Thomas Sowell

 Prices are what pay for costs. The government can impose price controls on gasoline or petroleum tomorrow but that will not have the slightest effect on the cost of oil exploration or the cost of extracting and processing the oil that is found.

 When the costs are no longer being fully covered by prices, production is likely to be cut back, whether it is the production of oil or anything else. This is not speculation. This is what has been happening for literally thousands of years, going back to price controls in ancient Rome and Babylon.

 Yet price controls have always been popular politically, despite being counterproductive economically. After all, how many votes do economists have and how many voters know economics?

 Some people love to believe that prices should be kept down to a "reasonable" level, something that everyone can "afford." Yet the notion of "reasonable" prices is itself unreasonable. The costs of producing oil don't depend on what we can afford or consider "reasonable." Nor does the cost of anything else.

 Someone can always invoke the image of an elderly person on a fixed pension being unable to buy enough fuel oil to keep warm in the winter. Taking care of such isolated situations would not make a dent in the massive government budget. But the real goal of such anecdotes is to justify imposing government controls on all of us.

 Make no mistake about it, there are many people out there just itching to tell us what to do -- and make us do it.  That is why the word "crisis" gets used so much, and not just about oil, in order to soften us up for their taking over our lives. That is a bigger problem than the so-called "oil crisis."

Thomas Sowell

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

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