Friday, February 12, 2016

Rubio is Right. Obama “knows exactly what he's doing."

In a recent GOP debate, Marco Rubio called it “fiction” to believe that “Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing.” This is in response to charges that Rubio is too inexperience to be president, and would only be a Republican Barack Obama. Obama, too, faced charges of “inexperience.”

The standard GOP line, in essence, is that Obama messed up the country because of incompetence stemming from lack of experience. The lead pitbull against Rubio was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

NJ Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine covered Christie’s Attack on Rubio, which Mulshine said “knocked out” Rubio. Mulshine writes of the Rubio/Christie exchange in the debate:

You could see this one coming a mile away.

But Marco Rubio never knew what hit him.

Christie's attack on the Florida senator in the debate Saturday night  has to rank among the most effective hit jobs in recent political history.

After that performance, Rubio has nowhere to go but back to Florida.

He's done. Cooked. Finished.

Mulshine says "Rubio's  appearances are heavily scripted. He often stumbles and bumbles whenever he has to address a question he hasn't heard before. Christie pounded that point home." He goes on to quote Christie, who ridicules Rubio as "the boy in the bubble" and asserts "This election cannot be handed to a guy who memorizes a good 60-second answer and can read a Teleprompter better than anyone." Mulshine continues:

Rubio fell right into the trap. The TV clips that will finish off his candidacy show him repeating three times his stage-managed attack on President Obama.

That was his line about "this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing" – a fiction that certainly didn't come up in the questions he was asked.

Each time Rubio followed that robotically with the line "He knows exactly what he's doing."

I don’t think Rubio is finished by a long shot. In fact, I think many people agree with the substance of Rubio’s assessment of Obama, and will look past his bumbling and Christie’s slander.

I left these comments:

I’m not sure how exactly Rubio means it. But, scripted or not, I think Rubio is absolutely correct on the broader point. Obama came into office with little experience but a solid collectivist ideology. And, on the basis of that ideology, Obama has had significant success at “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” as he promised in 2008.

Obama’s political agenda, including Dodd-Frank, ObamaCare, and his climate change agenda—including the assault on the coal industry—have pushed the country a long way toward statism and away from liberty. But that agenda is really a continuation of the statist trend of the past hundred years, and particularly of the past 15 years.

The worst damage was his legitimization of moocherism. This he has largely accomplished through his anti-economic inequality campaign, which is built on the premise that no one is responsible for his economic status. The wealth of the nation is not the product of individual ability and initiative operating in the free market, and belonging to those who earned it. Wealth is some collective “pie” created by this mysterious entity called “society.” If the next guy has more wealth or earnings than you, it’s because that guy took more than his “fair share” of society’s pie by cheating you. Nobody actually builds anything (“you didn’t build that”). “Success” is a matter of luck or cheating, not individual productiveness. There is no such thing as achievement. There’s only “privilege.”

This egalitarian view of wealth production was not invented by Obama. But he has shown to be a great salesman for it. Consequently, he has severely undermined a lot of Americans’ respect for individual achievement. In doing so, it has given legitimization to the entitlement mentality. To the extent people accept it—and too many people do—Obama has paved the way for an accelerated descent into socialism.

Experience is overblown. An “inexperienced” president can always surround himself with qualified people to guide him in implementing his policies. Much more important in a president is his philosophy and vision for where he wants to take the country. Obama came into office with a vision, and largely accomplished it. Yes, Obama “knows exactly what he's doing."

Related Reading:

Obama's Sugar-Coated Poison

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

PennEast Pipeline Objections Don’t Add Up

The Jihad against pipelines being waged by the Environmentalists usually features heavily biased one-sidedness rooted in a small-picture viewpoint. Consider a letter published in the Hunterdon County Democrat titled Don't believe the feel-good claims about the PennEast pipeline. PennEast Pipeline company has applied for federal approval to run a natural gas pipeline through Hunterdon County, New Jersey.

