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Same Old Story on Energy Policy

Politicians show continued folly of central planning

As spring blooms, the president addresses the nation on energy. He tells us, “Without our planning for the future, it will get worse…The oil and natural gas that we rely on for 75 percent of our energy is simply running out.”

Unless profound changes are made in the next decade, the president warns, the world will demand more oil than it can produce. He calls for “strict conservation” and switching to “permanent renewable energy sources like solar power.” Because they promise future energy independence, his administration is spending billions of taxpayer dollars on wind, solar and biodiesel, plus offering massive “clean energy” subsidies.

No, the president is not Barack Obama, and the speech was not delivered in 2012. It was President Jimmy Carter, speaking on April 18, 1977.

Since that time, American oil and natural gas production has skyrocketed. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that natural gas consumption has doubled since 1980, production is at an all-time high, imports are at a 20-year low and heating expenses are the lowest in a decade. Meanwhile, the latest recession barely affected North Dakota, a state rich in oil and natural gas.

President Carter’s speech sounds familiar because it is based on the same flawed assumptions that underlie many current politicians’ belief that wise and enlightened central planners in Washington can manage the countless and infinitely complex transactions and calculations that comprise a $14 trillion dollar national economy.

The politicians hold on to these flawed beliefs despite being regularly embarrassed by them. For example, last week  a CapCon article and video showed President Obama and both of Michigan’s U.S. senators praising a heavily subsidized “green energy” battery manufacturer that is now under severe financial stress and has had its federal money pulled. Another CapCon piece reported a litany of similar embarrassments on the YouTube channel created by Michigan’s “department of corporate welfare,” the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Economist F.A. Harper once wrote, “If the planner could plan discovery for others, he probably would have made that discovery himself in the first place. If he is more able in this respect than the others, he is wasting his time not to do it himself; if he is less able, he can hardly plan it for others who are more able than he is.”

It’s much easier for politicians to make plans with other peoples’ money. It would show real leadership for government to actually do less.

St. Lawrence University economist Steven Horwitz discusses how the minimum wage was used to block immigrants from taking scarce jobs during the depression era. See more at "Raising the Minimum Wage, Lowering Opportunity."


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