Sunday, August 15, 2004

Inconsistencies with political rhetoric about oil

Asymmetrical Information has a new post about some of the illogical rhetoric about oil production and alternative energy that's floating around out there. Her point that there is not much that the American government can do in the short term to alter substantially the world's oil economy is a good one and worth reading in detail.

Further examples are pretty easy to find once you start looking for them. One of the recurring metaphors used by contemporary politicians is drawing a parallel between their new policy initiative and World War II to demonstrate their total commitment to the aforementioned policy initiative. Every evil dictator that the United States goes to war with is not just evil but "the next Hitler". We can't just give a lot of money to a strategic ally with deep economic problems; we have to offer them a new "Marshall Plan" instead. You get the idea.

On the topic of energy conservation, we have Senator Kerry calling for a new commitment to the environment on the scale of the Manhattan Project. The idea here is to not only associate America's energy independence and environmental stewardship with the survival of free civilization in the war against Fascism but to advance the idea that a massive government project can accomplish in the short term what the regular research and policy establishment can only achieve in the long term. The nuance that a massive new government spending project is almost certainly not going to be the most cost-effective way to achieve Senator Kerry's policy objectives has been completely ignored.

Here's another inconsistency in political rhetoric: did you ever notice that trade with China is always described as having a liberalizing effect on the Chinese government, but that trade with oil exporting arab nations is always described as making the United States more vulnerable to their evil market manipulations? Of course, there are always the protectionists who believe that trade with anybody is a bad idea and there must be plenty of capitalists who know that trade with Saudi Arabia can encourage reforms in their politics and economy. But when was the last time you've ever seen the media push for trade with Saudi Arabia the way they pushed for trade with China whenever China needed it's Most Favored Nation status reauthorized?

The Coulter-esque argument would be that liberals like trade with China because it benefits a communist State while liberals hate oil imports from Saudi Arabia because they benefit the United States. I personally don't believe anything that extreme, but I'd be interested to hear your arguments either for or against that argument in the comments section.


Blogger William said...

Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions.... Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.

7:04 PM  

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