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January 2014

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I've been hearing many Americans whine about gas prices lately. Many people here have chosen to live lifestyles that are based on cheap transportation - they've decided to live a long way from where they work in order to have more space to themselves. They drive massive cars because they've added only a minimal additional economic burden.

To some degree, I can sympathize with these people. They made choices based on the information they had at the time, and now that the situation has changed they're understandably frustrated. I don't exactly feel sorry for them, but I can understand why they're frustrated.

What I can *not* understand is the response I've heard repeated numerous times in the news, which basically boils down to:

"Why did the government let this happen? The government needs to do something about gas prices!"

When I hear this kind of crap, I lose any sympathy I might have for these people.

A little bit of background here: we supposedly live in a free society. With this free society comes the power - and responsibility - of personal choice. And when I hear people begging the government to come bail them out of the ramifications of their own decisions, I hear people who have decided that a free society is, you know, really not for them. I hear people who honestly don't *deserve* to live in a free society.

Guess what - the Government doesn't exist to bail you out when you screw up. It doesn't exist to provide you a nice padded room in which you can't make mistakes.

At its core, the government of a free society has two functions: to protect the core rights of the citizenry, and to protect the nation as a whole from external threats. You can certainly make reasonable arguments about what "core rights" includes, but I have a LOT of trouble figuring out how "cheap fuel" fits in there.

I don't care how things have been in the past - the market changes. If you can't adapt to change, it's not the government's job to bail you out.

I view the whole sub-prime collapse the same way - what did these people really expect? Why would you buy a house you can't afford? Sure, maybe prices keep going up and you can sell for more than you paid, but that's a REALLY risky proposition. No matter what anybody tells you, there's NO sure thing in economics. ANYTHING can happen. And if you take on the risk - either in driving a gas guzzler or in buying a house you can't afford - when things change, YOU need to react instead of crawling to uncle Sam.

And, for god's sake, KEEP SOME PERSPECTIVE. Gas prices here are what, half as high as they are in Europe? We're only JUST NOW getting to the point where people even have to *think* about fuel costs. This is a wonderful development - when fuel costs are high enough to impact purchasing decisions, the market will be forced to respond with more efficient options. If anything, the true cost of fuel has been hidden from us for far too long, and innovation has been stifled due to this.

Learn to adapt. Take nothing for granted. And for God's sake, DO NOT WAIT FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS.


Edward @ Thu Jun 19 14:43:43 -0400 2008

(barely made it past the math validation question! Sum of 3 and 9 is?)

Core Right = Pursuit of happiness. You can't pursue it without gas, cheap gas!

But seriously, I drive two hours a day to work and my monthly was around $200 in January. This is probably about the monthly cost of leaving a PC on 24/7 with distributed computing. This isn't stopping me from getting a better house or feeding the dog. Alternatively, I ran the numbers at $3.5/gal and buying a Prius at 42mpg instead of my current $12k, 30mpg car would take about 200,000 miles to offer financial payback.

Jeremy @ Thu Jun 19 16:47:37 -0400 2008

Oh, and the Prius is a damn scam. You can easily build a conventional car that gets that kind of mileage or more RIGHT NOW, without the extra price and extra negative environmental impact of dealing with the batteries. My 14 year old Integra gets 31 MPG highway, and our Civic is pulling in mid 30s. There's no way the Prius adds up.

There are some obvious solutions out there - employers being more flexible with work from home, for example (though I know that's not going to work with government contractors). More efficient, smaller, diesel cars. Better developed public transit. More infrastructure for bicycle and scooter commuting.

But these options all require change, and in most cases they require an up-front expenditure on additional infrastructure. They become more attractive as the cost of doing business the existing way starts to increase. As long as the true costs of fuel are hidden from the market, such alternate solutions continue to be niche and marginalized.

Oh, and for God's sake, BUILD SOME DAMN NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS. If we do all end up with electric cars in 15 years, we still need to power them with something, and fission is the best thing going right now. Finally the 2008 iteration of John McCain has proposed something I can agree with.

Mauricio @ Fri Apr 02 11:51:47 -0400 2010

Resurrecting this old blog entry, I would say it makes sense for the citizenry expect the government to bail them out when they (the people) make stupid mistakes and chose not to take responsibility. After all, that is what they see the government doing with its bailouts to large corporations... at the taxpayer expense.

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