Imagine you are busy running errands in town. You park and dash into various stores, checking off your list of Honey Do’s as you go along. Everything is going rather well, and you found that extra on-sale item that will bring a smile to your loved one’s face. Whistling, you head back to your vehicle in high spirits, only to have them dashed. There’s a ticket under the windshield wiper. You check — nope, not parked in front of the fire hydrant. No, the parking meter didn’t run out. Then you pick up the ticket and realize that it wasn’t put there by the police. It was placed on your windshield by an environmentalist group, chiding you for owning a gas-guzzling vehicle and warning you of the dangers of driving your SUV.
These anti-SUV tickets can be found (and purchased) at EarthOnEmpty.com. In the words of Earth On Empty’s founders: “We came together because of our frustration with SUVs, the US oil and environmental policies, and our desire to make people think about the impact of their consumer choices has on their neighbors.” You can see the outside of the ticket here or the inside here. The text is a basic collection of “SUVs suck” facts, all of which boil down to the common liberal notion that they know better than you how to spend your car-purchasing dollars.
The Pirate King once expressed her contempt for the purchasing choice of someone driving by in a new Hummer. She pointed out that the person could have spent half the cost on a really nice car, and used the rest of the purchase price to help people in need. While it could be argued that her idea is more noble, I responded that we in the U.S. have the right to choose how we spend our own money. Yes, this person could have donated the whole price of the Hummer to charity. But the spending of that money is not my decision, nor is it my wife’s decision, and it is certainly not the decision of the buttinskis at Earth On Empty. The decision of how to spend your discretionary income rests solely with you, the owner of that income.
If you manage your money so that you can cover both your needs and some of your wants, and still have enough to provide for the needs of others — as with the recent disasters in the U.S. and abroad — then I salute you. But even if you choose to spend a large sum on just a new Hummer, then go ahead. It’s your money, after all. The Hummer dealership will thank you, the people who manufactured your Hummer will thank you, and the people who service your Hummer will thank you, too. Your purchase choice will benefit them all. And when it comes down to what you do with your money, shouldn’t it be your choice?
What the Earth On Empty folks don’t seem to realize is that the free market will handle the SUV issue, and it will do so far better than they could with all their obnoxious fake tickets. With the recent fluctuations in oil prices, the price of gas has increased this year by 50 cents or more per gallon. People at my work have been lamenting the high price of gas, asking why President Bush couldn’t just wave his hand and fix the price at a more sane level than the almost $3/gallon gas we’ve had here. I suggested that since they were rooting for a price fix, I would like to see the price of gas set at 25 cents per gallon. That would make filling up the car much easier on the pocketbook. They all agreed that would be nice. Then I pointed out what happened here in the U.S. the last time the price of gas was fixed artificially below its real price to produce — long lines and gas shortages.
When the price of gas — or of any product — is artificially held below its production cost, then where is the incentive for people to limit their gas consumption? And if the price is kept low, where is the incentive for people to produce the gas? Had President Bush stepped in and fixed the price of a gallon of gas, people would be buying up that cheap gas as fast as they could, whether or not they actually needed it. And since there would be little or no incentive to produce the gas at a financial loss, the supply of gas would go down.
The equation is simple: High demand + low supply + fixed cost = rationing and shortages. Would you like to go back to the long gas lines of the ’70s? I’ll give that a miss, thanks.
But President Bush didn’t step into the market and behave like a bull in a china shop. He reasoned, and rightly so, that the rising price of gas would automatically result in a drop in demand. Our wedding anniversary happened to coincide with the time Hurricane Katrina was hampering domestic oil distribution and causing national gas prices to rise. Though we had originally planned to drive 90 minutes into the city for a weekend romp, we saved our money and gas by staying close to home instead. And we were not alone in doing this; due to the high cost of gas, many people have voluntarily limited their travel and thus their gas expenditures. This reduction in demand resulted in — surprise, surprise — a drop in gas prices. Actually, this would only be a surprise to someone who believes that the market behaves best when the government is at the helm.
There is a word to describe people who believe that the government should “fix” the market — Marxists.
We have had over 70 years of watching Marxists and Communists try to compete with free capitalist societies, and the verdict is in — as an economic theory, Marxism bites. It has failed every time it has been tried. Marxism worked about as well as environmental busybodying does by folks like Earth On Empty, who believe “raising awareness” does anything other than annoy people.