Letter to the Editor: Cheap Gasoline and Human Rights

The notion of $2.50 gasoline would not only be a “veritable policy revolution” domestically (“Newt Is Right About Gas Prices” by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., Business World, March 10), it would be a gutsy display of American exceptionalism for the rest of the world. This is not because Americans are divinely entitled to federally subsidized fuel (they’re not), but because they do have a right to gas prices that aren’t artificially jacked up by government drilling restrictions and taxes.

Americans aren’t the only ones. As booming car ownership in India and China demonstrates, automobility satisfies some pretty basic human needs and desires. Unfortunately for central planners around the world, there’s nothing worse than a technology that lets people go where they want to, when they want to. For an American leader of whatever party to take the lead in shedding gasoline’s sin-product status would be downright revolutionary.

In the early 1800s, as railroads spread across Britain, the Duke of Wellington supposedly sneered that trains would “only encourage the common people to move about needlessly.” Aristocrats could always move about; only when the rest of us were able to do so did this become a so-called problem. A decade ago our aristocrats looked down on SUVs; today they look down on affordable gas. Either way, their attitudes toward mobility are no different than the Duke’s views two centuries ago, and no less backward.

Originally published at The Wall Street Journal.