John Steward of Jesus
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Gas Prices

In recent days much is made of the rise in gas prices. The numbers on the pumps are getting bigger. This is assumed to imply that gas is costing more all the time. But is this really so?

If I traveled to a little known island under the control of King Bumpkin who in an unguarded moment of humility had named the local unit of currency the "bumpkin", and further reported to you that the cost of a gallon of gas there was a thousand bumpkins, would you know whether gas there was cheap or expensive? In my thinking, it would depend on the relative value of bumpkins, primarily as compared with the value of a man's labor. If most working people on the island were earning no more than a thousand bumpkins a day, I would think of gas there as quite expensive. On the other hand, if most working people there earned a million or more bumpkins a day, I would think of gas as cheap there. The point is that we evaluate something as cheap or expensive on the basis of how long we have to work to pay for it.

With that in mind, my opinion is that gas is no more expensive now than it was at the lowest "price" I remember, seventeen cents per gallon. Now the number is about ten times larger, around 1.70. I started working in a grocery store then for three dollars a day. You couldn't hire a teen-ager now for ten times that much. My dad had a custom corn shelling business at that time. He had no difficulty hiring qualified part-time helpers for a dollar an hour. If I had the same business today, I wouldn't try to find comparable workers for less than ten dollars an hour. Even at that wage, I might not find them. All of which indicates that gas costs no more in real terms than it did then. All the anguish about the terrible rise in the cost of gas is an illusion.

Which brings my musings around to one of the tragic effects of all this economic madness. People are losing the ability to think about and understand the realities of their own lives. They don't have thought categories which permit them to evaluate and make sensible decisions regarding such fundamentals as their time and labor, and the food, shelter, and clothing which they need. They have affirmed the lie that empowered men can create out of nothing all the wealth that is needed for human well-being. Men will work for hours, days, weeks, months, years, and decades only to save that which is the product of the human imagination. In the process, they have joined the crowd of the living dead, soon to become the dead dead.