I left these comments, rebutting point by point the objections offered by the writer The italicized quotes are the writer’s:

The pipeline objections presented here don’t add up.

“They claim pipelines are ‘safer’ than oil trains, which is like saying lung cancer is ‘safer’ than liver cancer.”

Pipelines are much safer. As the NJ Star-Ledger observed:

[T]here are enough studies, notably from the Department of Transportation’s pipeline agency, that suggest pipelines are the safest form of energy transport -- especially when the technology is new.

Comparing pipelines to cancer is like condemning food, because you are condemning the energy our lives depend upon. There are 2.6 million miles of pipelines delivering the energy of life across America. To focus only on the risks of the pipeline without also considering the incredible life-serving benefits—and the risks of not having pipelines—is so irrationally biased as to border on insanely cruel. What do you think would happen to your life, if those pipelines ceased to operate? Or are you content to continue enjoying the benefits of pipelines passing through other people’s communities, while denying PennEast’s future customers the same benefits?

“The damage they will do to the Sourlands and the Delaware River is inestimable.”

Damage—by what standard? On a standard of human well-being as a value, the pipeline is an improvement  to the Sourland, and to the environment, based on the vital necessity to human life of the energy being delivered.

“PennEast claims that all of this gas is for Pennsylvania and New Jersey customers, but their own spokeswoman said ‘For now it is for utility companies only.’”

Of course. Utilities’ job is to deliver the gas to the end user. Besides, it’s irrelevant who buys the gas. You have no more right to dictate to whom PennEast’s gas is sold than Everett, Washington residents have to stop Boeing from selling planes to China—or Flat Rock, Michigan citizens have to forbid you from buying a Ford Fusion from Ford’s Flat Rock plant.

Of course, I hope the gas is made available here. Maybe then I’d finally have gas mains laid in my street, so I could get rid of my oil-fired heating system in favor of natgas (even though Andrea Bonette would deny me that access).

“Their published claims of New Jersey households in need of gas are wildly inflated . . .”

“Inflated,” by whose estimate? Not by PennEast’s future customers’ judgement. You have no right to decide for others whether they need the gas or not. If there really is no need, there will be no customers. But as of last March, 96% of the gas has been reserved by purchasers. But again, every individual customer has a right to decide for themselves whether they need the gas or not. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. But don’t stand in my way.

“They say they will lower gas prices to consumers, but someone has to pay for this billion-dollar pipeline - and their SEC filings indicate it will be their customers, not their shareholders, who pay for it.”

First, as Bloomberg reports, natural gas prices are up to 35 times higher in the Northeast than other areas, including nearby Pennsylvania, thanks to “a dearth of pipelines.”

Second, there are no customers until the pipeline is up and running, so clearly the investors, not the customers, are paying for the construction. Customers will pay for the gas, by voluntary agreement with the suppliers—hopefully at a price that enables PennEast and its investors to recoup their cost and earn a profit for the energy value they deliver to their customers. That would be win-win.

“Their claims about the thousands of jobs it will create rarely mention their own report's statement: ‘The workforce for the Project is likely to be composed of personnel from across the country due to the specialized nature of pipeline construction.’”

So? Most jobs are related in some way to the nation and the world, due to the interconnectedness of national and world economic activity. Of course, the pipeline would create and sustain myriad jobs in myriad industries, because almost every job in an advanced industrial economy is reliant on energy, and pipelines are an integral part of our energy infrastructure. But the absolute number of jobs, who fills them, and from where the job-fillers come is irrelevant. In fact, due to the complexity of the economy, it’s virtually impossible to determine how many jobs this pipeline will ultimately support. What’s not in dispute is that it will support jobs, because without energy, almost all of our jobs would be impossible. One thing is certain: Anti-pipeline means anti-jobs.

“Their cost for this is lower than normal market value because property with conservation or farmland easements is appraised lower.”

And these property owners were paid, at taxpayer expense, for the reduced value of their land’s “preserved” status. Thank the state for keeping property values “lower than normal market value.”

