Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If you build it, they will come

In this Web 2.0 world, where every comment is equal to every other, and we "create" our own entertainment environment and share it with everyone else, the level of commentary and thought is bound to decrease. This is why I don't post on every ludicrous web comment or letter to the editor; there are just too many, and there is too little logic or rationality behind them.

Occasionally, however, we see one that exposes a larger way of thinking. A letter published in Sunday's Chicago Tribune:
I had to comment on your May 20 editorial "Pump pain." The premise of your editorial is flawed. You sound like Al Gore speaking when you say, "In an age of global warming, high prices are partly a blessing."

I do not believe there is any global warming whatsoever. I think you are giving the human race too much credit. And to say the higher the prices the better is just crazy thinking.

I know you base that statement on your belief global warming will kill us all. Get real. I agree we have to stop paying the Mideast for oil. If the market creates high prices based on global demand, then we should be drilling for more oil in the United States, and building more refineries. (And paying ourselves.)

I am of the belief there is more than enough oil in the world to carry us to the next energy source.

New energy will come some day and that will be great.

But in the meantime let's use the oil we have and not look for ways to tax the U.S. and world population on a hoax called "global warming." It's just silly.
There's a lot here, and I'm going to bypass most of it. There are people who don't believe that there is any global warming, and people who believe there is, but it's part of a natural cycle, and that man's actions have nothing to do with it. I don't think the facts support either view, but some people simply won't believe something until they're required to.

The letter's ignorance of economics, the belief that we can find enough oil in the U.S. and build sufficient refineries, so prices will inevitably be held down, is awesomely uninformed. One needs only point out that China will still be willing to pay higher prices, so the oil we find will still be sold there...why bother? Reality won't sway folks who think like this.

No, the key to this thinking is in the paragraphs near the end. The writer believes that there is "more than enough oil in the world," that "new energy will come some day."

This would be hilarious if it weren't about such an important topic. This is the end result of the Harry Potter, Field of Dreams school of thought, that magic will occur and solve our problems. New energy will come, zapped into existence by use of a magic wand, and it will come in time to solve whatever difficulties we might have. If you just believe that there is enough oil, regardless of how much there actually is, and if you believe that a new source will arise, regardless of the incentives that are provided, then everything will be OK.

That may be comforting in a kind of, "don't worry, Apollo's chariot can't fall out of the sky," way, but it's a hugely irresponsible approach to living a life or running a nation. Laissez-faire works until it doesn't, but when the doesn't side has such potential dire effects, it is a mark of profound stupidity to wait around to see what will happen.

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