81. Actually if I owned a road I would keep my user fees for automobiles low to encourage lots of people to drive on my road. I would also have relatively high user fees for trucks.

    Automobiles cause very little damage to the pavement structure and truck cause a lot. Therefore, this strategy would give me a vehicle mix that would maximize the amount of revenue I receive while minimizing the types of vehicle that are going to damage my road and increase my maintainence costs.

    So the net effect may be MORE driving by automobiles and a shift to other modes of transport, like rail, for freight.

  82. And since the private sector actually does build most of the roads there isn’t much to be saved there. Mostly administrative costs. Maintainence costs may or may not be lower, but IMO only for minor maintainence.

    Keep in mind that the private firms building roads are still government contractors. Not exactly paragons of efficiency. Toss in that the process of assigning contracts can be screwed up, and there’s no reason to believe that roads are being built as cheaply as they could be.

  83. Americans are so friggin stupid.

    We cannibalize ourselves at every turn, profiteering from such vital utilities as roads, higher education, and health coverage. To all, no proof of any added value comes with any these “private” operations, but piles of proof of dragging on society. Why – because too many Americans either hate each other or are completely apathetic to the world around them. Dumb, fat, and spoiled from being blithely lucky enough to be born in the wealthiest nation on Earth – a nation founded by castaways on a continent emptied by disease, full of pristine resources ripe for the plucking – we have the unmitigated audacity to boast of our “up by the boot straps,” “can do,” “best and brightest,” and, stupidest and vainest of all, “rugged individualism.” And we rationalize our profiteering by asserting that somehow a man who works for the government is less competent than a man who works for a corporation.

    When we are a long dead empire lamenting our past mistakes, we will remember the sorts of malevolent post-rationalizations in the name of our greed and our great grandchildren will hate and detest all things profiteering.

    JMJ

  84. “Dumb, fat, and spoiled from being blithely lucky enough to be born in the wealthiest nation on Earth – a nation founded by castaways on a continent emptied by disease, full of pristine resources ripe for the plucking – we have the unmitigated audacity to boast of our “up by the boot straps,” “can do,” “best and brightest,” and, stupidest and vainest of all, “rugged individualism.” ”

    How do you think we got to be the wealthiest nation on earth, Jersey? Feel free to read from your list.

  85. I like Matt L’s idea.

  86. Sage,

    “a continent emptied by disease, full of pristine resources ripe for the plucking”

    You really should change your moniker – or perhaps you are referring top the spice?

    JMJ

  87. JMJ – just guessing here, but Sage is a shooting afficionado. S/He may have to set me right, though.

    I wonder sometimes about the rhetoric of self-hate so many liberal-thinking (and mostly young, IME) Americans have. I am only 30 and remember well my days at RU in NJ spent dodging protesters of some social justice cause or another; while I admired their spirit to fight what they percieved was an injustice, I always wondered why the people involved had to spew so much hatred at America, a country that gave them so much opportunity to which they were blind. I am not blind to the sometimes horrific things that were done in the founding and building of our nation, but the past is something to be learned from and hopefully to use for future improvement, not an albatross constantly weighing down our necks and impeding forward progress.

    PROGRESSIVES are supposed to be looking forward and finding new ways to preserve, protect, and inspire the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” but always seem to be using the sins of the past as a means of making society feel guilty, rather than actually inspiring rational, reasonable solutions to better America, or humanity for that matter.

    Just had to do it. Sorry for the non-relevant post.

  88. Thoreau & Matt L

    The problem with the gas tax as a proxy for a user fee is that it does not identify where the road “consumption” is happening. Thus decisions about where roads are needed and built are frequently made for political rather than market reasons.

    For example taxes collected from commuters who do their driving on a busy (sub)urban arterial or freeway are used to build a bridge to a barrier island where millionaires have built houses*, rather than being used to increase capacity in the city (with added lanes or alternate routes).

    However, you’re right that suspending the gas tax is a bad idea generally. In recent years the gas tax has fallen short of funding all new construction and maintenance needs and pols are scrambling to find ever new ways to get revenue.

    And Matt, it really is a shame that every attempt to get trucks to pay closer to the cost of their highway use are ended by the pols caving in to the trucking industry.

    *that they can afford because of subsidized flood and windstorm insurance; oh, what a tangled web the state weaves.

