Monday, July 31, 2000

Week of 07/31/2000

The Dissolving Of The Societal Contract
- by David Matthews 2

"Every change in conditions will make necessary some change in the use of resources, in the direction and kind of human activities, in habits and practices. And each change in the actions of those affected in the first instance will require further adjustments that will gradually extend through the whole of society. Every change thus in a sense creates a "problem" for society, even though no single individual perceives it as such; it is gradually "solved" by the establishment of a new overall adjustment." - F.A. Hayek

Not too long ago, USA Today held asked its readers why we are so short-tempered. The newspaper certainly did not suffer from a lack of examples of rage:

  • In Hollywood, Florida, a father is arrested for slugging an umpire during his son’s high school football game.
  • In Reading, Massachusetts, a father beats a youth hockey coach to death after an argument over the rough play of their sons.
  • In Weston, Connecticut, two people have a fistfight over who should be first in a newly-opened checkout land.
  • In the airways above us, one man was arrested for trying to storm the cockpit of an Alaskan Airline flight; while a woman was arrested in a Continental Airline flight after she threw a beer can at a flight attendant and bit into the first officer. Airline officials now refer to these instances as "air rage", and say such incidents have gone up from only 66 in 1997 to well over 500 in 1999.
  • And just this past week, a woman was found beaten to death after she and her ex-husband and his new wife appeared on the Jerry Springer Show. That event has renewed the criticism of talk shows in general especially after the brutal death of one guest of the Jenny Jones Show by another.

So one has to wonder just what the heck is going on with us? Why are we snapping faster than dry tree limbs in an ice storm?

Well, the experts all point to ourselves and blame us for being too selfish, or not caring enough about other people. They blame us for working too hard, or spending too much time with our children, or sometimes not spending enough time with our children. The moralists blame the things in our world, from the simple pleasures we enjoy to the tools that help transport and protect us. The theocrats all beat their chests, and then beat their bibles, and then proclaim that we as a society need to turn to their God and to their religious beliefs for salvation. The politicians decry it as the failed policies of their political counterparts, and then offer their own little pet project as a solution, that all too often eats more tax money and takes away what precious little individual freedom is left.

Let’s get brutally honest here… all of these people - the so-called experts, the theocrats, the moralists, and the politicians - have no idea of what is really happening. All they can do is guess and then try to offer solutions that will echo their particular pet program or philosophy. Quite often they lack the big picture, the understanding of why things are happening that go beyond the incident of the day.

So what is really happening?

Simply put, we’re facing the inevitable end of the great societal contract.

You didn’t know you were in a societal contract, did you? Well, some people claim we enter into that contract, but truth be told, we simply inherited it. We inherited this contract from our parents, and from our parent’s parents, and from their parents before that. Passed down like some collective heirloom, or last year’s Christmas fruitcake.

No, there is nothing explicitly written that spells out what our roles are supposed to be in this contract. There is nothing that we can take to a lawyer and then take to a court to claim that one side or the other has not lived up to their part of the deal.

Even the word "societal contract" is but an exaggeration of what this is. Perhaps a more accurate term would be a pact, or a non-verbal agreement, but in today’s overly-litigious society the word "contract" sounds just as appropriate as any other.

But make no mistake, this contract does exist. It exists in the laws our legislature passes, and in the philosophies that forge those laws and social programs. It exists in every speech uttered by a politician, and every sermon spoken by a minister. It is reflected in every action by special interest groups, and seen with every judicial decision. As with all contracts, it has a starting point, and, inevitably, an ending point.

The current societal contract was forged in the 1800’s to both replace the old contract of the Feudal Society and to reflect the growing Industrial Society. The arrangement was a simple one.. you work for the greater machine, and the machine will provide for you. It didn’t matter if that greater machine was government or the workplace, the symbiotic arrangement was there.

The transition between the Feudal Society and the Industrial one was not easy, nor did it happen overnight. It involved a long series of bloody revolutions that spanned from the American colonies to Europe, and eventually to countries like Russia, India, and China. Those conflicts existed because the old system did not want to be replaced. Those noblemen and women who enjoyed the fruits of the old system did not welcome the changes, and, in fact, fought those changes at every turn. In time, though, the old Feudal Society, and the non-verbal contract that bound the people to the rulers and the rulers to the people, was replaced by one that reflected the rise in the Industrial Society, and the greater machines that power them.

