David R. Henderson  

O'Reilly and Dobbs to Obama: Be More Socialist

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I'm sitting in my hotel room in Chiang Mai, Thailand watching The O'Reilly Factor. I might as well have been watching Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! The content was almost indistinguishable. O'Reilly and Dobbs were saying that Obama should be taking more coercive action than he's taking. Against whom? Oil companies.

Both O'Reilly and Dobbs emphasized that U.S. oil companies don't own the oil they think they own. Who owns it? We do, according to O'Reilly and Dobbs. And not we, as in you and me, but we, as in the U.S. government. Dobbs advocated "jaw-boning" oil companies into charging lower prices. He also advocated some kind of government slush trust fund that the oil companies would fund with a special tax.

Both O'Reilly and Dobbs got upset about oil companies exporting gasoline. So, based on this and other O'Reilly/Dobbs pronouncements, exports of oil products are bad, exports of other products are good, and imports of almost everything are bad. They must have a very interesting economic model. I think they share it with Donald Trump.


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COMMENTS (16 to date)
rapscallion writes:

Oil mercantilism? Oilantilism?

Notorious B.O.B. writes:

Thanks for your post….I have been steaming since hearing this nonsense the last several days…..and the shameless Dobbs who should know better…

These attitudes are also shared with Pat Buchanan and widely on the left....

There is a name for the view that “we” actually own all putatively private resources….it’s called fascism…..national corporatism. Underlying it is a left populism – an assertion that “the folks”…. “traditional Americans” are homogenous, share all interests in common, know what they want….and they deserve to get it all, good and hard, no matter what. When they don’t or can’t it’s someone’s specific fault…..”pinheads”….corporations….the 1%....bankers…fat cats. There are no facts, no constraints, no tradeoffs, no complexities. O’Reilly and his ilk will simply wave away any economic explanation (e.g., supply isn’t independent of price, spot price might reflect expectations) as too confusing or unfamiliar to be convincing. All economics is “voodoo economics”.

They actually have a response to your accurate characterization of their implied economic model. The argument is that oil is special --- we need it, especially “the folks”, and cannot provide it ourselves (in sufficient quantity). Other goods and services we can either provide or make or do not really need as much. Whatever we need and don’t have should be cheap and whatever we can make should be dear. Our income should be high and our expenses low. Voila!...produce and export as much as we can of what we make at high prices while keeping out the cheap foreign products and, at the same time prevent, the export of what we need – oil --- to hoard supply locally and keep it cheap. Mercantilism and autarky, of course --- but at least with respect to oil it seems completely plausible to them. And if it requires massive government control of private resources and trade…so be it!...for “the folks”. Otherwise greedy oil companies will sell “our” oil abroad….just to make more money from China!

It’s sheer demagoguery...specious but dangerous because so deceptively simple….Occam’s Razor turned on its head.

Notorious B.O.B. writes:

The tax proposed to fund the trust for “the folks” is an EXPORT tax on petroleum products sold abroad....one problem…it’s UNCONSTITUTIONAL….


Article I, section 9, clause 5:

“No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.”

Could not be clearer….

AC writes:

It would be hilarious if it wasn't tragic.

Bob Murphy writes:

I always like when O'Reilly discusses how tough he would be on pedophiles. Like, he wants us to know that he really disapproves, because maybe that wasn't the presumed normal trait of humanity.

patrick writes:

Off topic but the Chaing Mai Documentary Arts Festival 2012 is today and Sunday. With any luck you might run into Michael Yon.

Shane L writes:

Who does own oil?

Supposing I own a patch of land. Do I own all the oil and minerals beneath that land? If I sink a well on my land, can I also drain the oil, gas or water from beneath the land owned by my neighbours? I'm not sure what the usual argument is on all of this.

Also, doesn't Norway have some kind of massive fund for its oil revenue? I often hear it described with admiration - wrongly?

Ken B writes:

David,
This is the only part I find puzzling:

I'm ... watching The O'Reilly Factor

Are you doing penance?

