Thomas Sowell

Britain's recent massive protests against soaring gasoline prices there virtually shut down London, but at least it showed that the British had a more realistic understanding of the causes of these sky-high gas prices. The protesters wanted the government to reduce its astronomical taxes on every gallon of gasoline.

In the United States, unfortunately, most Americans seem unaware that federal taxes alone add several times as much to the cost of every gallon of gasoline as the profits of the "greedy" oil companies. But no one dreams of calling the government greedy. It is the old double standard again.

In addition to getting more money out of every gallon of gasoline than the oil companies that produced it, the government adds to the costs indirectly in innumerable ways. While the Clinton administration is pleading with Middle East countries to increase their oil output, in order to bring down American gasoline prices, it is at the same time forbidding Americans from producing oil in all sorts of places where we have our own.

The reason for these mutually contradictory policies? Political expediency. The Clinton administration has been pandering to the self-righteous environmentalist hysteria-mongers who denounce oil drilling, even in remote wildernesses where only a few isolated Sierra Club backpackers might be offended by seeing where the oil comes from that lets them drive there in their minivans and sport utility vehicles.

Incidentally, Al Gore in his hysterical book "Earth in the Balance" advocated higher gasoline prices. But when they happen during an election year, suddenly he is against them. If you want a chameleon for president, he is your man.

Even when the government does worse things than people in the private sector could do or would do, somehow that's OK -- at least to the big-government liberals who dominate the media and academia.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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