But this is really beside the point. It’s sad that Bonette goes on and on about irrelevancies, while she ignores the one legitimate objection to pipeline approval—the “elephant in the room,” eminent domain. If property owners’ rights were properly protected, PennEast would have to offer property owners what the easement is worth to them, because the property owner would retain his inalienable right to say “no.” True market value would be determined by voluntary agreement between land owner and PennEast. Without eminent domain, PennEast might have to give the landowner regular payments for the use of his land. Or perhaps profit sharing, natural gas supplies at a discount or no charge, or whatever innovative compensation arrangement PennEast and the property owner voluntarily work out. When everyone's rights  are protected—the right to produce and trade, contractual rights, property rights—disputes are resolved on a level legal playing field. Rather than fight an irrational battle against the pipeline, residents should be demanding that PennEast renounce the use of eminent domain.

You’d think the enormous life-giving value of reliable, affordable energy would be obvious to everyone. But the irrational Jihad on Pipelines shows otherwise. This letter proves that PennEast’s opponents are grasping at straws, and are irrationally biased, non-objective, and one-sided in their arguments.

Related Reading:

The ‘Jihad on Pipelines,’ New Jersey Front

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sterba’s ‘Liberty’ to Steal: Marxian Evil by Any Other Name . . .

Karl Marx secularized religious ethics by advocating an egalitarian social system based on the principle that each person must work according to his ability, but consume just enough to satisfy his needs. Despite the horrendous humanitarian disasters that this principle has wrought, it keeps resurfacing.

The latest incarnation of Marx’s principle that I have seen comes from University of Notre Dame Philosophy Professor James P. Sterba under the guise of libertarianism. (Yes, libertarianism!) In an article for Philosophy Now magazine, titled Liberty Requires Equality, with the subtitle “libertarianism implies a right to welfare.” As we'll see, the term "welfare" way understates Sterba's argument. The article appears in the October/November 2015 issue of the magazine. The cover subject is “Liberty and Equality” and includes several articles besides Sterba’s on that subject.

Sterba contends that “the ideal of negative liberty”—understood as “the absence of interference by other people from doing what one wants or is just able to do”—inevitably leads to “conflicting liberties,” and thus must be rejected. Sterba’s example of conflicting liberties should tell you all you need to know about his argument: The example goes as follows, which I condensed to its essentials:

Now, in order to see why libertarians are mistaken about what their ideal requires, consider a conflict situation between the rich and the poor.

[Conventional Libertarian view, as Sterba sees it]:

[T]he rich . . . have more than enough resources to satisfy their basic needs. In contrast, imagine that the poor lack the resources to meet their basic needs even though they have tried all the means available to them [i.e., political and economic freedom] that libertarians regard as legitimate for acquiring such resources.

[S]ince . . . the liberty of the poor is not at stake . . .,
the rich should not be required to sacrifice their liberty so that the basic needs of the poor may be met.

[Sterba’s Libertarian View]:

In fact, however, the liberty of the poor is at stake in such conflict situations. What is at stake is the liberty of the poor not to be interfered with in taking from the surplus possessions of the rich what is necessary to satisfy their basic needs.

There are basically only two ways for human beings to interact; by physical force or by voluntary agreement. I would say that’s the basic alternative faced by all political theorists. Anyone who advocates any manifestation of a “right” to material goods that others must supply necessarily obliterates any distinction between the two alternatives. That’s exactly what Sterba does, by asserting that the ideal of liberty must be “viewed as a conflict of liberties.”

To justify his “conflict of liberties” premise, Sterba must obliterate any moral distinction between force and voluntarism. And that’s exactly what he does.

