June 20, 2008

Expensive Gas = Good?

I have a certain admiration for those bloggers who can post, post, post all day long at a clip of 5 snarky witticisms per hour. My own wheels turn much more slowly. However, unless I?m simply too dense to pick up on the sarcasm, famed blogger Matthew Yglesias actually argued this today, reminding us of the blogospheric distinction between linkers and thinkers

[I]t’s true, expensive gas has a lot of public benefits. And if we made gasoline more expensive through, say, higher gas taxes or a carbon tax then not only would we secure the public health, congestion, and environmental benefits of expensive gas but the government would have a good source of revenue with which to mitigate some of the consumer pain.

I?m hearing: The modern world really sucks because it?s so expensive. But then, thank God it?s so expensive, ?cause that way the government will have enough funds to help us all out.

Many liberals actually think this way.

But beyond Yglesias?s logical loop-t-loop, there?s something else at stake.

Yglesias (and here he?s not alone) basically dislikes the cheap gas-enabled ?car culture? and all that it entails: the endless ?burbs, the gross strip malls, the Applebee?s out by the highway?put simply, American NoWhereville, postindustrial nihilism. Yglesias might claim that his objections are related to his environmentalism or concern with Peak Oil, but they?re actually primarily aesthetic and cultural.

High gas prices might seem desirable, as they?ll inspire us to walk more, live and work closer together, and maybe start up a nice little garden out back. It?s Primitivism Lite, a more presentable version of the fantasy that one day the modern world will finally collapse and we?ll all be whole again. I understand these sentiments (even if I reject them). I don?t think, however, that any Good Livin? can be had by making the lives of average people more God awfully expensive and hoping for a bounteous dole from the welfare state. 


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