Gore’s “Guilt” Over Gas Prices Should Not Be Based On His 4.3 Cent/Gallon Tax Increase

by | Mar 17, 2000

At Christmas, $1.25 was the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel. It is now more than $1.50 and is expected to be as high as $2.00 within four months. With no end in sight to the rising prices, Republican politicians, sensing an election-year issue, are pointing fingers and proposing a variety of […]

At Christmas, $1.25 was the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel. It is now more than $1.50 and is expected to be as high as $2.00 within four months. With no end in sight to the rising prices, Republican politicians, sensing an election-year issue, are pointing fingers and proposing a variety of mindless stop-gap solutions.

Those who blame Al Gore are right, but to focus on his 4.3-cents-a-gallon increase (he broke a Senate deadlock in 1993 to pass the tax) is like trying a murderer for jay walking, or impeaching Clinton for philandering. Gore’s guilt, and that of his predecessors, is much deeper.

Ostensibly, gas prices are rising because of last March’s decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Mexico to limit production in order to force up the price of crude oil. (It has nearly trebled in 12 months.) The most popular shotgun solution to stem the rising prices is to persuade OPEC and Mexico to raise their production levels. No one explains–or everyone evades–the reasons that these countries hold such power over America: craven American foreign policy in the Middle East, and environmentalism. The Vice President embodies both evils.

Throughout the 1950s Middle East nations nationalized the oil wells that American companies had discovered, and the wealth these American companies had created. To appease the emerging states–many of which are nothing but religious dictatorships–successive American governments stood by and allowed this to happen.

To further compound matters, oil reserves at home, notably in Alaska, the American west and offshore, have been shut down by environmentalist propaganda.

The sacrificial goat in both cases is property rights. The property rights of American companies were forsaken overseas, and dispensed with at home for the sake of the “public good” and “intrinsic value of the pristine wilderness.” Gore is a friend and supplicant to foreign dictatorships, such as China, and the most prominent tree-hugger the country has elected. More than anyone, he deserves to inherit an election-year mess that his own philosophy created.

To solve the problem requires reclaiming the moral principle that was abandoned decades ago: property rights. Cutting a 4.3-cents-a-gallon tax, as many propose, is a meaningless, cosmetic gesture in the context of an overall price rise of nearly $1. (Ironically, repealing the tax would probably stimulate enough consumption to drive prices up again. This will not happen in anti-industrial California where the State government mandates an increase in State tax rates if Washington ever lowers the Federal rates.)

In practical terms, invoking property rights means reclaiming our oil-fields in the Middle East (if we had done so when we had the opportunity during the Persian Gulf War it would have saved us all manner of grief), and abandoning the anti-industrial ideology of environmentalism. Affirming private property rights at home and/or overseas–rights to the use and disposal of land–would cause an immediate panic among the OPEC nations. Faced with the real possibility that America might again become self-sufficient in oil production, those nations would fall over themselves to appease us. That would be a remarkable role-reversal.

Gore is guilty–not merely of a single vote that raised taxes, but of an entire philosophy that he inherited and propagates–one that sacrifices American lives and property to no good end. If George W. Bush and the Republican Party manage to crucify him on this issue during the election, it would be a fitting punishment for a series of crimes against Americans.

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Andrew Lewis is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

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