Walter Williams offers insight into Demagogues

Walter Williams has an interesting essay up called Defense Against Demagogues at Townhall that provides an interesting overview of the behavior of demagogues and how to learn to be wary of them.

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When gasoline sold at record prices, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said, “I think it’s time to say to these people, ‘Stop ripping off the American people.'” When the average price of regular gas was close to $4 a gallon, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for Congress to look into breaking up giant oil companies. The claim was that “Wall Street greed (was) fueling high gas prices.”
Today in some places, gasoline is selling for less than $2 a gallon, less than half of its peak price in 2008. The idiotic explanation that attributed high oil prices to greed might now be adjusted to argue that big oil executives have been morally rejuvenated. They are no longer greedy and no longer want to rip off the American people. My guess is that everyone in the oil business would like to charge higher prices. Plus, there’s no legal prohibition against big and powerful Exxon Mobil’s selling its regular gas today for $4 a gallon. Exxon stations don’t do so because the market wouldn’t bear that price.

The attempt to explain human behavior by greed is foolhardy. If we define greed as people wanting much more than what they have, then everyone is greedy. Show me someone who doesn’t want more of something, be it cars, houses, clothing, food, peace, admiration, love or war. The fact that people want more is responsible for most of the good things that get done. You’ll see Texas cattle ranchers this winter making the personal sacrifice of going out in blizzards to care for their herds. As a result of their sacrifice, New Yorkers will have beef on their grocery shelves. Which do you think best explains cattlemen’s behavior, concern about New Yorkers or their wanting more for themselves?

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