Wednesday, February 15, 2017

After Big Gas Tax Hike, Will New Jersey Finally End the Ban on Self-Serve Gas?

Proponents of the legalization of self-serve gasoline in New Jersey are using the big 23 cent gasoline tax hike recently imposed in the state on November 1, 2016 to push for an end to the legal ban on consumers pumping their own gas into their cars rather than wait for an attendant. According the a NJ Star-Ledger editorial, Paying tax on gas is bad enough. Don't make us pump it, lifting the ban would lower the gas price by five to seven cents per gallon.

As to the editorial, the Star-Ledger claims that the ban should remain because polls say so. It can no longer justify the ban for legitimate reasons, such as safety—not since 48 of the fifty states have ended their bans without any problems. It doesn’t even justify the ban on the rationalization that mandatory full “creates jobs.” Most people understand such jobs as a kind of featherbedding; i.e., welfare jobs. So, the Star-Ledger gives ridiculous reasons for keeping the ban. E.G.:

No way are we getting out of our cars to douse our hands with gasoline, smudge our pants, or shiver wretchedly in the chilly air. That's New York stuff, and frankly, uncivilized.


All self-serve would do is add to our misery. The minority of people who want self-serve gas complain they don't have consumer choice, but think about how long the lines would become if gas stations reduced their full-service pumps.
They'd be like cash-only toll booths, forcing reluctant people into self-serve. We'd be made to feel guilty about paying the extra few cents. Then the stations might take away every full service pump, and we'd all have to stand out in the rain, in some dark and desolate area.

Uncivilized! Misery! And the idea self-serve would mean “long lines” is ridiculous. Self-serve is quicker, because you don’t have to sit around waiting for an attendant to get around to serving you. I know from experience.

This is someone who is out of ideas.

I would say that politicians dictating to gas station owners that the owners cannot decide for themselves whether to offer self-service to their customers is what’s uncivilized. If a private citizen were to march into a gas station, hold a gun to the owner’s head, and demand that he run his business as he sees fit, that citizen would be arrested and thrown in a cage. What gives Sweeney and the politicians the right to do what they as private citizens cannot do—namely, initiate force against that gas station owner? Until the government is subordinated to the same moral law as private citizens—that is, respect individual rights—we won’t have a fully decent and civilized society to live in.

I left these comments, edited for clarity:

“No way are we getting out of our cars. . .”

“The people of New Jersey want to be served by attendants at gas stations. . .”

Says who? Some polls? A bunch of politicians? So what? Nobody has a right to speak for “we”—for everyone else. Not even if you’re in the majority that claims it doesn’t want to pump gas (My wife is in the majority).

There is no public safety issue here, as with traffic laws. Full- versus self-serve should be between gas station and customer. If I want to get out of my car, handle my own credit card rather than hand it to a stranger, pump my own gas, and be on my way in half the time, I’ve hurt no one else, and should be able to do it if the gas station allows it. It should not be illegal. It’s none of the majority’s business. It’s none of Sweeney’s business.

I really don’t care about the difference in cost. I like the convenience, and should be free to choose it. But if self-serve is legalized and it turns out—and it probably will—that contrary to the polls the vast majority of the people choose the cheaper, self-serve option, and gas stations start cutting back on full-serve, so be it. That’s the market—the voluntary choices of consumers. But even in regards to the market, things work out. I travel a lot in neighboring states. In most stations, an attendant is available to serve if the customer needs it. In most such cases, other customers are more than willing to help these consumers.

Of course, if self-serve is legalized, I’ll probably have to start filling up my wife’s car in addition to my own. But, then, that’s my problem. I still say, legalize self-serve gas in New Jersey. The state has no legitimate business banning it.

Related Reading:

Where Does Valid Law End and Regulation Begin?


Steve D said...

'Of course, if self-serve is legalized, I’ll probably have to start filling up my wife’s car in addition to my own.'

We live in Missouri and although full serve is rare, there are still enough full-serve places for my wife to fill up. Somehow she finds them. There are also a few stations which have both.

BTW, you implied that all the states once banned self serve. Are you sure? I've lived in Missouri for 19 years over which self serve has never been banned, so if there was a ban it must have been lifted a long time ago.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

Well, I didn't mean to imply that all states once banned self-serve. I really don't know. If NJ lifts the ban, I hope my wife finds full-serve stations. But the ban won't be lifted in my lifetime.

Mike Kevitt said...

The southern states had self serve WAY before 19 yrs. ago, maybe more than 50 yrs. ago. Maybe some of the other states banned it in the past. What reason would anybody care to research it. It don't matter to me. Gee whiz.