Ken B writes:

I have discussions like this with even smart well-educated people all the time. One friend is a medical researcher with a PhD, yet still believes oil is somehow special and magical. The Saudis control us because we need their oil. Never mind they need our food, cars, and yachts.

Jim Hlavac writes:

If the oil belongs to the US Government, as representative of the people, then why don't O'Reilly and Dobbs just outright call for the nationalization, the socialization, the expropriation (I don't care what word you use,) of the oil companies? Why should the government, we the people, be paying some private company to drill for oil? And if the oil is owned by the Government, then is not too the copper, gold, natural gas, silver, and every other mineral? Is not also the water and the dirt then too owned by the government? Egad, socialists, through and through, but afraid to state their beliefs. No, they will go the fascist route and merely tell companies what to do and when, rather than take over the companies directly. And then, in the long run, we can have as corrupt an oil bureaucracy as say, Mexico or Nigeria, and then trillions of dollars can be siphoned from oil exploration, and into the coffers of cronies and Swiss bank accounts. Then with Exxon, Hess, etc etc, all gone from production, no need for privately run refineries, nor even gas stations. Why, like Pemex (Mexico's state run oil company,) they wouldn't even have to bother putting prices on the pumps, and the price be set by government flunkies and not supply and demand, and we can all live happily after. Why, we'd become so third world, it would stop the immigration both these men decry all the time. Who would come here? For what? Egad, otherwise, it's all brainless mush.

Les Cargill writes:

Those guys are essentially the spittin' image of Lonesome Rhodes from "A Face In The Crowd" in all things. That movie was in 1957, so nobody really has any claim to be surprised by this any more.

They no more care what's said than how it garners them power. Glenn Beck tried it and couldn't cut the resulting cognitive dissonance ( even if he actually made sense once in a while before he got completely Insane Clown Posse ).

I have to wonder if Elia Kazan's behavior in the Naming Names Times somehow doomed us to a repeat of this idiocy forever. But that's silly.

The medium is still the message, and whatever horrid hegemony replaces Teh Idiot Box will be a worse despot, as replacement despots always are.

Mark Brady writes:

"I'm sitting in my hotel room in Chiang Mai, Thailand watching The O'Reilly Factor."

Never mind about The O'Reilly Factor. You're staying inside a hotel when you could be exploring Thailand. You make O'Reilly and Dobbs seem sane. :-)

Anyways, I hope you're enjoying your time in Asia.

Polly writes:

I think the richest part of the proposed plan is that the government can collect the money and put it in a "trust fund" for we the people. Very nifty!! It can operate as kind of an adjunct to the Social Security Trust Fund!

They hint that it should mimic what Alaska does with its oil money. Doesn't Alaska divide the money equally among its citizens? Or does it put it in a "trust fund" that will be wisely shepherded by the pols and someday used for something very special (though what that would be I can't imagine; does Alaska have its own Social Security system?)

Joe writes:

And what did all these companies to do earn the rights to this oil..

Oh, right. Nothing.

Methinks writes:

Oil is pretty worthless unless you can get it out of the ground and refine it into useable product.


The oil companies did nothing but buy the rights to invest enormous sums of money and effort to find and then lift the oil.

You're right, Joe. That's "nothing". I'm assuming you consider your personal efforts and investment "nothing" and refuse payment for them. After all, "the folks" need whatever it is you produce and it's just not fair to make "the folks" pay a market price for your production and be forced to make trade-offs.

Ceeby writes:

@Joe "What did all these companies do to earn the rights to this oil?"
They bought or leased the land and then used equipment they paid millions of dollars for to find the oil and take it out of the ground, that is what they did. That is why it's theirs.

@Shane: as to the question of who owns the mineral rights to what's under your land. That depends upon the title you have. If the title is "fee simple" as most are, the land owner has all rights to whatever is in the ground under that property. More and more titles, however, separate the mineral and water rights from the surface rights. If you own land under a fee simple title and wish to sell or lease the mineral rights, you can do that as well.

Free markets and private property are wonderful things!

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