For politicians, it comes down to seeing how your own voters... er, constituents... suffer from the real-world repercussions of ivory tower theories. What was previously untenable is suddenly sensible. Here's an idea! Let's flood the supply stream and thereby lower the price! Isn't the Strategic Oil Reserve intended for such emergencies? Our people must be able to afford to drive to the unemployment office, after all.
By comparison, columnists and other writers need not worry about such things. Tapping on our keyboards from the depths of an easy chair at home, or perched on a stool at Starbucks, we measure the popularity of our ideas by subscription numbers, book sales, or website stats... not votes at the ballot box.
How easy then to advocate radical, attention-grabbing policies--such as phasing in a permanent $1.00-per-gallon tax to keep gas prices above $4.00 even after the market returns to normal, as Friedman recently called for. No modest proposal here, but an indecent one, something Friedman seems genuinely to believe in.
Consumers interested in hybrid and alternative-energy vehicles have many more choices than the last time we saw gas prices climb so high. Doubtless, many new car buyers will make the switch in the coming months.
This is not good enough for those on the Left. Whether Americans are temporarily cutting back on gas consumption or buying more hybrids, it's not nearly as much fun to watch people make sensible decisions on their own. Because, after all, when the situation changes, we'll all return to our wretched ways--driving where we want, when we want, and exploring alternative-energy vehicles, if at all, when we choose to do so.
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