You can see evidence of that current contract in the New Deal that President Roosevelt enacted, and in the "Great Society" programs of President Johnson. It was the reason behind both Prohibition and Social Security, and even today’s push for universal health care is but a reflection of that societal contract. It created big monopolies, both in industry and in government, which could be seen in the two dominant political parties. It was an arrangement that was forged in the time of mining towns, and eventually led to suburbs and subdivisions and shopping malls.

And now, that contract is breaking down.

It’s breaking down because those greater societal machines are breaking down.

The great societal workforce is now considered to be expendable. The emphasis is no longer on the physical company, but rather on the administrative machines that run it. The people and the buildings can be replaced and relocated easily. Even the owners and chief administrators can be rotated about like musical chairs, so long as the administrative machine itself remains intact. The end result is that we can no longer rely on business to hold up their end of the societal contract and provide for us, even though we are asked to dedicate more and more of our time and effort to that machine.

The great government machine is also breaking down. No longer can people rely on their leaders to provide for them like they used to. Part of it is because of the changes in our attitudes, but part of it is also because of their lust for money and power.

This week, the Republican Party will have their Presidential convention, but what you will see on television and read about in the newspapers is pure smoke and mirrors. The candidate was chosen long before the first primary was even held. The party’s platform was agreed to just one week before the convention. What you will see for that week will be pure showmanship, no different than watching dinner theatre. The real dealings for that party will happen away from the cameras, at fund-raisers sponsored by large corporations and special interest groups, where the money will fall into the coffers like manna from the heavens. All of it, by the way, completely legal. And don’t think for a moment that the Democratic Party is any different. They, too, will have their big charade in Los Angeles, all the while hobnobbing with the money-makers underneath our noses.

Alternatives are plentiful, but their voices have been silenced by the two dominant parties, and by the money-makers that support them. How can people become aware of those alternatives if the message is being silenced by the biases of a supposedly "objective" media? It’s like having someone try to play a harmonica over a full symphony orchestra and expecting people to listen.

Is it any wonder, then, why the voting public feels so helpless, and thus are not encouraged to vote?

Take a look at air travel. I’m sure those of you who travel on a regular basis will realize that travelling by air is no longer the comfortable ride that it used to be. There are too many people flying now, and not enough airways, airlines, or personnel to handle them all without cramming them in like sardines, and holding them to rigid schedules that are so strict that it would make West Point look like Berkeley in the 60’s. Add to that the crowded parking spaces at the airport, the paranoid security procedures set by airport security and our government, and the sometimes unpredictable weather conditions, and you have a system that is held together by the thinnest of threads. It’s no wonder why people suffer from "air rage".. you would too if you were treated like a common criminal for just wanting to get from point A to point B. The only difference between air travel and prison are the shackles, the liquor, and the prison jumpsuits… plus the prisoners have better meals.

Keeping up with the Joneses has been transformed into a contact sport that is one part Machiavelli and two parts Social Darwinism. We want to exceed, yet at the same time we’re obsessed with keeping everyone else at the exact same level as we are. This has led to a viscous streak of schadenfreude, where we can only take pleasure in the misery (or better yet CAUSING the misery) of others. If we’re not allowed to excel, then we’ll make sure nobody else can excel either. That’s why we’ll watch professional wrestling and confrontational talk shows on TV. It’s why we’ll get upset when someone tries to cut us off in the breakdown lane of the highways; or shoves a cart full of groceries into the express isle and then try to pay for it all with a check when the signs clearly say "12 Items or less, CASH ONLY".

Are we stressed out? You bet we are! We’re playing by rules that are no longer in effect. On conditions that neither government or private industry feel they are bound to honor, and on expectations for ourselves that - quite frankly - we can never meet. For the first time in generations, we feel that we will not be able to outdo our parents. That’s pretty scary!

But here’s the good news… there is some hope. What we are going through now is something that is necessary, but also not permanent. This is not the way of things to come, but rather it simply marks the transition from one society to a whole new one. We quite frankly need the breakdown of this societal contract so a whole new one can be forged, one that our children will inherit, and our children’s children after that.

