McCain is wrong to suggest gas tax cuts


in Economics, Politics, The environment

Following up on ‘hurricane insurance for all,’ John McCain has a new bad idea: suspending gasoline taxes over the summer. There are lots of reasons for which this is a bad move. Gasoline taxes are a partial recognition of the ways in which the price at the pump doesn’t include all the costs associated with driving: from road construction to keeping troops in Saudi Arabia. Also, it is important for people to realize that, in the long run, they will be paying ever more for gasoline. This is the result of three major phenomena: decreasing output from oil fields as they reach maturity, increasing demand from fast-growing states, and the increasing trend towards internalizing externalities associated with fossil fuel use. Creating a temporary dip in prices will obscure the broader message, while encouraging harmful behaviour.

If anything, the US presidential candidates should be sending a strong signal that the era of inexpensive gasoline in the United States is over. People should be bearing that in mind not only when they decide what sort of car to buy, but when nationwide efficiency standards are being set and urban transportation infrastructure decisions are being made.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan April 17, 2008 at 11:12 pm

The presidential candidates need to say things that will get them elected in order to be elected. It’s a tautology.

So, if you have an irrational populous, the best thing is either to have liars as politicians, or dispense with the whole “needing to be elected thing” entirely and just have a benevolent monarch appoint bureaucrats.

o April 17, 2008 at 11:34 pm
Milan April 18, 2008 at 9:42 am


The virtue of democracy is less in being able to fine-tune what the government will do and more in being able to boot them out if they do exceedingly badly.

Benevolent monarchs may not be competent, and are unlikely to remain benevolent for long.

Milan April 18, 2008 at 9:44 am

Also, just because we know that people pander and lie during campaigns, that does not imply that we should never call them on it. Candidates deserve to be criticized when they say untrue or foolish things.

tristan April 18, 2008 at 10:04 am

“are unlikely to remain benevolent for long.”

This is false by definition.

Milan April 18, 2008 at 10:12 am

Democracy as constraint
Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Milan April 18, 2008 at 10:14 am

“This is false by definition.”

The entire history of tyranny on earth suggests otherwise. Even if you get one ruler who is (a) competent (b) not corrupt and (c) not brutal (d) not likely to change on any of those fronts, it is very unlikely that you will get a succession of such rulers. As long as democracy is preserved, it lets you eject tyrants when they emerge, as well as moderate their behaviour when they are in power.

. April 18, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Oil hysteria
Let’s rebuild our national rail network instead of repealing the gas tax

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