Thursday, March 16, 2017
The good news: Virginia Postrel has seen Trump's proposal to roll back gas mileage regulations, and raised him with a call for outright abolishment:
Automakers won't ask politicians to scrap the CAFE standards. They're used to them. But Trump and his allies have promised to shake up Washington. If Trump and Congressional Republicans are going to pick a fight over fuel standards, they might as well go all the way.The bad news lies in the context of the above, which completely undercuts the bold-sounding proposal. The whole rest of the article focuses on how fuel standards fail to achieve narrow policy goals. This may be true, but it takes for granted (a) the propriety of the government ordering everyone around, and (b) the practicality of central planning:
The more you examine how CAFE standards work, the more convoluted and absurd they appear. A rational approach would either raise the price of gasoline directly with additional gas taxes per gallon, offset by tax cuts elsewhere, or levy an emissions tax, payable with one's car registration, based on the age and model of the car.I don't intend to single out Postrel for failing to see the forest of central planning for the trees of one failed policy or another. Many voters complained about Barack Obama's "incompetence" when they should have asked whether (a) they wanted someone to deprive them of freedom more competently, and (b) whether it is even possible for one tiny group of politicians to run a country -- at least anywhere but into the ground. The GOP, too, is guilty of this problem, as shown by the fact that they seem content with merely tweaking ObamaCare, rather than planning for a transition to a free market in medicine.
I do agree that, despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth Trump's proposal will surely provoke, it hardly "shakes things up." But neither would pursuing any other policy aimed at a task outside the proper scope of government. If we continue to let people for whom freedom is an impediment set the terms of our political goals, they will keep winning, even if they don't have enough sense to realize it.