So what can we do? Well, for starters, we are going to have to stop relying on the old system of things. The days of business or of government automatically providing for us are coming to an end. We need to start thinking of ourselves not so much as cogs in a machine, but rather as free agents looking for contracts. It doesn’t matter if you’re an up-and-coming executive or just a mailroom clerk, once you consider yourself to be an independent agent instead of just a part of the larger whole, you begin to think of yourself with more importance, and are more concerned with doing good.. not for the sake of the business, but because it will help you. Relying on ourselves will hasten the transition, and make the coming Society move in that much quicker.

As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, "Though madness, there be method to it." We need to see the chaos not as the problem itself, but rather as the side-effects of things yet to come. Once we realize that, then we will be able to determine just what course those changes will take us.

Now that’s something our parents were not able to do!

Monday, July 24, 2000

Week of 07/24/2000

Harry Browne -
Right Candidate, Wrong Battlefield

- by David Matthews 2

You know, one of the most tiring fallacies that ever could exist is this cult-like mantra being uttered by people who have sold their souls to the two-party myth.

"I don’t want to waste my vote," they keep on uttering.

Waste your vote? You are voting, right? You’re taking part in the election process instead of sitting at home and complaining about it, right? How is it that you are wasting your vote?

"Well…" they stammer. "I like," and you can insert your favorite dark horse candidate here, "but I don’t think they’ll win."

So let’s see if I get this straight.. instead of voting for whom you think would do a better job as President, you’re going to throw your vote to either George W. Bush or Albert Gore Jr. simply because someone else tells you they have a better chance at winning? And you claim that is not throwing your vote away? What a load of political doublespeak!

There are several examples of candidates that have shocked the political world… without even mentioning a certain former wrestler who is now the governor of Minnesota. John Kennedy, for instance, was not supposed to have won in 1960. The political establishment wanted Richard Nixon, not some young upstart son of the newly rich with questionable connections.

People thought the same thing about Abraham Lincoln, too. He was the candidate of a newly-formed party called the GOP. He only won after a tumultuous four-party struggle in the electoral college. Oh, but I forget.. that was over one hundred and forty years ago. Back in the days when "mass media" referred to the church bulletin.. and the only way you could get your point across was either through newspapers or through public speaking events.

Those were much different days, of course. Days when a politician’s support was sold to the public through long speeches and ideas that took more than sixty seconds to present.

In many ways, I get that same feeling about the Libertarian Party’s candidate for President of the United States, Harry Browne. A candidate with solid ideas for getting this country back on the right track by emphasizing personal freedom and getting that 800-pound gorilla called government out of our lives.

Yet at the same time, it bothers me knowing that he and one other candidate are the only pro-freedom choices for President.

Don’t get me wrong, folks, when November comes around, I’ll more than likely vote for Browne, just like I did in 1996. But I wonder if the Libertarians can do better.

Mind you, I don’t want to detract from the things Browne has done for the Libertarian Party. He’s helped to get us more public exposure than any other candidate in recent years. His book "Why Government Doesn’t Work" helped draw more people to the Libertarian Party than in recent years. His radio talk show on the Talk America network has also helped get more people to consider individual freedom instead of the usual incremental socialism that the Democrats and the Republicans have been so coyly pushing for decades. And in 1996, over two hundred talk show hosts, including conservative icon Rush Limbaugh, wanted Browne to be included in the presidential debates along with other third-party candidates like Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot.

Yet when the smoke cleared from the ’96 balloting, Browne showed up fifth, behind both Nader and Perot.


Well, some people would say that the voting public doesn’t care about freedom. They’re more concerned about the economy than the fact that they’re paying 47% of their paychecks for a bloated and intrusive government. As long as the economy was going along fine, there was no reason to "rock the boat".

Therein lay the problem for guys like Browne. How do you sell the fact that the government doesn’t work? It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to sell it to people, especially when the economy looks great.

Well, now it’s 2000, and the economy isn’t as great as people though it would be. Major corporations have been laying people off for the past two years, but it was believed that the job market would make up the difference, and it did.. for a while. Now it isn’t. The cost of living is now starting to go up, mostly because of the spike in gas prices. People are starting to question the Clinton Regime’s claims of record-breaking prosperity. Interest rates are going up, and housing sales are going down.

With all that, it is no wonder why candidates like Harry Browne believe they should have another run.

