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The Knowledge Problem

Here’s a letter to USA Today:

Sen. Bill Nelson claims that “The ultimate answer to America’s energy needs lies not in oil, but in the rapid development of alternative fuels” (“Halt offshore exploration,” May 13).

How in the world does Mr. Nelson divine this alleged fact?  Does he have expert insight into the full costs and benefits of developing and producing non-fossil fuels?  Has he displayed a unique talent at predicting changes in the technologies that are used to extract petroleum?  Hardly.

After a short stint in the Army, Mr. Nelson spent all of one year (1970) in the private sector (where he practiced law).  From 1971 until today he has worked exclusively in politics.  He has neither experience in the energy industry nor any record of entrepreneurship.  For nearly 40 years – well over half of his life – he’s devoted his career to spending other people’s money.  In short, he has no basis for making this claim.

Mr. Nelson’s “answer to America’s energy needs” deserves no more attention than does any such prophecy issued by a Ouija board or by a witch doctor reading the entrails of a rooster.

Donald J. Boudreaux

As my friend Wilson Mixon, of Division of Labour, points out, these latter methods of prognostication might not be efficient, but at least they – unlike Sen. Nelson – are reliably unbiased.


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