Friday, June 09, 2006


I was thinking the other day about the fact that Americans seem to assume that their energy should always be cheap--that they are, in fact, entitled to cheap energy. The precipitating factor that started this line of thinking--an article on AOL, that asks, "Who Do You Blame?" for the high oil prices; and also that suggests that gasoline prices are going to jump this summer (what else is new?).

The choices on who to blame are listed in the following order:
-The Bush administration
-Gas stations
-Oil companies
-No one

I notice that "Yourself" isn't one of the choices. Nor, for that matter is "The Iraq War", "The Oil Cartels", "The Lack of Oil Refining Capability in the US" etc. etc.

Somehow, the outrage about oil prices just seems to me to be completely overblown.

Why do I say that? Because, if gas is so dang important to a person--such that their entire lifestyle depends on it--then shouldn't they be willing to pay whatever is necessary to be able to get it? I mean, if you can't cut back and decrease your driving and gasoline is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL for your work or whatever, then it should take a priority position in your budget, don't you think? Over, say cigarettes? Or, those fashion jeans you just bought for $185? Or the tennis club membership?

Of course, you don't have to like paying high prices, and it would be nice if the prices were lower--but, nevertheless, each person must gauge how important the issue is for them and their particular lifestyle. And if they aren't willing to cut back when the price is high, then they don't have much to complain about (hah!).

In the course of a day, I happen to see numerous houses where I live--all of which are completely out of my price range. My husband and I bought a modest house (which I like very much) that fits in with our budget. If we hadn't moved to Ann Arbor, we would still be in Texas where housing prices are about one third the price here; but my husband wanted the job he was offered here, so we bit the bullet; adjusted our budget; and every month now, a higher percentage of our income goes to pay the mortgage on the house. The driving distance to work was a big factor in our decision, I must say.

That was our choice.

The cars we drive are also our choice. The distance we drive to work each day is another.

Interestingly, life is filled with choices like this. If we had a variable rate mortgage and the interest rate suddenly went up, we'd have to find a way to pay it--or we'd change our lifestyle and move to a cheaper house. Or, if we couldn't afford the gas or air conditioning bill on the house.

You generally don't find daily news articles whipping up hysteria about the prices of housing (occasionally, but not daily). Most people seem to understand that there are certain financial consequences that are attendant on owning a house.

But somehow when it comes to owning a car, people expect that the energy to drive that car should be inexpensive and always affordable so that they don't have to adapt or change any aspect of their lifestyle. The market, it seems, should adapt to solely to their personal desires and wishes.

They are often aided and abetted in this sense of entitlement by the MSM; as well as pandering politicians at all levels and on both sides of the political spectrum, who hope to get extra political milage from fueling the sense of entitlement. Big Oil is always to blame; or the greedy gas station owners; or the failure of government to regulate these things. And don't forget the evil US auto manufacturers who keep making big cars with low gas milage (because those are what people like to buy perhaps?).

All in all, there is a lot more mileage derived from doom and gloom and the histrionic blame game (if only we could harness that energy!) than from confronting the inconvenient truth that there are always going to be consequences from the choices we make in life.

As adults, we tend to buffer the bad choices that little children often make; hoping that as they grow and mature, they will have started making good choices and have the character to take responsibility for the bad ones.

Unfortunately, many adults seem to think that their own bad choices should be buffered, and that this is the proper role of government. One of the ways the government does this is to regulate prices and other aspects of the free market, and thus, artificially separate the consumer from the consequences of his or her behavior. Like a bad parent, the government is always there to bail you out, no matter what kind of trouble you get yourself into. To them you will always be the five-year-old child who makes bad decisions and needs their help.

Some people seem to feel this is a good thing.

The free market provides people with what they want -- and are willing to spend money on. It is each individual's responsibility to decide what they need--and can afford--and act accordingly.

For some strange reason, the free market doesn't automatically adapt to everyone's wishful thinking, childish fantasies, or grandiose sense of entitlement; it tends to responds to actual human behavior in the real world.

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