Stupid Quote of the Day

With Earth Day as a backdrop to the concern about use of fossil fuels, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D. Calif.), said that “until we build the replacements for gasoline…there ought to be a prohibition on market speculation.”

(Source: “US Senators Grow Louder In Call For Oil-Market Probe”, Dow Jones Newswires, 4/23/2008)

UPDATE: Fixed the link. Note that the subtly different WSJ title for this article is, “Democrats Demand Probe Of Oil-Market Speculation”.

12 thoughts on “Stupid Quote of the Day”

  1. It was precisely this kind of thinking that triggered and then prolonged the “energy crisis” of ’72-’83. Even when the entire planetary economy was violently constricting and people began to starve in the 3rd world, leftist in America were to more concerned about sticking it to the capitalist than they were in securing a supply of oil. It was the lifting of the windfall profits tax by Reagan in early ’81 that eventually triggered the collapse of oil prices early in ’84.

    By speculators I assume she means people buying and selling future contracts based on the belief that the price of oil will rise. I find it frightening that someone of Feinstein’s station doesn’t have an understanding of how commodity markets work.

    I think this is good example of people being impelled by their ideology instead of an understanding of the systems they criticize. Feinstein is just cruising on autopilot.

  2. Shannon is right. Moreover, this is precisely the kind of thinking that comes up in a democracy any time there is a rapid run-up in the price of some critical commodity. You can explain the economics until you are blue in the face. People resent it when anyone appears to be profiting from a situation of scarcity that is causing them pain. And they will look to the government to do something about that resentment. People don’t want to wait for “the market” to work things out. Keynes said the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent. Similarly, the market can grind slowly and surely while you go broke during the process. People will always seek political relief from economic hardships. That is part of the system. Sometimes it has pernicious effects. It is not a problem with a solution. It is built in.

  3. Yes, this kind of thinking has always been around, but that’s no excuse. Feinstein isn’t some uneducated yahoo and ought to know better (and probably does). She and her colleagues should be ashamed of themselves for demagoguing this issue.

  4. Sometimes you just don’t know which way Occam’s razor cuts. Does it show stupidity because she doesn’t know this would exacerbate the situation, or cunning because she does?

  5. When a politician says something stupid,the simplest explananation is that they are stupid.Nixon knowing that price controls were foolish (Milton Friedman said Nixon knew it)didn’t make a differance,so for all practical purposes he was stupid.Occam at work.

  6. Kind of makes one nostalgic for the old-line socialists. They thought they could do a better job of running the economy, and were eager to give it a try. The current “progressives” have no interest in actually running factories & oil refineries: they just want to hog-tie those who do and then blame them for the resulting problems…

  7. “When a politician says something stupid,the simplest explananation is that they are stupid.”


    Never assume anybody is stupid. Assume they know, or think they know, what is good for them, and that they try to do it. Disregard what they say they are doing, or why. Look at what they actually do.

    Then, most important, look, look at the incentives they face and see how that shapes their actions.

    Diane Feinstein is an experienced politician. There is no reason to think she is stupid. She may be getting correspondence from constituents, or otherwise be aware of public unhappiness on these issues, or simply have a good intuition about it, or be aware of the historical record, or all of the above. She is getting out in front of where she sense the voters are going, or are willing to go, or are likely to go. That is responding to the incentives she faces. Not stupid. It may not be “leadership”, or what I would like her to do, but it is not “stupid”.

    She does not get elected by a committee of economics professors, after all.

  8. Ditto Mr Green.

    Perhaps instead of banning seculation Ms Pelosi should pass a law that creates a replacement for gasoline.

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