L. Neil Smith's
Number 334, August 28, 2005

Taxation is the fuel of war

Gas Price Piggy
The High Price of Gas
by L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to TLE

The price of gasoline at the pump has risen to a point that is not only absurd, it's obscene. Real people are starting to look longingly at Eurotrashmobiles again, instead of the SUVs and trucks they truly love, and it's going to be costly this winter to stay warm enough to live.

Make no mistake about it: this is the direct responsibility of that collection of criminals and cretins we refer to as the Bush Administration—although the Democrats would have done just as badly as the Republicans if they'd only had the moxie. In a fairly strange inversion of the historic relationship between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, there is no offense George W. Bush has committed that Bill Clinton didn't at least attempt during his own misbegotten term.

Happily (or frustratingly, depending on how you look at it), this is a situation that can be straightened out easily, given sufficient intelligence and character, admittedly rare qualities in government today—or at any other time in history. Americans have cleverly devised for themselves (or have had devised for them) a political system that selects for individuals lacking in either of those qualities.

Nevertheless—and although it's been some while since I last played "If I Were President"—I trust you'll pardon me if I indulge myself.

The first and most obvious thing that must be done about this mess is to remove all taxes—federal, state, whatever—from the price of gasoline. Fact is, there should have been some sort of emergency trigger to automatically accomplish this a long time ago. However to work, it has to go much further than the price at the pump, it has to encompass the entire chain of fuel production, from wellhead to nozzle. A libertarian president can declare a state of emergency to accomplish that, and then "jawbone" other jurisdictions into following suit.

At the very beginning of the Libertarian Party's Ed Clark campaign in 1979 or so, Ed's handlers floated a trial balloon that involved removing all taxes from every stage of the production, processing, transport, distribution, and sale of food, figuring that no one who claimed to be humanitarian could say a word against it. Someone must have said something, though, because the finger-in-the-wind boys soon dropped the idea like a hot potato. That was the last anybody heard of it.

Too bad—it was a great idea. So is my own, removing all taxes from all the necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and self-defense. Add de-taxing anything protected by the Bill of Rights, you have a splendid program for the LP or anybody else.

But as usual, I have digressed.

Aside from this short range stopgap measure, the most important thing to understand about this mess is that gasoline prices today are not a reflection of today's price for crude petroleum, but of what speculators in the field think tomorrow's price for crude will be. That means a primary long-term objective must be to lower their expectations.

This can begin with a presidential declaration of emergency, opening all federal lands to immediate exploration and exploitation. The usual environmental collectivists will squeal like stuck pigs, of course, but in the light of the present crisis, they can simply be ignored. It was never a good idea for government at any level to own real estate, and, in fact, it's illegal. What's more, governments are the worst possible custodians that could be chosen to preserve the environment.

For those who don't like that particular measure, a libertarian president can do everything—within principle—to prevent the government and other corporations from discouraging or suppressing the development of thermal depolymerization technology, with the ultimate goal of seeing at least one TDP plant established in every county in America.

Thermal deploymerization is a relatively new method by which every possible kind of garbage—from the results of turkey processing, to mountains of cast-off tires, to old computer cabinets—can be turned into artificial petroleum for an ultimate cost of about eight bucks a barrel. This means that Americans can have all the fuel they need, and watch the landfills gradually disappear. In an age where auto exhaust consists of very little besides carbon dioxide (good for the plant life) and water (ditto), any environmentalist who fails to endorse this new technology enthusiastically is a bald-faced liar and a hypocrite.

At the same time, a libertarian administration could investigate—and stop—the suppression of new technologies like catalytic fusion.

Probably the most important thing to understand about current events is that this is not—and never was—a war about oil itself, but a war about oil from particular sources, the sources controlled by the Bush family's cronies. And their excuses grow more threadbare every day. There is now a considerable body of evidence—shared with us generously by George Crispin (give him a Google)—that reserves that were once thought depleted are filling up again from underneath, as new oil is produced, not by any biological process, but by the basic pre-biological processes that eventually gave rise to life on Earth.

Just what Fred Hoyle predicted decades ago—so much for "peak oil".

At this point, American troops could be withdrawn from the Middle East and elsewhere. The country could finish with Nuremburg-style tribunals which would force Halliburton and other corporate profiteers to pay us back for this war—waged to protect their obsolete and outdated industry—as well as try and punish the politicians who lied us into it.

As I've said many times before, when the Republicans and Democrats finally get tired of watching a Libertarian wield the fundamentally unconstitutional power of Presidential decree the way Republicans and Democrats have wielded it for the past three quarters of a century, they can always take it away from him, a big win-win for individual liberty.

But because we're dealing with expectations, here, rather than with actualities, the very act of talking these measures up, in and of itself, can affect the price of gas whether they're ever enacted or not.

This article will eventually become a chapter in my forthcoming book, How to Fix America. But right now is the time to start talking about it.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 24 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (w/Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" www.lneilsmith.org. Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is now on the market.

Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May. A decensored and electronically published version of his 1984 novel, Tom Paine Maru will soon be available online. The stunning 185-page full-color graphic novel version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press www.bigheadpress.com has just won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at www.Amazon.com, or at billofrightsPress.com.


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