To Sterba, liberty means doing whatever the hell you feel like, no matter the consequences or effects on others. Doing an honest day’s work, volunteering time to Habitat for Humanity, and grabbing a gun and going out and robbing what you believe to be your neighbor’s “surplus” wealth are morally equal. (As regards the armed robbery, it makes no difference if the government is your hired gun. Electing politicians to be do the crime of forced redistribution of wealth is still a crime. The only difference is, when government does it, the crime is organized and the victims are stripped of governmental protection of their property rights; the government having become the criminal rather than remaining within the moral and constitutional bounds in its proper function of rights-protector.)

What facts of reality support Sterba’s view? None. The observable facts of human nature provide only evidence of the “negative” view of liberty. Material goods, whether basic or surplus, don’t pre-exist in nature, like rocks, poison ivy, or contaminated streams. Only raw materials exist. Human life and flourishing requires turning those raw materials into resources, and those resources into material goods. The creation of goods requires someone’s work. Productive work—reason-guided physical labor—requires a long-term effort. Long-term effort and planning requires peaceful coexistence, including being safe from human predators. If people are “free” to take by force what they please when they please, how can anyone engage in the productive work his life depends on? The facts of reality support only a moral code that incorporates the non-initiation of force principle. The non-initiation of force principle necessarily invalidates any notion of the “liberty” of the poor, or anyone else, to take from others by force; i.e., to steal.

But Sterba advocates the right to take only “surplus” wealth, you might ask?  But what does surplus mean? A Yacht or a 20,000 square foot mansion or a 3-karat diamond ring might be one poor man’s conception of surplus wealth, while a second car or a 2000 square foot house might be another poor man’s idea of surplus. Besides, most of the surplus wealth of the rich is tied up in the production of material goods, including basic goods of necessity. Once the production stops for lack of investment capital, which has been seized by poor people as surplus wealth of the rich, how will anyone’s needs be satisfied?

Lest anyone misunderstand where Sterba is going with this, consider what he advocates as “A Peaceful Road to Justice.”

Clearly, the political and social changes required by my argument are both massive and wide-ranging. Just imagine a world where each person has just enough resources she needs to meet her basic needs, for a decent life, but no more, and think about the many changes that we would have to undergo to get from here to there.

The emphasis is mine. There can be no misunderstanding. He is not an advocate of, nor is he trying to justify, the modern welfare state, which features a government-imposed “safety net” but otherwise leaves people more of less free to earn and keep as much surplus wealth as she can, after taxes. Sterba forbids “surplus wealth” altogether; i.e., he forbids human flourishing. Haven’t we seen this movie before? We’ve seen Sterba’s ideal in action in every socialist country ever created, from Soviet Russia to Venezuela, but especially in Soviet Russia, which featured the socialist ideal of a single world-encompassing communist state as the goal. (The communists’ cousins, the fascists, advocate national socialism; the tailoring of socialism to individual societies’ unique cultures. It’s a distinction without a fundamental difference.)

Of course, Sterba doesn’t advocate leaving to each person the liberty to determine what constitutes surplus wealth, what constitutes basic needs, and the “right” to take matters into his own hands the job of “taking from the surplus possessions of the rich what is necessary to satisfy their basic needs.” Even Sterba would probably acknowledge that every man for himself in this way would be chaos. So who, in the end, would be in charge of deciding such issues? Why, the state, of course, through the only method possible; totalitarian democratic powers over our economic lives on a world scale. Universal acceptance of Sterba’s “should lead us to take steps to transfer our present and future surplus [to] appropriate institutions to guarantee that everyone has the resources for a decent life. . .”

Sterba pays lip service to voluntarism, as he fantasizes over a scenario in which “the entire adult population of the world came to accept my argument and began to act in accord with it.” But it’s clear that his “massive and wide-ranging” changes require that the state must have the final say, and the unfettered power to enforce the ideal. Why? Because all it will take to blow up Sterba’s ideal, if it is rooted only in voluntarism, is one or more people of self-esteem to say “no,” and assert their legitimate, “negative” rights to be free from forcible interference.

