By Auth for The Philadelphia
Inquirer. Reprinted by permission.
Yet, Japan today uses fewer total barrels of
oil than in 1973.
And where are we?
The United States has followed a lonely and ruinous
course. Our production of oil is down about 20 per cent, and our consumption
is up by about 20 per cent. The product of our high living? A $45 billion
hemorrhage paid out to buy imported oil.
It threatens to ruin our economy, and no
fight on inflation will have any chance of success unless we begin doing
something about this oil situation.
We are, literally, over a barrel.
||Second, government must put its house in order.
Back in the 1960s, President Johnson plunged us
into deficit spending to finance the Vietnam War, and our economy suffered.
President Nixon overstimulated the economy just
before his 1972 reelection campaign, and that didn't help either.
There has been intermittent devaluation of the
dollar, continued deficit spending, too many inflationary programs and
some well-intentioned policies that have gone sour.
Clearly, government must accept a large share
of the blame. But government alone is not the cause of today's horribly
accelerated rate of inflation.
And government alone does not hold the key to
a cure. More on this later.
||Third, there was a world shortage of food from
1972 to 1974.
Any businessman can tell you about the law of
supply and demand. And when the supply of food in the world declined in
the early 1970s, the price of what was left shot up.
|There were other factors in the food
price push. The Russian grain sales, which depleted our surpluses at low
prices, was one.
You don't need me to tell you that food prices
have stayed high for a long time.
But despite that, farmers aren't making any money.
In fact, the farmer has been hit perhaps worse than most of the rest of
us. The prices he receives for his crops have stayed way below what each
of us pays for the finished product in the supermarket, while his costs
on the farm have spiraled.
That's a partial list of what ails us and some
of the factors that combined to put us where we are today. The list is
longer because our economy is an interlocking affair where one thing affects
It might be easy to argue that our free enterprise
system has gone the way of the stagecoach. I disagree, for I believe that
the basic underlying principles of the American economic system are sound.
Our economic principles work when they are permitted
to, and in recent periods of our history, they have given ordinary citizens
a standard of living that kings would have envied just a few hundred years
Our problem is that we have not always let the
free enterprise system work.
The Case for Deregulation
Too many government regulations, for example,
seem to be working against us and not for us. Instead of nurturing and
promoting free enterprise, many have had the combined effect of curbing
employment, keeping prices high and just not focusing on things that really
The Environmental Protection Agency, for example,
ought to be working to clean up Arizona copper smelters, not put them out
There are unsafe conditions in some factories,
and that's how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
came into being.
But while OSHA inspectors were paying attention
to the size of knotholes in ladders and looking at gluepots at Tucson newspapers
and inspecting toilets, grain elevators have been blowing up all over the
The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) is responsible
for another example.
The next time you're on the interstate and see
all those big trucks rolling by, just ponder the fact that 40 per cent
of them are empty.
Common sense says that a trucker delivering citrus
from Phoenix to Salt Lake City might want to bring back a load of steel.
But he can't. The ICC gives the steel certificate to one trucker and the
permit to haul citrus to another.
With our importation of foreign oil on the rise
and our balance of trade fueling inflation at an ever-faster clip, a complicated
ICC regulation ignores the whole thing and encourages the waste of gasoline.
What happens when we deregulate?
Take a look at the airlines. We've started to
let them compete again, and a marvelous thing has happened -- prices are
down. They can carry more people, give customers better bargains, and still
Who benefits? All of us. The airline case is a
clear-cut example of what can happen when we put the "free" back in free
Ridiculous government regulations must be curbed.