Hello everyone! Welcome the PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE, our irregular (of late) expounding
on the issues. I am your host, Ken McCracken. Here are our topics for this week:
Topic 1: How did we get into this mess of high gas prices? What is the solution?
Give us your plan for getting gasoline to under $2 a gallon.
Topic 2: You have the power of life or death over any two figures from history.
You may condemn one to an early death, and save one from their fated demise.
Who do you choose and why?
I am pleased to introduce our new guest to the Roundtable, David Anderson of
Search of Utopia. What are your thoughts on this, David?
" I don't claim to be an expert
on this one, but I believe there are several factors having an impact
on prices at the pump, one is high taxes, from what I understand,
taxes represent somewhere around 20 percent of the overall cost
of a gallon of gas. I don't know how effectively those tax dollars
are being spent, but it needs to be looked at, since government
is notorious for wasting our money. Next, I believe the war in Iraq,
threats of war with Iran and general instability in the Middle East
are also contributing to the problem. Our issues with the Strongman
in Chief in Venezuela are also an issue, since the petrol reserves
there could go a long way to alleviating the problem. I don't really
have a solution other than to suggest our government needs to focus
more on long term solutions and energy independence. I tend to be
a bit more libertarian when it comes to free market issues. Americans
need to learn to conserve more, or not whine about the price. According
to the statistics I have read, Oil Companies are making about 4.5%
profit on each gallon of gas sold. Looking at it in those terms,
I would say that the true gouging going on is from Government.
Topic 2: There are so many easy choices in answering this
question. Who could argue against Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao or
any number of other sociopath leaders for the early check out. On
the other side, Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King,
Gandhi, yada yada, are also easy choices. My first inclination is
to choose Hitler for an early death, but despite the atrocities
of his regime, many advances in science may have been delayed if
not for the Nazi regime. The Space program and all it begot, can
be traced back to German experiments in Rocketry for example. In
looking at others like Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot, they have no such
legacy. I would go with Stalin simply because the barbarism of his
regime matched that of the Third Reich, and the effects of Stalinism
lasted much longer. Again, it was a hard choice. As for who I would
save, again my first inclination would be Martin Luther King, whom
I knew as a child and who did the most for African Americans, but
I will go with JFK. I believe that Kennedy was a visionary, someone
who had a vision for a greater America, and had he lived and won
a second term, I am convinced that this country would have benefited
tremendously. We were on the verge of an extraordinary period of
political enlightenment in this country, and since Kennedy we have
not had a single President, except for Reagan who could inspire
us the way JFK did. While my memories of JFK are more than likely
somewhat jaded by his legend, I know enough of his Presidency and
his vision for America, to believe that if it succeeded, we would
have become a greater nation as a result.
Now let's welcome back Roundtable stalwart Jay Tea of Wizbang.
"It's a simple matter of applied
economics, the laws of supply and demand.Demand has increased dramatically
in the last few years, while supply has
pretty much stagnated. Refinery capacity is nearly maxed, and capacity
has not changed in some time. Also, legislative "tweaking"
formulations, creating various requirements for different blends
(I think there are seventeen different formulations for gasoline
around the nation)
has led to synthetic shortfalls, as producers simply can't shuffle
stocksaround the nation to balance out variable demand.
And let us never forget that China and India are increasing their
demand for oil at an incredible rate, buying up more and more oil.
I don't see a short-term solution to high gas prices. I wonder
if there is a mid-term solution. And I fear if we have the national
will and resolve to
find a long-term solution.
Topic 2: I have read a lot of science fiction and speculative
fiction, and time travel is a very common theme. And I'm a big believer
Butterfly Effect," despite what Ashton Kutcher's movie did
to the notion.
In the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" episode "The Wish,"
one character wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. The
result is horrific, with the
town being overrun with vampires and several of the main characters
dead or made into vampires. In the climactic fight, we see the surviving
valiantly, one by one, until one attempts to smash the artifact
that granted the wish, to undo it. The wish-granter challenges him,
asking "what makes
you so sure the other reality is any better?" He answers, "Because
it has to be," and shatters it, undoing the wish.