What kind of a life is it where basic needs, not justice, is the standard—and enforced at the point of a governmental gun? When government guarantees basic needs, and forbids surplus wealth—the ultimate ideal of economic equality—the result is universal grinding poverty; poverty as the ideal, the end to be achieved, with every person a slave to everyone’s else’s needs. Sterba’s moral code is just another version of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Who would wish such a hopeless existence on their fellow human beings?

I am not a philosopher. But one doesn’t need a philosophy degree to recognize the evil, and silliness, of Sterba’s perpetually unworkable economic ideal. Given its history, there is no excuse for Sterba’s peddling of this new version of Marx’s ideal. There is no place for freedom in Sterba’s egalitarian ant-colony world; and no place for rational human beings. What kind of person has the most to gain from such a system? The parasites and the seekers of unearned accolades, for sure. But the power-lusters will be the biggest winners in such a need-based system, and always have been. Just ask Ivy Starnes, heiress to the Twentieth Century  Motor Company fortune and that company’s “Director of Distribution.”

Related Reading:

Why Marxism—Evil Laid Bare—an article by C. Bradley Thompson for The Objective Standard

Related Viewing

Related Listening:

Radical Capitalist Episode 13: Why Socialism Won't Die—Yaron Brook

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Wall Street’s ‘Unfairness’ Shouldn’t Scare the ‘Little Guy’ Out of the Stock Market

In an article for MarketWatch titled Wall Street will always crush the little guy, but the stock market could be fairer, Victor Reklaitis and William Watts did their beats to scare the wits out of we, the “little guys.”

I left these comments:

I am a union plumber, and my wife is a school secretary—presumably the very people who are supposedly “crushed” by Wall Street. Yet we weren’t “left behind,” because we chose not to be.

One doesn’t have to be a financial expert to learn and implement sound investment strategies. There’s no need to worry about “the pros” and their supposed “advantages unavailable to the average investor”: There’s no need to “compete” with them. One only needs knowledge of basic investing principles, common sense, and perseverance.

Bear markets? The bears of 1981-82, 1987, 2000-01, 2007-09 worked in our favor. Wall Street “scandals?” We sailed through them, too. Flash crashes; conflicts of interests; “rigged” markets; high-frequency trading; CEO pay; insider access to data and information; “uneven” playing fields; blah blah blah? Who cares? It’s all noise—provided you think long-term and have a sound investment strategy and make regular contributions through thick and thin. I’m much more worried about government meddling in the economy—which hamper profit-seeking private enterprise, and causes periodic economic upheavals like the housing bubble, financial crisis, stock market crash, and Great Recession—than Wall Street.

Rather than frighten and belittle average people, it’d be much more productive to teach them how to invest and ignore the scare talk. My advice to average folks: Don’t let columns like this one scare you away from investing in the enormous wealth-building opportunities presented by America’s great public companies. Above all, never let some elitist convince you that you are a “little guy.” The minute you think of yourself as “little,” you’re sunk as an investor—and in life.


After spending most of the article scaring investors half to death, Reklaitis finally gets around to giving a little bit of advice. At the bottom of page 5, he writes:

The only strategy for the average investor is to stick to longer-term holding periods for investments. Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, says individual investors shouldn’t be trying to compete with high-frequency traders, adding that he thinks the “jury is still out” on how harmful or helpful so-called HFTs are, given that they add liquidity to the market.

And that’s about it, as Reklaitis slides back to telling us, on the sixth and last page, how “scarey” the market can be. For good measure, Reklaitis slithers in a slap at everybody’s favorite whipping boy—inequality:

Meanwhile, the distribution of stockholdings threatens to amplify concerns over growing inequality.

Stock ownership is highly skewed by wealth and income class, noted Edward Wolff, a finance professor at New York University, in a paper. The top 1% by wealth owned 35% of all stock held by households in 2010, while the top 20% held 91% of the total.

“The main conclusion is that the rise in the stock market certainly doesn’t benefit the average household,” Wolff writes. “The reason is that stock ownership, including 401(k) plans, is highly skewed,” with the average 401(k) amassing only $13,000 in equities in 2010.