Now folks, let’s get brutally honest here.. Harry Browne is a thinking man’s candidate. That’s his asset. Get him in the debates and he can out-think both George Bush and Al Gore. But the problem is he has to get INTO the debates, and in order to do that he has to first sell his message to the public.

And that is Harry Browne’s weakest spot. He’s a thinking man’s candidate in a race run by sound bites and Jiffy-Pop political commercials. He’s a statesman, not a salesman. He can write an enlightening book and host a radio talk show, but it takes time to sell his messages of greater personal freedom with less government. Ralph Nader, on the other hand, was known in ’96 for calling Bill Clinton and Bob Dole a choice between "Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber". A quick and easy sound bite that appealed to a greater number of people than Browne’s Great Libertarian offer.

That’s why I was hoping that the Libertarian Party would give someone else a shot at the White House this time around. Former New Hampshire state representative Don Gorman, for one, probably would have had a little more appeal to the general public. After all, this is someone who knows state and local governments. New Hampshire state politicians are a rare breed of people, because all of the elected congressmen and senators still have to work for a living. Gorman could have provided a common man’s appeal to the public to offset the stuffy, silver-spoon-fed second-generation politicians like Bush and Gore.

But, like Pat Buchanan and the Reform Party, Harry Browne managed to bring more supporters to the Libertarian Party’s convention, so like it or not, he’s got the nod for the Party. And to be completely honest, I still think he’s a better choice than Bush, Gore, Nader, or Buchanan combined!

So what would it take for Harry Browne to get a leg up in the election? Well, he’s going to have to be a salesman.

Look at Gore. He’s able to somehow upload a personality in that wooden image of his. When the time comes for a public speaking event, he manages to come off with all of the passions of an evangelist. He may be going through several political personas, including this overrated "alpha male" guise, but at least he’s developed a personality to go with the political machine that is truly fueling his campaign.

Remember Perot? How do you think he was able to get the attention of the public back in 1992? Well, okay, lots of money. But if money was all that was needed, this race would have been between Gore and Steven Forbes. Perot also attempted to appeal to the public using simple terminology and language that Joe and Jane Six-pack could understand.

That’s what Harry Browne needs to do this time around. He needs a salesman to sell his message to the people. Much like JFK had Frank Sinatra, Browne needs someone that can appeal to Joe and Jane Six-pack, bringing them a simple message that is so unique that the Democrats and Republicans could not lay claim to it.

And what sort of message would that be? Well, what is it that Harry Browne can offer that Gore and Bush cannot? A message of freedom. Both of the dominant candidates have only offered one thing - more and more government. More laws. More regulations. More entitlements. More programs. What they don’t talk about is that these things mean more government into our lives, and more taxes to pay for those programs.

That is the message that needs to be pushed by the Browne campaign, a message of pro-freedom over the voices of pro-government.

And here’s the magic of effective political salesmanship: If you can sell your message to enough people, the political system will pick up on that and emulate it the next time around. Political reform was basically a dead topic in politics until Ross Perot got twenty percent of the voting populace. Then, suddenly, reform became the watchword for both Democrats and Republicans. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then both major parties are the biggest ass-kissers in the business. Imagine what would happen if those imitators picked up on a popular message of personal freedom and limited government! You may not see a political exodus to the Libertarian Party, but you certainly would see more pro-freedom ideas being proposed.

Harry Browne does have some refreshing ideas for our government, but the most productive ideas in the world don’t mean a thing if they can’t be sold first. That should be Browne’s top priority.

After all, today’s politician is nothing more than an overpaid used car salesman.

Monday, July 17, 2000

Week of 07/17/2000

Target: Litigious Smokers
- by David Matthews 2

You know, I just have to give credit where credit is due.. those lawsuit-happy smokers out there have finally managed to pull one off.

It took years of legal action, bringing in dozens of lawsuits. That had to have been a strain for many of the long-term smokers.. the ones who have health problems.. because of all of the steps they had to climb to get to the courthouse buildings.

Of course, many of the litigious smokers didn’t make it to trial. Some died in the process, forcing their spouses and family members to carry on with their fight.

But after all of this time, and all of that money spent, those litigious smokers finally got to put the hurt to the infamous "Big Tobacco" with a whopping $145 BILLION judgement.

