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Who’s Really Gouging Consumers?

Here’s a letter to the editor of The Hill:


Nancy Pelosi complains about rising gasoline prices and, to solve the problem, calls on government to cap such price hikes (“Pelosi hammers gas companies for consumer ‘exploitation,’” May 12). Ms. Pelosi’s screeching is as preposterous as would be that of an obdurate alcoholic who complains about his hangover and, to solve the problem, calls for his bartender to pour him more stiff drinks.

Progressives incessantly threaten to tax and regulate carbon fuels into oblivion. These threats cannot but reduce investors’ willingness to fund each of the many steps – from exploration through refining to transporting gasoline to market – that are necessary to keep energy prices low. One reality reflected by today’s high prices at the pump is this hostility to carbon fuels generally and to petroleum especially. And gasoline price controls would only make matters worse by further reducing the attractiveness of investing in the petroleum industry: Why invest in bringing products to market if the prices at which you’re allowed to sell are dictated by grandstanding politicians?

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


DBx: Well, if price controls do return, the teaching of principles of microeconomics will soon become easier, as today’s students would then come to have first-hand experience with fuel shortages of the sort that those of us who remember the 1970s remember so well but not-so-fondly.

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