Right. As if what the next guy’s investment portfolio looks like has any relevance to your investment portfolio—unless your a selfless envyer who measures his sense of self-worth with a yardstick labeled “others.” Reklaitis  concludes with:

It isn’t all doom and gloom. Investors have grown more disillusioned with active managers, particularly after the financial crisis, leading them to put a growing share of money into passive investments.

And more advisers are switching to fee-based business models and putting their clients in lower-cost funds rather than relying on trading commissions. That means lower costs for 401(k)s and mutual funds.

In the end, that all adds up to a “a direct transfer of wealth from the financial-services industry to the pockets of working Americans,” Bullard says, “and that is a great story.”

I love index funds. They dominate my investing strategy. But if everyone is coming around to index funds, that sounds like a classic sign of an impending change in trend. Perhaps actively managed funds may be the place to be for the next few years. We’ll see.

Related Reading:

In Defense of Special Interests - and the Constitution

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A ‘Liberal’ Makes a Case for President Cruz—Sort Of

The Left-leaning New Jersey Star-Ledger was happy to see Ted Cruz “taking the wind out of the sails (however briefly) of Donald Trump.” But it still considers President Cruz: Still America's worst nightmare. “Let us count the ways,” offers the Star-Ledger—and then proceeds to list the many reasons for a liberty lover to support him.

I left these comments:

Well, you convinced me to vote for Cruz, should he win the GOP nomination.

His support for abolishing ObamaCare is a good reason for voting for Cruz. I know for a fact that of employers, including local school boards, who are deliberately keeping employees below 30 hours wherever possible, so as to not have to insure them. It’s ridiculous to think that raising the cost of employment wouldn’t reduce employment. If not for ObamaCare (and also Dodd-Frank), the economy might have created 22 million jobs instead of 11 million. Jobs are the least of ObamaCare’s problems. Hopefully, Cruz would replace ObamaCare with free market healthcare reforms, which means giving more control to patients and healthcare consumers and less to government officials.

Support for a flat tax, abolishing the IRS, Energy, and other departments, giving control of Social Security to the workers, and other policies show he has significant respect for individual rights and reducing the size and scope of the federal government. His shuttering of the government over the budget was motivated by the right ideas, although not a good political tactic. But he showed he’s willing to really fight for limited government and fiscal responsibility. No wonder he’s demonized by the Left as an “extremist.”

It’s also to Cruz’s credit that he would reevaluate, at the least, the Iran deal. His vow to destroy ISIS shows that he takes national security seriously. I don’t believe he would indiscriminately kill civilians. But ISIS is the aggressor and we are acting in self-defense. That puts the moral guilt for any civilian casualties resulting from an unfettered American assault to destroy ISIS once and for all squarely at the bloody hands of ISIS.

True, from an individual rights perspective, his social conservatism and ties to the religious right are drawbacks. But he’s not a demagogue like Trump or Sanders, both of whom are authoritarians and both are, each in his own way, national socialists.

Cruz is not my first choice. For an Independent like myself who supports liberty in both the economic and social realms, it’s unlikely to find an ideal candidate. But I do agree with the Star-Ledger that Cruz’s knocking back of Trump is a very good thing. Unlike the S-L, I think we can do a lot worse than Cruz for President. But thanks for highlighting the many good policies that a Cruz Administration might implement.

Related Reading:

Trump’s Ban-All-Muslims Policy Undermines the Fight Against Islamic Jihad

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

New Jersey’s Still Debating Whether to Legalize Self-Serve Gasoline

New Jersey is one of only two states—Oregon being the other—that outlaws consumers pumping their own gasoline into their own cars. In NJ, repeated attempts to lift the ban have failed. This scenario may once again be playing out, as State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the most powerful democrat in the state, has vowed to block enactment of a bill sponsored by state Sens. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) and Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) that would legalize self-service gas in NJ.