I don't think that is the case here. I don't think the world is
so bad that altering a single aspect of our past would guarantee
an improvement. The
world today is the sum of all our history, for good or ill, and
I would be loath to tamper with it.
The classical example is Adolf Hitler. Let's get rid of him. How
might that make things worse today?
With no Hitler, Germany continues to limp along through the depression,
still burdened by the crippling results of the Treaty of Versailles.
And the Soviet Union, feeling expansionist, starts slowly swallowing
In the Pacific, without Germany drawing the West's attention, Japan's
aggression is more keenly watched -- and checked short of war. Since
England, France, and the rest of western Europe are not threatened
doorstop, they far more rigorously protect their colonies and interests.
Pearl Harbor is averted.
And without Pearl Harbor to kick the United States into a global
depression putters along as FDR's programs still continue, full
of sound and
fury, signifying nothing.
Eventually, the threat of the Soviet Union will be too great for
the West to
ignore. However, by this time, there has been no massive mobilization
military might from America. We never built "the arsenal of
won World War II and, eventually, the Cold War. And without Einstein
several other refugees that fled Nazi Germany, along with the imminent
threat of a Nazi bomb, we never developed nuclear weapons. The United
never becomes a superpower, and never amasses the might to check
By 1950, much of Europe is Communist. The Soviets are looking at
the Middle East. Even Latin America is not off-limits. The United
finally starting to militarize, but there is no Pearl Harbor, no
event that brings war to reality to all Americans. Indeed, some
even want to
welcome Communism, seeing in it some possible relief to the economic
that are still troubling us.
So, in a nutshell, I would not tamper in the least with history.
I do not
believe that things today are so bad that they cannot be made worse
-- and I
have no interest at all in being proven right.
I am also pleased to announce another Roundtable newcomer, Jay of Accidental
Verbosity. Welcome, what do you think?
"People like simple, knee jerk,
catch phrase explanations for things, so that
is what we hear a lot of on the dramatic recent gas price increases.
the right one and you might even win some votes, but that doesn't
less wrong, or at least unrealistically pat.
The current price behavior is an unfortunate, yet perhaps overdue,
confluence of many factors. There's geopolitical forces. It's oil;
always geopolitical forces. There's the economic growth and therefore
increased demand in places like China, but do we really want to
and lose the other benefits? There are the forces of environmentalism,
NIMBY and regulation. Thus the lack of refining capacity, lack of
nuclear power in the overall mix - none of this exists in a vacuum,
new drilling in this country - for what that's worth, given the
nature of oil, seasonal and other blend requirements that make production
more expensive and disrupt already tight refining capacity, and
seasonally variable supply and demand.
The best thing anyone could do for gas prices is to get out of
the way. Let
economics work. High prices give incentive to develop new sources
as well as alternatives that might reduce the extent to which we
same. People will act to conserve, or if they don't then the price
excessive after all. Companies will act to chase revenue and profits
available at these prices that might not be at lower prices, and
in so doing
are likely to make the cost of alternatives or more efficient extraction
There seems to be a high income punditry class trumpeting how low
are in historical terms, and they are right. However, your average
has trouble appreciating that long term trend when the price rockets
quickly. It's as if milk went up another 75 cents in the course
of a few
months; of course we'd all complain. This is "milk" we
buy five, ten,
twenty, thirty gallons a week, as opposed to a gallon or two. It
The mistake is rushing to do something political about that pain.
adjust. We'll pursue ways to save - or not - and the signals from
ripple through the economy to reflect in prices and availability.
extent that we can have an influence given the politicization and
of oil, and energy generally.
Where the spike toward $3 was rapid, any fallback to $2 and under
slow. How long to get that many people driving higher mileage cars?
long to slay the NIMBY Monster and build more refineries? How long
persuade congresscritters to encourage new nuclear, encourage new
etc.- or at least back off of preventing or slowing same.
My plan? Get out of the way and let the economy work. Ultimately
works even if we do nothing to change the nutjob governments in
producing countries. Fungibility: Know it, love it.