  89. “And we rationalize our profiteering by asserting that somehow a man who works for the government is less competent than a man who works for a corporation.”

    No, but a man who works for the government is less sensitive to meaningful feedback than a man who works for a corporation. The whole argument is that there is no difference between those two men, but one wields profoundly more power while simlultaneously being profoundly more insulated.

  90. the massive subsidies petro currently receives

    Such as?

    We cannibalize ourselves at every turn, profiteering from such vital utilities as roads, higher education, and health coverage.

    Rarely have I seen so much ignorance packed into so few words. You don’t even know where to begin.

    Higher education and health coverage aren’t “utilities” in any but the most abstruse sense of the word. In the usual sense of the word, “utilities” are infrastructure that people used to believe was best delivered via monopolies, such as water, electricity, and phone service.

    Second, who is this “we” that is simultaneously paying for, profiteering from, and cannibalizing roads, health care, and higher ed?

  91. Amy Lou,

    You nailed it. And if I hadn’t made it plain before, I am a “he.”

  92. Sage – I would have figured. I am the only woman I know who is into shooting sports. I know they are out there, I just haven’t found them yet. And the Second Amendment Sisters, quite frankly, scare me a little bit – like the feminist NRA or something. cheers!

  93. AMYlOU,

    Please don’t bait me with that simpleton “self-hating” child-psychology. First of all, you completely missed the point – I was not pointing out our past discretions as Americans. I was pointing out how it is the conservatives and libertarians who are the ones who hate their fellow Americans, not me. They blame the poor for poverty, the patients for healthcare costs, and on and on – and never themselves – just everyone else.

    Jason,

    And we rationalize our profiteering by asserting that somehow a man who works for the government is less competent than a man who works for a corporation.

    “No, but a man who works for the government is less sensitive to meaningful feedback than a man who works for a corporation. The whole argument is that there is no difference between those two men, but one wields profoundly more power while simlultaneously being profoundly more insulated.”

    Bullshit. This theory is easily reversible given the right circumstances. Utter total bullshit.

    RCD,

    “Higher education and health coverage aren’t “utilities” in any but the most abstruse sense of the word. In the usual sense of the word, “utilities” are infrastructure that people used to believe was best delivered via monopolies, such as water, electricity, and phone service.”

    Then you could use some higher education. Every other first world nation knows this. You guys are just too goofy.

    “Second, who is this “we” that is simultaneously paying for, profiteering from, and cannibalizing roads, health care, and higher ed?”

    Tolls, insurance, banks.

    JMJ

  94. No, but a man who works for the government is less sensitive to meaningful feedback than a man who works for a corporation.

    Which means the man who works for the government is less competent.

  95. JMJ:

    Willful blindness is a disease. Lodge a reasoned complaint against a company and one against a regulator, and tell me who is more responsive. Note also that if neither is reponsive that you have recourse to go to another company to do business. In another thread, you would spend every breath in your body decrying monopolistic corporate power, but it blows right past you that the definition of monopoly is state power, and they are the same people who control enforcement and punishment, and the same people who determine the rules by which you can even stand in front of them. How can you not see that?

  96. “Which means the man who works for the government is less competent.”

    Not exactly. A given man may not be, but the system of incentives is not in his favor.

  97. Jason,

    I’m assuming the man working for the government doesn’t understand that going in to his government job. One’s level of competence is measured by one’s ability to understand the dysfucntionality of the system before taking the job; sort of like JMJ’s blindness – it’s probably not willful as much as it is a result of his incompetence.

  98. Jason,

    “Willful blindness is a disease.”

    No, it’s a reaction from cognitive dissonance.

    “Lodge a reasoned complaint against a company and one against a regulator, and tell me who is more responsive.”

    I find no difference, in general. I do recall having an operation for an injury I suffered on the job, some years ago. Back then NJ had an effective public advocacy. When the insurance company caused delays in my comp, I contacted the state. They were courteous and competent. The next day the insurance company called me offering apologies and satisfactions. I have never ever seen any peer reviewed study that shows any difference, and, if anything, I am quite convinced that shirking liable responsibility is far more prevalent in the private than public sectors. It has to be – to save money.

    “Note also that if neither is responsive that you have recourse to go to another company to do business.”

