Thursday, January 25, 2007
Via Matt Drudge, I see that a service station called "Terror-Free Oil" is getting ready to open. The idea behind the business is that we should boycott oil from countries that sponsor terrorism as a means of promoting our own national security.
A moment's thought shows that this boycott is an entirely inappropriate way to deal with nations guilty of the act of war that is known as "sponsoring terrorism": The boycotted nations will just sell to other nations more desperate for oil or less worried about terrorism than we are.
I wrote a column about the very movement behind this development awhile back and elaborated upon this point at length:
[T]his boycott, if we carried it out, would completely backfire. The U.S. would no longer be able to avail itself of crude oil which, even at its current prices, is a bargain compared to the less-economical sources of energy we would have to use instead. This will harm our economy by increasing the cost of anything that requires energy. And although we will no longer be "funding terrorism" through the money we pay for oil, other countries, like China and India, will happily purchase Middle Eastern oil instead. This means that funding for terrorism will, at the very best, be slightly reduced without the demand of the United States to support high crude oil prices -- and that's only if OPEC fails to ensure prices it finds satisfactory.The movement includes an organization called "Terror-Free Oil" and advocates government sponsorship of alternative fuels as a means of implementing this boycott.
In other words, we are being called upon to re-live the Carter Era with a twist: In addition to imposing government controls on the economy and wasting tax money on projects already declared profitless by the private sector, we would impose an "Arab Oil Embargo" on ourselves. [bold added]
Interestingly, a professor interviewed in the article makes a profound integration about this ultimately ineffective marketing ploy:
"From a business perspective, it's kind of a neat way to differentiate yourself from the competition. To me, that sounds an awful lot like what we in environmental economics refer to as eco-labeling. Like, when you purchase a can of tuna with a symbol that there was no harm to dolphins to catch the tuna," [Chris] Decker said. [my bold]I completely agree, but from a psychological perspective. This is very much the same thing. In both cases, we see people attempting to substitute a sort of feel-good pseudo self-esteem -- obtained by performing a prescribed ritual -- for the genuine self-esteem (and actual selfish benefit) that would come from taking the time to consider what one's own self-interest actually requires and then doing it.
Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute outlines several more viable options at our disposal for dealing with terror-sponsoring states:
The solution is not to punish ourselves by renouncing oil--but to punish our enemies until they renounce their aggression.The title of his column -- which should be read in full -- summarizes this very well as follows: "Keep Our 'Addiction' to Oil, End Our Allergy to Self-Assertion".
As the most powerful nation on earth, the United States has many options at its disposal.
One means of ending the Iranian and Saudi threat would be to issue an ultimatum to these regimes: cease all anti-American aggression immediately, or be destroyed. Many, witnessing the Iraqi quagmire, might scoff at this option. But such a course is eminently practical if America's unsurpassed military forces are committed to the task, not of "rebuilding" or "liberating" these states, but of making their inhabitants fear threatening America ever again.
Another means of addressing the threat would be to remove Middle Eastern oil fields from Iranian and Saudi control, put them in the hands of private companies, and then employ surveillance and troops to secure that oil supply. Contrary to popular assumption, Middle Eastern dictatorships have no right to their nationalized oil fields, which should be private property--the property of individuals who work to find and extract the oil.
Still another option might be a comprehensive, all-out embargo by the United States and its allies to starve the leader of the enemy, Iran, until the regime crumbles and the Islamic totalitarians lose their will to fight. [bold added]
The only gas station I would boycott, were I a resident of Omaha, Nebraska, would be Terror-Free Oil -- because I am serious about ending state sponsorship of terrorism.
In closing, since the news article has a poll (which doesn't include "boycott" as a choice), I thought I would hold a poll of my own. (Scroll down.) Aside from this being a stupid idea, the name "Terror-Free Oil" is cumbersome. In addition to bringing up several viable alternatives to this worthless boycott, I have thought up a few names that not only do a better job of conveying the actual nature of Terror-Free Oil, but are a bit better on the ears. Choose the one you like best or suggest another in the comments!