Allow me to repeat that for you… one hundred and forty-five BILLION dollars! That’s BILLION with a "B". A nice, fat, Pentagon-sized TWELVE-digit figure.

Of course, the anti-smoking activists would say that it was just desserts. After all, they blame "Big Tobacco" for killing millions of people.

Don’t forget that we’re talking about a huge class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of "sick smokers" in Florida. How many precisely has yet to be determined. The wire services put their range anywhere between 300,000 and 700,000. Still, that’s quite a bit of cash for each of these litigious smokers. Anywhere between $483 and $207 thousand dollars for each litigant, depending on when the lawyers can agree on the exact number of plaintiffs involved. Maybe some of those "sick smokers" aren’t really sick. Maybe a few hundred of those 700,000 smokers woke up one morning with hangovers and decided to blame the tobacco companies anyways. Lord knows those diligent personal-injury lawyers don’t want to penalize the tobacco companies needlessly, right?

Speaking of lawyers, you know the attorneys in this case will only want what they deem to be "their fair share" of those damages. After all, they had to do all of the legwork in these lawsuits. They had to visit hospitals with some of those "sick smokers" and hear endlessly about how badly they are, and how much money they owe to doctors and hospitals for their misery. Then they had to endure the endless misery of sitting in posh conference rooms with other attorneys who represented the tobacco companies, talking about those sick smokers while deciding which five-star restaurant they want to dine at afterwards, and which golf course they want to visit for a few friendly rounds before going back to those posh conference rooms. Oh, those lawyers live tough lives! So they would be completely justified in claiming, say, one hundred billion of that whopping jackpot. After all, they still have to put up with those appeals, right?

But, you know, I gotta be brutally honest with you litigious smokers… the argument your lawyers used to win the case in Florida is absolutely masterful! A pure stroke of genius!

I mean, come on, you litigious smokers can be honest with the rest of the world on this. It’s not like this is some kind of government secret. What is it exactly that you guys are arguing? That you were so influenced by magazine advertising and billboards to take up a habit that was suspected for at least forty years to have caused health problems. It’s not your fault.. it’s the fault of that evil arch-villain Joe Camel for making smoking look cool. You were influenced… no, compelled… no, coerced.. no, FORCED to start smoking. Not with a gun or a knife, or even blackmail photos of you having your first bath when you were a baby. No, those damned advertising slaves of Big Tobacco forced you to smoke with the most insidious weapon at their disposal.. they TOLD you to!

Essentially, you smokers were arguing that you are idiots who cannot think for yourselves.

That took guts! I mean, most people would be reluctant to admit that they have no minds of their own. We often go out of our way to say we have some modicum of intelligence and free will.. but not you litigious smokers! You get up there with your lawyers and you say "We started smoking because we have no free will.. *GASP* .. and because we are idiots.. *GASP* ..and will do whatever advertisers tell us to do… *WHEEZ*"

And that message wasn’t even an easy sell! It took twenty years worth of lawsuits and millions of dollars spent to attorneys before people could even believe that you smokers were mindless idiots. I mean, the legal system had an extremely hard time believing that people could be that mindless. They foolishly thought that you smokers consciously took up the habit. Oh those naïve justices! What were they thinking?

Those tobacco executives also helped you guys out by concealing a few facts and figures. Apparently they’ve known for years just how mindless you guys were, and took complete advantage off of it. Shame on those rich executives for making a buck off of your mindlessness! Who do those people think they are? The federal government?

And while we’re at it, shame on all of us non-smokers out there who managed to somehow defy the will of the tobacco companies and their advertising lackeys -- not to mention peer pressure -- and never take up smoking. And shame, shame, shame on all of those people who did take up smoking and then quit. People like my parents, who made the conscious effort to quit smoking without those gums or patches or expensive addition programs. Those are the very people who created the illusion that smoking was a voluntary activity that made it so hard for you people to get any satisfaction in the courts.

So now the question is what will you litigious smokers do now? If the verdict is upheld by the judge, and survives the endless appeals process without being reduced, you will have essentially driven those tobacco companies out of business. That means nobody will be able to pay the tobacco farmers for their crops. Vice President Al Gore, who wept oh so conveniently for his dead sister, won’t have a family tobacco farm to brag about. There won’t be any tobacco advertising to tell you what to do.

