Guest essay by Tom Scott
Do you recall the last presidential election season, when the New York Times, Washington Post, and other media giants ridiculed those who argued that the US could bring retail gasoline prices down to $2.50 per gallon by maximizing production? Many pundits and “experts” read the same memo and went straight for Alinsky’s rule #5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” The mainstream media was flooded with similar messages, but here is a classic by Richard Thayler from March 31, 2012:
“Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, has promised us $2.50-a-gallon gasoline. But if we can suspend the law of supply and demand, why stop with gasoline? Why not $2.50 for one-carat diamonds, steak dinners and 18-year-old Scotch whiskey?”
Here is a one-item test to see whether you are guilty of cloudy thinking about gas prices: Do you believe that they are something a president can control? Many Americans believe that the answer is yes, but any respectable economist will tell you that the answer is no .. More ..
Of course, the author knew the “proper” way to balance supply and demand and reduce gasoline prices:
“A better approach would be to gradually raise the gasoline tax to levels similar to those in Western Europe, where fuel-efficient cars are the norm. N. Gregory Mankiw — the Harvard economist who advises Mr. Romney and is a fellow contributor to the Economic View column — has long advocated such a policy. I agree with him, as do most other economists.”
Well, such ridicule helped to win an election later that year, but by the end of 2014 most US drivers could find gasoline for under $2.50 per gallon, and today EU energy consumers save about $50 per barrel of oil as compared to 2012 prices, almost a billion US dollars daily, due largely to the increase in US production and the ripple effects on the world market.
With that in mind, as discourse becomes heated this election season, remember that ridicule is a socio-political tactic, not a legitimate tool of the sciences.