    Just as you have recourse with your representative government. I guess, to you, the constitution is worth about a piece of shit paper.

    “In another thread, you would spend every breath in your body decrying monopolistic corporate power, but it blows right past you that the definition of monopoly is state power, and they are the same people who control enforcement and punishment, and the same people who determine the rules by which you can even stand in front of them. How can you not see that?”

    You hate America. You hate the constitution. Tell ya’ what – move to Somalia – it’s a Libertarian utopia. The “state,” in a representative democracy, IS the people. If the state fails, vote for another ruling body. If a monopolistic corporation fails – vote for a government to get rid of it. That’s what the founders envisioned – not some Elizabethan nightmare.

    JMJ

  99. “When the insurance company caused delays in my comp, I contacted the state. They were courteous and competent. The next day the insurance company called me offering apologies and satisfactions.”

    It should probably have occurred to you somewhere during the typing of this example that it doesn’t make any sense. Of course you can complain to the government about someone else. When I said, “lodge a complaint” I was sort of implying that you had a disagreement with the entity in question and not the guy down the street.

    “The “state,” in a representative democracy, IS the people.”

    That is shockingly naive. The People, as described in the constitution where it reserves rights is every single person. The representative state is clearly not The People in that sense.

    “If a monopolistic corporation fails – vote for a government to get rid of it.”

    If you want your neighbor’s land, vote for a government to take it. If you want hippies out of the streets, vote for a government to round them up and put them in cages for 100 years.

    “You hate the constitution.”

    It hasn’t meant anything since at least FDR threatened to stack the court, and probably never meant anything before that. Why? Because people insist that voting for a government to get stuff they want is an equally valid way to persue their interests as any negotiated agreement, plus if they get enough people on the gravy train they can just start throwing dissenters in jail.

  100. Jason Ligon,

    Very well put at 9:50 AM.

    Where I differ from you is in the conception of “meaningful feedback.” Market feedbacks have their virtues and their uses, certainly. But in certain aspects of life, feedback needs to accrue its legitimacy from “one man one vote,” not “one dollar one vote.”

  101. You hate America. You hate the constitution. Tell ya’ what – move to Somalia – it’s a Libertarian utopia. The “state,” in a representative democracy, IS the people.

    This from the same guy who wrote in this thread:

    “Americans are so friggin stupid.”

  102. But in certain aspects of life, feedback needs to accrue its legitimacy from “one man one vote,” not “one dollar one vote.”

    And if government were to limit itself to those aspects, we wouldn’t be complaining.

  103. You hate America. You hate the constitution. Tell ya’ what – move to Somalia – it’s a Libertarian utopia.

    Clearly, Jersey is to trolls what Godiva is to chocolate.

  104. “But in certain aspects of life, feedback needs to accrue its legitimacy from “one man one vote,” not “one dollar one vote.””

    This is a good summary of why we differ on issues. By definition a minarchist such as myself believes those things are very few and far between.

    I commented last week or so that the legitimacy of democracy as a premise for government (as opposed to, say, theocracy) is, in my view, far too frequently conferred onto all decisions a given democracy makes. Okay, I agree that our government’s legitimacy arises from power flowing to some extent from the people, BUT that argument stops there. The legitimacy of any given action a legitimate government takes must not be assumed. Legitimate actions must pass many more filters (such as rights) and must always be taken with the recognition that democracy is a TERRIBLE decision making process that gets worse with larger populations.

    What we’ve said here is another way of making tha same distinction.

  105. Jersey,

    Just to make an attempt to steer the thread back on topic: What, if anything, do you think should be done about gas prices?

  106. But cheap gasoline imposes its own costs on society: greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and its attendant health risks, traffic congestion, and accidents. The ideal way to cope with these externalities would be with higher gas taxes or a carbon tax.
    And a $10 per gallon tax on water would make people less likely to slip in the bathtub.

    What, if anything, do you think should be done about gas prices?
    Convince everyone else to ride the bus.

  107. Jason,

    “I commented last week or so that the legitimacy of democracy as a premise for government (as opposed to, say, theocracy) is, in my view, far too frequently conferred onto all decisions a given democracy makes” I remember that. I thought it was a very sharp insight.

    Let me turn my duality – “one person one vote” and “one dollar one vote” into a trinity: “one person is a person, with rights.”

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