Topic 2: This is tougher than it sounds, and one of my
answers sums that up in one person. My knee jerk thought on who
to condemn, partly on the idea so many people would find it a controversial
choice, was Lincoln.
I rapidly changed my mind and decided Lincoln was the most logical
off the top of my head for saving, on the idea he'd done all the
harm he was
going to do, but was killed before he could do all the followup
needed. His life may have been about the Civil War, expansion of
power, and a near dictatorial Presidency, but the founders made
conflict almost inevitable, under someone, by what they had to do
over to make the Constitution happen at all. Even if the muddy status
slavery couldn't be handled, was it really a show stopper to leave
of states to leave the union implicit rather than explicit? Some
tell me it
After the war, things went awry due to the loss of Lincoln, so
war we had instead of the war we might imagine could have happened
keep Lincoln alive for the cleanup. That probably makes for a smoother
reconstruction and integration of former slaves, and blacks in general,
ordinary society. Imagine no segregation in the 20th century, no
the civil rights movement, and arguably no need for programs like
affirmative action to keep the races disparate. LBJ is on my short
kill targets, but if we spare Lincoln, perhaps we lose some of the
LBJ's war on poverty. So perhaps LBJ can live, if Lincoln does.
ripples go far.
The toughest question of all is who to kill, because there are
many. Do I go with someone obvious, like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or
Carter? Maybe whoever is responsible for giving up Cuba? (Who is
anyway? Help me, history buffs, you're my only hope.) LBJ? Not if
lives. John Maynard Keynes? Imagine, no famed "we're all Keynesians
quote from Ronald Reagan (who is decidedly not on my short list).
write this, I lean strongly in JMK's direction, but if we're gunning
"economists," why not Marx? Heck, that's like taking a
scythe to multiple
follow-ons at once. I could suggest an early demise for Jesus Christ
make the Christians feel persecuted. Oh wait, they already do! Plus
we're being mean enough to suggest that, why not that Paul dude
who got it
past the mere cult stage. Or I could invite a denial of service
suggesting a certain crazy Arab before he can impose his hallucinations
the world. FDR? But like Lincoln, he is a mixed bag of deepest evil
decisive good, and unlike Lincoln he got to live to do the best
of the good.
Augh! Can't. Make. Up. My. Mind.
Aw, what the heck. It's obvious, but let's go with Karl Marx. Let
folks with dictatorial impulses find another ostensible muse to
themselves rather than merely being what they are. Imagine a twentieth
century without Marx looming over it like the father of nightmares.
The Host's Last Word: We have a stark and difficult choice when it comes to
fuel prices: we can either have heightened tensions in the middle east and troops
posted in Iraq, or we can have cheap oil prices.
We can't have both.
The ongoing insurgency in Iraq, and the defiant Iranian mullahs have done more
to put fear into the markets than anything else, driving up the price of oil.
Alternative fuels, fuel taxes, refining capacity and so on are issues that only
come into sharp focus when oil prices spike.
Thus, the best way to reduce oil costs is to appease Iran. Let their nuclear
program become a fait accompli and blame Russian and Chinese intransigence
for failing to impose sanctions or military action.
The question is, will there be a higher cost to pay down the road if this is
the route we take? As an American, would you be comfortable with this?
As for Topic 2, I would recommend going back in time and erasing the
greatest mass-murderer of all time, Mao Zedong. This superheavyweight champion
of death killed some 60 million of his own people during the Chinese
Civil War, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and all the other
dark chapters of history he authored.
Would killing Stalin solve the Mao Zedong problem also? Clever! Probably! Except,
if there is no Stalin, who stops Hitler? The Man of Steel did stop the Wehrmacht,
give him credit for that.
As for extending a lifetime, perhaps Alexander The Great would be the most
interesting choice. He died in his thirties after conquering an empire stretching
from Greece to the Indus River, and it fell apart nearly immediately after his
death. Perhaps a long-lived Alexander could have consolidated and even expanded
his gains, resulting in a Pax Hellenica and a vastly different history for Asia
and the Near East.
That's it! Enjoy what's left of the weekend, and come back again next week for PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!
Posted by Ken McCracken · 30 April 2006 12:49 PM
Ken, Do you suppose green peace will be out in their boats after the Chinese and Indians soon?
