Virtual Voices

How to lower gasoline prices (and fix everything else)

Economy

"The recent rise in gasoline prices around the country is yet another example of why democratic control over the commanding heights of the economy is the only way forward for working people," writes John Peterson at the Socialist Appeal website. Economic troubles bring Keynesians and Marxists to the surface as surely as the rain brings up earthworms.

In his published opinion on monopoly power and gasoline prices, Peterson, who is listed on the web as national secretary of the Workers International League and the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign, is quick, like Nancy Pelosi, to blame our current pain at the pump on "profiteering." All economophobic activists have this in common: They ask only a fraction of the relevant questions and make bold assumptions about the capacity of policymakers to prepare good blueprints and of bureaucracies to efficiently implement them. They ignore the lessons of history and end up with ludicrous solutions.

Do you think that monopoly capitalism is the reason why you're now paying $4 for a gallon of gasoline? Then ask yourself why you paid only $3.20 for the same gallon in January. Did the "unprecedented accumulation of oil wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer companies," as Peterson claims, occur in February? Were Wall Street's speculators less interested in making profits last year? Probably not. So the next relevant question is: If the market was just as "monopolistic" and people were just as greedy in 2011 as they are in 2012, why are prices spiking now? Perhaps global cooling has increased the demand for heating oil. Perhaps the global economy has grown very rapidly. Perhaps another factor has made the global consumer less sensitive to those prices. There's a good reason you don't like any of these explanations. None of them can pass the smell test. The truth: Volatile prices are not proof of collusion; they are evidence of competition.

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The Marxist agitator quoted above is a step ahead of the former House speaker in his analysis by recognizing the phenomenon known as "monopolistic competition." That is why Peterson's plan goes a step beyond Pelosi's idea to regulate everything she disapproves of.

I have noted this before: A Keynesian is nothing but an inconsistent socialist. If you believe, as Peterson does, that economic freedom translates into "cutting corners on quality, wages, safety precautions, etc.," if you think that capitalism means waste because "the masses have no democratic input into what is produced, how much is produced, and above all, what happens to the excess wealth created by the workers," then you should fight to abolish private property over the "commanding heights" of the economy.

There is no point in saving a system that breeds unemployment and thrives on exploitation. The problem, says our Marxist friend, is not too little competition but too much of it. What we need is government monopoly. Perhaps all previous socialist revolutions failed because they did not go far enough. What could be Peterson's solution? Ah, yes, "a democratic world socialist federation in the interests of all of humanity"!

Alex Tokarev
Alex Tokarev

Alex is the chair of the Department of Business at Morthland College in West Frankfort, Ill., and teaches at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. The native of communist Bulgaria fanatically supports the Bulgarian soccer team, Levski.

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