But then again, maybe there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. As New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine observes, the chances for finally lifting the self-serve ban may be increasing to the point that it’s only a matter of time. A changing marketplace that now combines convenience stores and gas stations has encouraged the most powerful special interest roadblock to pump-your-own-gas legalization, the New Jersey Gas Retailers Association—now named the New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, and Automotive Association—to drop its opposition to self-serve gasoline.

Self-serve gas can not come soon enough for me. I’m used to traveling out of state, so I’ve gotten used to the convenience of quickly getting in and out of gas stations without having to wait for some attendant to get to me. (A gas station attendant has got to be the most useless job in the world. With due respect for gas station attendants, the job offers no economic value, and exists in NJ solely by force of law, not market demand.)

Of course, my own annoyance is not a reason to repeal the ban. It’s a matter of the economic and moral propriety of government interference in our lives and the market economy. Two Star-Ledger  letters published under the heading Self-Serve vs. Full-Serve Gasoline in New Jersey continued the debate. In the first letter, Deborah Cohen complained that a law legalizing self-service would be hard on her because she has young children, and would rather not have to “go out of my car in the cold, in the rain, in the snow, in the heat, in the dark or out in dangerous areas” or “unbuckle the kids (often cold, tired and cranky; I've had small children), then put them back in the car. Who wants to disturb kids who may be sleeping?”

Sounds like a real hardship. I wonder how young mothers do it in 48 other states!

Cohen also complained that, even if service stations maintained pump islands for full-service, the price would be higher than the self-serve islands. “Why should [people who don’t want to disturb the kids] pay more for full service?”

Another letter had a different complaint: It’s just not an important enough issue to waste lawmakers’ time on. Lawmakers should spend their time on more important legislative issues. Bruce Papkin wrote under the heading “Gas debate just smoke and mirrors”:

Is this really what we pay [the politicians] for? Don't they realize that there are "real" problems out there, such as high underemployment which creates tax drains on the state's economy? Or, the easily voted on PARCC test funding that really needed to be analyzed properly and fixed?

This is a smoke and mirrors kind of legislative battle going on to keep our eyes off the bigger problem: financial insolvency. The state is so far in over its head with crumbling roads and bridges, pension shortfalls and more. . .

I left these comments:

RE: Deborah Cohen:

What about people who are willing to “go out of my car in the cold, in the rain, in the snow, in the heat, in the dark or out in dangerous areas?” Or who have no children; or who see no problem pumping gas while their children sit a foot or two away in the car; or who are not helpless elderly; or who are not elderly? Why punish people who are willing to pump their own gas, if the station can legally allow it?

And why shouldn’t people pay more for full service gasoline? They’re getting a service, aren’t they? Paying more for full service, if that is the station’s policy, is perfectly fair to anyone who isn’t infected by an entitlement mentality.

More to the point, what right does the government have to make self-service gasoline illegal? None. Station owners have a right to operate their businesses as they judge best, so long as they commit no fraud and meet appropriate safety standards. This means they should be free to set their own service policies, be it full-serve and self-serve islands, same price for both, extra for full-serve, all full-service, all self-service, or what have you.

As to Gas debate just smoke and mirrors: I beg to differ. The ban on self-service gasoline is a manifestation of the cause of the “real” problems—the politicians’ power to micromanage our individual affairs. Why is the state in charge of the union pensions, rather than the unions? Why are the federal and state governments dictating one-size-fits-all [PARCC standardized] tests? The same reason it forbids self-serve gasoline. I say repealing any law that forbids law-abiding citizens from being self-sufficient—like the ban on self-serve gasoline—is well worth the debate, because the principles apply to so many other areas in which the government tries to run our lives.


As of this writing, the latest attempt to legalize self-serve gasoline has gone nowhere. So, this ridiculous debate will continue, and we NJ drivers will continue spending precious time waiting for attendants to fill our tanks.

Related Reading:

The Koch Brothers and the Nature of Government Regulation