OIL AND HATING SOUTHERNERS | 2000-07-08
Unlike a good conservative, I do not think that all businessmen are good and virtuous and that all rich people are automatically good (Please See May 7, 2000 -- "Microsoft Case: A Liberal Gets Mugged"). Likewise, unlike liberals, I do not automatically hate productive people.
When the public was polled on who was to blame for the present rise in gas prices, 32% blamed the government, 32% blamed OPEC, and 23% blamed the American oil industry. So the Administration is going after the oil industry.
Oil makes a great villain. First of all, it is the only major industry left that is dominated completely by people who are the ideal villains from the point of the view of the media, that is to say, of Eastern liberalism. Those who dominate it tend to have Southern "accents."
Even in the 1920s, the editor of the New Yorker kept a sign on his desk that said, "Hate Southerners" (James Thurber, "My Years With Ross").
Let me repeat, I have no doubt that, like any other businessman, an oilman is perfectly capable of gouging the public if he gets a chance. But when there is a fuel shortage, liberals go after the industry because it is the only thing they CAN go after. They can't do anything about OPEC. They can't blame government, because they favor government action, especially price controls and rationing. So all they can do is attack the oil industry as the culprit in all of our energy problems.
For decades, the rich Northeast kept the price of Southern oil low through government price controls. So their prejudice paid off, big time. "Hate Southerners" was a very profitable motto.
When the energy crisis of the 1970s hit, this prejudice went wild. Conservatives demanded that we get rid of price controls in order to increase domestic production. The liberals responded that not only would deregulation reduce government controls, which is always poison to liberals, but it would also take away the gigantic exploitation of the South by which Our Glorious Union had robbed the South of tens of billions of dollars.
So liberals had two answers to America's energy problems in the 1970s: 1) blame it all on the oil industry, and 2) lots of government programs and a new Department of Energy.
Let me tell you something that is going to surprise you right out of your seat: The liberals had an energy policy, and that energy policy didn't WORK! No liberal policy ever works, and they did not destroy their perfect record with the energy crisis. Those of us who lived through the late 1970's remember it as a period of despair. We were introduced, for the first time in American history, to "stagflation," where we had both inflation and huge unemployment at the same time.
First, let us look at what a sane person does when a crisis like this develops. If there is a national shortage in any industry, you subsidize that industry. What the Carter Administration did was to attack and punish and defame the oil industry and try to force down domestic prices when we desperately needed to increase production.
Naturally things just got worse. To repeat, any sane person would know that the last thing you need to do when you have a shortage is to attack the domestic producers. This is not because oilmen are nice, or that rich people should be trusted, but simply because, when you face a domestic shortage, you have to make breaks for your domestic industry.
The liberal solution in the 1970s was to have the government ration all the energy and to have the government sponsor searches for alternative energy sources. The government did as well at that as it does with everything else. "Punish, tax and ration" is a summary of the policy of the late 1970s. Oddly enough, the supplies went down and prices skyrocketed.
A frustrated President Carter told Americans that it was all their fault. He accused us of a "national malaise" which had somehow caused the problem.
It has taken me many words to explain the complications and mental aberrations that led to this liberal insanity which as always didn't work and which as always was incredibly destructive. What happened next shows that the entire problem was, as it so often is, the liberal policy that was supposed to deal with it.
What happened next takes few words: Reagan got rid of price controls, the energy crisis ended, and prices went back down.
Now Gore is demanding that the oil industry be regulated and limited. It is the same policy as the 70s, but this time he wants to do it in the name of "The Environment."
But while no respectable conservative is going to call this a replay of the seventies strategy that cost Carter the presidency, too many of us remember that time of failure and despair. For once, despite all respectable conservatives can do, the liberals seem to have gotten the blame for one of their failures. Gore is playing the old Carter song, and nobody wants the Carter years back.