Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wait a Minute, Wha--? Carter and Oil Prices

I suppose it is a waste of good brain cells to expect serious news analysis from Investopedia but this one really takes the biscuit.  The subject is Jimmy Carter, recurrently reviled in the wingnut press as a disaster.  We at UB will grant that Carter in office was (like most Presidents)  a mediocrity, although it's interesting how hard it is for his critics to put their finger on just what he did was so awful, aside from carrying his own garment bag and taking advice from Henry Kissinger.  But I don't recall ever before having seen this:
In an ill-fated attempt to free America from its dependency on foreign oil, Carter deregulated domestic oil pricing. In response, foreign oil producers banded together to form a price-fixing cartel.  Oil prices ended up soaring, causing massive inflation which then caused a massive recession which then caused massive unemployment.
 Link.   As the headline so trenchantly observes, wait a minute, wha--?  I should have thought that the sole task of any President,  aside from reducing taxes, was to unleash the market.  Which is exactly what Carter did (in oil; also in trucking, airlines, and natural gas).  There were serious short-term dislocations in the oil market--caused in large part because consumers thought they were seeing a repeat of the previous oil crisis in 1973 when President Nixon had imposed price controls.  But production and conservation both spiked--which is exactly what you would expect in a free market--and the Carter deregulation triggered a decline in oil prices that continued for some 20 years (here, as with so much else, Carter proved to be Ronald Reagan's best friend).

And that sentence about how "in response, foreign oil prices banded together to form a price-fixing cartel"--is just nuts. OPEC was created in 1960, while Carter was still .  a struggling peanut farmer.  It created "its" oil crisis in 1973, while he was governor of Georgia.

But as I suggest, I may be the only guy on the planet that takes Investopedia seriously.  For an appreciation of Carter from the flamingly libertarian Mises Institute, go here.  For an UB appraisal of Carter as a (heh) Republican, go here.

1 comment:

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

I would say that Carter was one of the great foreign policy presidents. Yep, he screwed up a bit on Iraq. But otherwise:
- Camp David (this alone would be enough)
- Delegitimating the Soviet Union though human rights (brilliant as both realpolitik and moral clarity; this alone would be enough)
- Relegitimating the US in the eyes of Latin America through human rights and the Panama Canal handover
- Beginning the repair of the US military (the Reaganites loved to point out that their military budget asks were less than the original Carter plan for those fiscal years)