You all are incredible! ...
I gotta ask, is the goal really to get back to $2.00 gas? I am inclined to say the goal is to keep economic growth going despite gas prices, which so far it seems to be doing well at.
Sustained higher gas prices, if they do not significantly disrupt economic growth, are not the worst thing in the world. The Dems were right originally in saying that until Americans feel the pain at the pump of driving SUV's and moving further and further into the new sprawling suburbs, they will not change their behavior.
So now the question you are asking is how to manipulate the supply and demand of a product to make if more affordable? If we simply open up our environmental regs to favor domestic exploration, the market will take care of itself. Continued high prices will spur domestic investment (especially if we open ANWR) and also finally encourage folks to conserve. My best friend and mom just bought hybrids. Behaviors are already changing, but we have to let the market dictate these things and it will all wash out.
Our economy is so resilient. Oil prices despite the doomsday MSM and the Democrats, have failed to slow us down, but have encouraged people to pay attention and more folks to buy hybrids. They might have been right about the effects of higher prices when they were advocating for huge tax increases, but they were certainly wrong about raising taxes on it. They are not complete idiots about knowing the good that comes from higher gas prices, just retarded about thinking that we need to artificially manipulate markets. The difference between excessive taxes and a market price spike is whether companies invest in new production or not. Under their tax plan, we would become even more dependant on foreign sources as opposed to providing incentive for companies to develop domestic reserves.
I tend to agree with you Justin - higher gas prices are not the end of the world, our economy is chugging along just fine anyway, and it has not really changed my lifestyle at all.
Of course, I drive a go-kart, so I planned for this eventuality.
Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 30, 2006 07:59 PM
The government has been dumping billions in research grants for alternative fuels and hydrogen powered cars for decades. Yet none have been viable or capable of being produced in mass. All of the sudden, the market itself has incentives to improve hybrid and alt fuel technology. And this is far more likely to produce viable products than continued government grant money.
If gas prices stay high over the long term (and all demand predictions point that way) and possibly even go higher as China and India seek to purchase more of the world's oil supply, only price pressure will force consumption changes. If we artificially lower the price of oil and gas, essentially we are paying for people's poor consumption choices by taking tax dollars from somewhere else. Cutting taxes that pay for commerce projects and roads is also not a good idea.
I am inclined to think that of all the taxes that we have, the taxes on gasoline that go directly to road construction and maintainance are the closest to fair there is. If you use gas, you are using the roads, and therefore the more you use, the more taxes you pay. Sales taxes are fair taxes. The more you buy the more you pay. Especially when the tax dollars are spent on things directly related to the commerce.
Kill *Lenin*, you numbskulls. That way you prevent Stalin, Mao, and - most likely - Hitler.
Lenin was a strategic genius. Not every alpha revolutionary can seize the day the way he did in November 1917. So if Lenin is discovered in his sealed train with a couple of slugs in his head (and who would surprised?), no October Revolution. That means no Stalin, and very likely no Mao. And probably no Hitler. One of the political forces driving the Nazis into power was panic over Communism. Since Hitler only just squeaked into power in 1933, it's a fair bet that without anti-Communist panic he would have failed.
No point killing Karl Marx, btw. Someone was bound to concoct a witch's brew of Jacobinism, Hegel, and Sociology to provide intellectual cover for the revolutionary rage that was Satan's intervention in history at this point. The spectre of Communism had already been haunting Europe for years when Karl & Fred got their show going.
Posted by: Intellectual Pariah at May 1, 2006 02:46 PM
Cool, Ken! You drive a go kart? Intelligent, artistic and raedy for high gas prices? What a guy!
I find it fascinating that under current conditions nobody wants to "erase" the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). I'd suggest it myself, but I don't want to touch off riots all around the world, or run the risk of getting fatwad.
I would not necessarily be in favor of killing any one person, just not kill The Truth. I do wonder if all those members of the Marxist Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party's Bolshevik faction were lied to, or just hungry?
There certainly was quite a bit of lying going on once Lenin gained power. Lenin lied, millions died !