No Leaders Needed…or Wanted

by Don Boudreaux on May 7, 2004

in The Economy

Washington Post reader Jim Nagle adds his voice to the growing chorus of people concerned about the rising price of gasoline. He wants action — official action. He asks:

when was the last time public officials came up with any incentives for people to reduce the number of single-occupancy trips they make? No leadership is evident there either, as this is another third rail of American politics.

Among the beautiful features of the market is that it supplies its own incentives for people to adjust appropriately to changes in the supply of, and demand for, resources. If gasoline prices climb high enough, people will voluntarily take their own steps to use less gasoline. “Leadership” from public officials is unnecessary.

In addition, such “leadership” is undesirable, for my best way of reducing my use of gasoline might well differ from Mr. Nagle’s best way. And my neighbor likely has a best way that differs both from my way and from Mr. Nagle’s way. Also, each of our ways might change over time. But any government-imposed set of incentives will compel each of hundreds of millions of people to conform to a single plan aimed at imposing a relatively small and inflexible set of means of achieving greater oil conservation.

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