Gas Shortages in Store for Hawaiians
The Aloha State is now nearly two weeks into the ill-considered cap on gasoline prices enacted by the state legislature in response to the "crisis" of rising gas prices. "Crisis" is a strange way to define the current situation, as Hawaii has long been home to the nation's highest gas prices, due in no small part to the inherent costs of transporting petroleum to the islands. But apparently the state's politicians have decided that both the Hawaiian people and those oil companies that provide their gasoline should be exempt from those pesky laws of economics and that fuel prices will be capped accordingly at a level closer to those of the mainland, specific prices to be determined by the state's public utilities commission, being the august body of economic geniuses that it is.
According to Frank Young, a member of a Honolulu group called Citizens Against Gasoline Price Gouging, "The purpose of the cap is so that we move with the rest of the country" (MSNBC News, August 25th).
Moving in what direction, Frank? Toward the socialism that is crippling businesses all over the nation? Increasing government regulation of the market that removes incentives to produce, thus resulting in the very shortages you and your economically illiterate compatriots think you're fighting against?
News flash, Frank: You pay more for gas because, in no small measure, you and your fellow Alohans insist on making it cost more to provide you with said gas (remember the priniciple of "cause and effect"?). In addition to the already steep costs of transporting gas to the islands from the mainland, coupled with the current shortages brought on by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hawaii also has some of the most stringent environmental protection laws in the nation that add further to the costs of refining and storage.
And by the way, Frank, let me ask you and your compatriots another question. Since Hawaii is one of the smallest states and consists of islands with very little roadway, why do you depend on cars to the extent that you do? The H-1, the island's only interstate highway, endures rush hour traffic that rivals that of the D.C. area in scale. God only knows what the rest of the roads are like at peak traffic hours. Indeed, one of the first questions that popped into my inquisitive little skull on my one and only visit to Oahu a couple of years back is: why can't an island this small be serviced extensively by public transportation or privately operated bus-taxis operating on regular schedules along fixed routes? That might save a few bucks from going into the tank over the long term.
Rationalizations for price caps notwithstanding, this is deja vu all over again. Surely those Hawaiians old enough to remember the 1970s will not feel nostalgia at the return of lines, shortages and rationing, things that will surely follow in the wake of any price cap. To her credit Hawaii's Governor, Linda Lingle, has fought the price caps and has warned of what's to come. Unfortunately for economic common sense, that body closest to the people, the state legislature, overrode her veto and made economic chaos inevitable.
We can only hope that enough misery follows in the wake of this stupid decision to cure people once and for all of the imbecilic idea that government regulation of the economy does anything but harm.
I'm not holding my breath.