Matter of fact, without the tobacco companies, you probably won’t even have any cigarettes… unless they come from some third world country and are charged to the hilt for them. Well, at least you would still be able to afford them with your settlement money.

But.. hey, like your health, that kind of worry is best left for tomorrow. You just won a huge legal victory today! You should celebrate! Smoke ‘em, if you got them!

Monday, July 10, 2000

Week of 07/10/2000

The Price At The Pump:
Who Is REALLY To Blame?

- by David Matthews 2

I had been noticing lately a lot of new signs showing up at the gas stations. Signs that spell out exactly what happens to people who don’t pay for the gas they pump into their cars. I hadn’t seen anyone "pump-and-peel", as it is now being called, but I was a bit curious as to why this is supposedly the new trend.

Then I saw what the price of gas cost…

You know, for the past year or so I’ve been warning people that this so-called "great economic boom" was going to crash. Prosperity doesn’t last forever, especially if the government is involved in it. But who would have thought that the catalyst for our economic downturn would be the price at the pump?

Well, actually, a few folks did, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

For the past few months, we’ve been watching with anger and with disgust as the price of gasoline has been climbing ever so high. In some areas, the price of regular unleaded is over two dollars a gallon, which is unheard of in America, even during the Gulf War crisis.

So motorists are mad. No, not just mad… thoroughly and completely disgusted. They’re disgusted that in peacetime, when all of the bad boys in the Middle East are playing nice, they’re having to pay double for what they had to pay last year.

"Highway robbery," commented one motorist to me as we both filled our respective vehicles. "That’s what it is.. nothing but a complete rip-off!"

I couldn’t agree more!

But who is to blame for it?

Well, it’s easy to blame the infamous "Big Oil" for the price spike. Everyone remembers the gas crisis in the 1970’s and early 80’s. We all remember the gas rationing and the odd-even system some states had to establish. And then our jaws dropped when the oil executives put on the dumb blond act and exclaimed "Gee, HOW did all of these oil tankers get here? Who told them to wait out in the middle of the ocean?" We knew it was an act, and we never forgave them for it. We still bought their gas, but we never forgave them for playing that game on us.

And, yeah, we didn’t like the way we were more or less coerced into the Gulf War by the spike in gas prices then either. Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait and the prices soar. We launch the ground war, and the prices plummet. How very Pavlovian.

So it is very easy for us to start once again pointing the fingers at the oil companies, and call them out for being the greedy bastards we know them to be. So easy, in fact, that even Vice-President Al "I Invented Gasoline" Gore is taking part in the blame game by pointing his fingers at "Big Oil."

Not so fast, Mister Roboto. First of all, let me ask you when was the last time you ever got out of your air conditioned limousine to pump gas like the rest of us? "Common man" my ass!

Speaking of gas, how goes the company your father once chaired.. Occidental Petroleum? You remember Occidental, don’t you? Owned by the old family friend, the late Armand Hammer? One of those companies that make up what you conveniently call "Big Oil"?

And don’t try to act so surprised about the price hikes either. Your mentor and boss, President Bill Clinton, KNEW about the production slowdown six months before it would take effect! Matter of fact, the Clinton Regime approved of the slowdown, saying it would help out countries like Mexico and Russia.

And, you know, we wouldn’t be so dependant on oil from foreign nations if we didn’t stop pumping oil closer to home! There are areas rich with oil that could have kept OPEC from dictating the market price, but we can’t touch them. Why? Because the Clinton Regime decided they would rather appease the demands of the environmentalists. So Clinton used his executive privilege to once again seize land not his and put those areas under protection as a "wildlife preserve." Oh yes, nothing like letting other nations use up their natural resources just so we can "preserve" the pristine look of our own lands.

Don’t forget those "clean air" programs. All of those programs to cut down on smog by refining gasoline even further, or mixing it with alcohol or other oils. Guess what? Those don’t come for free. The latest "clean air" program.. compliments of the Clinton Regime.. took effect around the same time as the start of the last gas price hike. Gee, what a coincidence!

Oh, and speaking of the Regime, we just can’t thank Energy Secretary Bill Richardson enough for "keeping gas prices down." Matter of fact, that’s what Secretary Richardson was recently honored for by the petroleum companies at the exact same time when he SHOULD have been testifying before Congress to explain his department’s incompetence in recent years. Oh yeah, THANKS Mister Richardson for the FINE job you’re doing! Keep those gas prices low for us!

