Sunday, May 18, 2008

High School Essay, or Senatorial Initiative?

Recently, Amy Klobuchar was elected senator of the great state of Minnesota. Her main attribute is being very reasonable, and she wasn't a Republican. Her opinions are so hackneyed, unoffensive and ultimately unworkable, I think it highlights that in order to lead a large organization, you have to be above average, but not too much. If overall competence could be summed up in IQ, an optimal 'leader' would be about 120. I imagine many of them love to read Bob Herbert's take on current events.

Klobuchar's bold solution to the energy crisis was written up in our smarmy Minnesota StarTribune, and typifies the infantile thought processes of our public servants. I don't think its a Democrat thing so much (eg, McCain's gas tax holiday).

First, she notes John F. Kenned called us to put a man on the moon, and we did it! Ergo, all complex problems are a matter of will. QED.

Her bold plan is multifaceted:

1) improve efficiencies
2) develop renewable resources
-A strong start. By taking this bold pro-efficiency initiative, she puts Republicans on the defensive. And renewables? Two words: cold fusion.
3) stop giving billions in tax giveaways to oil companies
-These giveaways are specially targeted for pet projects of congressmen to create jobs. When we realize these tend to often merely subsidize business, it's embarrassing. Why not just pay people to dig holes, others to fill them, and avoid pretending these programs actually create stuff.
4) Electric cars
-All we need are outlets, which don't seem to create any pollution. And batteries. There has never been a real need for batteries before, but now that we know they are useful in cars, I'm sure we can design a powerful, lightweight battery. Then again, one would think that a better battery would be useful for cellphones and computers.
5) Raise the fuel-economy standards, saving $1000 per family in gas.
-Sounds great. Details, unimportant. I say, double it, and save $2000 per fam.
6) reduced speculation that drives the price of gas too high, by preventing futures traders from routing their trades through offshore markets.
-The old 'sand in the gears' approach. Clearly, if we made it harder to trade, prices would fall. Look at housing, that's an expensive asset to trade, and no bubbles there. Plus, reducing energy demand to protect the environment, in concert with low prices, is win-win.
7) cut down on price-gouging
-Everything should be sold at cost.
8) Don purchase more gas for the Strategy Petroleum Preserve.
-Huh? I actually agree with that.

This is the kind of bold, nay, heroic, outside-the-box thinking that we need. Or at the least, will make me not want to talk about it anymore. I imagine earnest high school seniors everywhere will note a surprising similarity between their own recent social studies essays, and this senatorial missive. It just highlights the fact even though an issue like energy involves a lot of science and statistical analysis, complex general equilibrium effects involving incentives, moral hazard, and adverse selection, the practical discussion of public policy is pretty simple. Everything is a matter of will, and partial equilibrium analysis. Reduce demand. Lower prices. More money to technologies that don't pollute when we exclude how such technologies are created (eg, electric cars).

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