The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Don't think about it, just get mad

There's a lot of talk about oil industry profits of late. This, of course, happens every time the price of gas goes up rapidly. And, every time, I have images of angry citizens with torches and pitchforks marching toward the castle perched on the hill overlooking the town. Angry shouts, a mixture of fear and loathing, fill the air. The community leaders accuse each other of ignoring the realities of the monster in the castle. the mob doesn't care who's at fault, they demand the goodies from the castle and the death of the monster.

That's right, Big Oil is the monster. He's just fine to have around when he doesn't charge too much to fill the SUV, when he provides inexpensive gasoline. In fact, he's wonderful to have around. He's all cute talking cartoon cars and tigers in our tank (which always reminded me of Frosted Flakes). And then the price goes up. So far up that it costs more to fill up the 4x4 truck than what the owner nets in a week. Does he, that owner, rue the day he bought that truck? No. Does he start thinking maybe I should have bought that smaller, more fuel efficient, small one that would have done the job but wouldn't have impressed his pals at the job site? No. He blames the people who sell him the fuel.

And then the community leaders reveal just what large subsidies, hidden and overt, the monster gets.... carefully avoiding telling the angry citizenry just who gave the monster those subsidies in the first place. Instead, fingers are cleverly pointed at the political opposition along with mumbled rumors of corruption.

And what did those subsidies do? I mean, beside keeping the price of a gallon of gas down to half what most industrial nations pay. All that matters is that now, today, in this Great Recession which is over and from which we are making such progress toward whatever it is we are progressing toward we finally see the true evil nature of the monster we call Big Oil.

So we have the big Fight. One side shines the Light of Truth on the outrageous profits of the monster:

And the monster tries to explain his actions:

So, should we end the subsidies? Would we be better off if we had demanded no subsidies to Big Oil? Would there have ever been cheap gas if we never had those subsidies? No, the price of gas would have been just as volatile. as would the price of food, which depends on the price of gas and diesel to run the machinery which allows the farmer to produce a crop and raise the animals which end up on our plates at meal time. Well, those subsidies and the ones the farmers get from our government which also hold those prices down (and also up... but then we call them "price supports").

So maybe we should end all the subsidies to all the industries that get them. These are tough times and anyone making a profit is suspect. But what would ending subsidies do? Would gas get cheaper or more expensive? Would food prices drop or rise?

I think we are chasing after the wrong monster. I think, like that birth certificate, this is just a distraction.


Sightings said...

As much as it pains me to spend $60 to fill up my tank, if you think about it, $4 for a gallon of gasoline is actually pretty cheap when you consider the cost of finding the oil, digging it up, refining it, and sending it to the local gas station, while taking precautions not to spill any of it or let any of it blow up. And that doesn't even count the cost of building and maintaining the roads, of the cops who patrol traffic, of the EMT's who pick up the pieces when people speed and get in accidents -- oh, and of sending troops to the Middle East to secure our oil supplies. And it also doesn't count the pollution we send into the skies, and into our lungs, which causes all kinds of harm that we're not even sure about.

There oughta be a better way to get around. Hopefully we'll figure it out before we go bankrupt or choke ourselves to death.

Douglas4517 said...

We won't find it by driving up the cost artificially. We won't find it until
we have to. Until it really becomes a scarce commodity. Just as we moved
from whale oil to petroleum. We may never find it. Seems to me that
alternative fuels would have been developed years ago if they were viable,
reasonably priced, and abundant. In fact, look at the early years of the
automobile. We had electric cars and even steam powered ones. They failed to
perform and then failed in the marketplace. When I was a young man, gas was
cheap (under 25 cents a gallon) and cars got around 16-20 MPG. These were
full size cars, with bumpers that were made of steel, not fiberglass. With
bodies you couldn't dent with your fist. Strong cars , heavy cars. Now I
drive a mid-size car that gets 28 MPG on the highway and 14 in town. And
would be totaled by a collision over 10 MPH. And gas is running about $3.86
for regular here.

Gas will continue to go up until our tolerance level is reached. It will
then drop down to quite a bit higher than it was before this round of
increases started. We play games like subsidizing alternative energy sources
but it's not going to accomplish anything until the price of gas is out of
reach for the average consumer. And guess what? That will never happen.
Because we adapt, we take the price increases because we have no choice, and
we continue on.

Air quality has greatly improved since I was a child. So are lakes and
rivers. We live longer, on average, than our parents and grandparents and
we're healthier overall.The war I was in had nothing to do with oil. We lost
more good men in that war in one year than we have lost in all these
so-called "wars for oil."

Life is not simple. It is complex. It is constant trade-offs.