A Common Mistake

Dave Killion — January 5, 2011

I recently read a discussion concerning mandated fuel efficiency for new vehicles in which the pro-mandate participant said that gas would soon rise to $10 a gallon “if we do nothing.”  Ugh… another victim of the false-alternative fallacy.  This is an error perpetuated by people so inured to big government that they believe anyone arguing against solving problems through the use of coercive state intervention is arguing in favour of “doing nothing”.  In this particular case, as in most, the victim mistakes government for society.  If government does nothing, then society does nothing.  If government doesn’t mandate fuel efficiency, there will be no fuel efficiency.

Of course, when fuel prices rise, “society” springs into action, and the higher the rise, the more vigorous the action.  Producers increase investment into production and exploration, financiers invest in technologies that conserve and provide alternatives, and consumers drive less or buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.  Millions and millions of people take direct action to conserve resources, increase their availability, and keep prices low.  Only the most unimaginative could label that “doing nothing”.

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