If there is one thing that can be said about the Clinton Regime, it is that they certainly know how to put the "hyp" in "hypocrisy"!

So-called "Big Oil" isn’t the only group that has been gouging us at the pump. Uncle Sam and many of his fifty spoiled brats have also been contributing to the differences in gas prices between the states. Ever wonder how some politician’s pet program gets funded without a rise in your income or sales taxes? That’s right, it got funding from the pump. A penny here, a nickel there. It all adds up.

But you know what, folks? They aren’t the only ones to blame for the gas problem.

Let’s get brutally honest here. If you want to know who contributed to our gas price spike, you just have to ask yourself two little questions: What kind of vehicle do you drive? And what kind of gas mileage does it have?

Oh yes, you remember what the gas mileage was all about don’t you? You should. The US Auto manufacturers certainly did. It was the key issue for many Americans in the late 70’s and early 80’s for buying foreign cars. Who wanted to "Buy American" when the cars they offered had crappy gas mileage? We certainly didn’t. We were the one who made Toyota and Volvo and Saab household names!

Well apparently we forgot all about those days, because in the 90’s, the "IN" thing to do was to buy the civilian’s next best thing to a tank, the sport utility vehicle. Sure they were big, bulky, polluting eyesores that had less gas mileage than a 1977 Ford Fairlane. Sure they were about as overrated as a self-produced Kevin Costner movie. That didn’t matter to the neo-Yuppie crowd. They NEEDED the SUV because it was "safe." Well, not safe for anyone around them, but safe for THEM. And besides, gas prices were low, right? They could afford to pay the extra $10-30 per week for gas as long as it kept them "safe."

Well now that extra $10-30 per week has ballooned to $100-200 per week, eating a hole in your wallet so big you could drive through it. But.. that doesn’t matter, does it? Because you’re "safe" in your SUV.

Maybe that explains why gas station owners are now concerned about people who "pump-and-peel".

Look, folks, the reason why gas prices continue to rise is because we’re not giving the oil companies any reason to think it will hurt their bottom line. Remember the guy who was talking to me at the gas station? He was commenting about the prices being highway robbery while he was fueling up his boat. Sure the prices are high, but we’ll still continue to pay at the pump. We’ll still make plans to drive when we really don’t have to. We’ll still drive out to the parks and off to vacation spots. That only lets the oil companies know that the gas prices aren’t high enough!

If you really want the gas prices low, forget trying to go to the government for help. The only thing you’ll hear are more excuses about why gas prices are so high. Sure some states are considering suspending their gas taxes, but those are just short-term solutions. At best you’ll save ten cents to the gallon, but once the prices have "stabilized", those taxes will go right back in place, and the price at the pump will go back up again.

Do you really want to do something about those prices? Well, you’re going to have to cut back on your driving to do it! Forget your vacation plans. Spend some time closer to home. Don’t drive to the other side of town just to get a gallon of milk. Look into carpooling, subways, and telecommuting. Find alternatives to using your car to go places. That’s the only way we will let the oil companies know we won’t tolerate their games.

And when the time comes for you to start looking for a new car, start putting gas mileage on the top of your list. Sure, that means writing off the sport utility vehicles, but it doesn’t mean writing off safety and convenience. Minivans work just as well as an SUV, and with far better gas mileage! And you know what? When people stop buying those damn SUVs, then the auto manufacturers will start making them with better gas mileage. The only reason why they didn’t in the first place was because we the consumer didn’t think that was high enough of a priority.

Sure, the oil companies, OPEC, and the gasoline providers are bilking us to death. That’s become their nature, and we should accept that as such. But if we want real relief, we have to change the one area that we HAVE influence over, and that is over our own habits.

Monday, July 3, 2000

Week of 07/03/2000

(Editor's note: Frustrated by the apparent inability of the general public to understand what freedom is all about, David 2 used his weekly column to reprint the U.S. Declaration of Independence word-for-word so people could understand why we broke away from the grip of an evil ruler named George. Since this was not an original article from the writer, we will only provide a link to the document so you can read for yourself what Thomas Jefferson and others said back in 1776.)