The hidden upside to higher prices

Noting that $3.50-a-gallon gas seems to be reducing his city’s notorious traffic jams, Los Angeles-based blogger Mickey Kaus wondered the other day whether “a secret base of support for higher gas prices” will emerge. After all, for people who can afford it, a higher gas price could be worth every penny if it meant “getting where I want to go in as little time as it took 20 years ago.” He’s clearly onto something here, and gasoline prices are just part of it. The low-inflation economy we’ve enjoyed for the past decade has taken its toll on what economists term “rationing by price.” In the upper income brackets, at least, too many people can now afford too many things. It’s often noted that airline travel was more pleasant when tickets weren’t affordable for the unwashed masses. Likewise, we wouldn’t have the annoyance of people chattering into cell phones everywhere if such phone service weren’t so cheap. Meanwhile, the very rich are driven to ridiculous ostentation partly because the less-ridiculous luxuries are now within reach of a large upper-middle class. In short, we should stop complaining about high prices and start longing for them. In so many ways, they’d make the world a better place.

—Posted by Mark Dolliver

Image: soxiam/