[* This column is a lightly edited version of my post earlier this week on National Journal's Energy Experts Blog.]
You know we’re deep into the silly season when ‘progressives’ champion reverse protectionism – banning exports – as a solution to America’s economic woes. Congress should reject proposals to ban exports of petroleum products and natural gas for at least six reasons.
(1) Export bans are confiscatory, a form of legal plunder.
As economist Richard Stroup has often pointed out, property rights achieve their full value only when they are “3-D”: defined, defendable, and divestible (transferable). A total ban on the sale (transfer) of property rights in petroleum products or natural gas would reduce the asset’s value to zero (assuming no black market and no prospect of the ban’s repeal). To the owner, the injury would be the same as outright confiscation. A ban on sales to foreign customers would be similarly injurious, albeit to a lesser degree.
The foregoing is so obvious one is entitled to assume that harming oil and gas companies is the point. I would simply remind ‘progressives’ that the politics of plunder endangers the social compact on which civil government depends. Why should others respect your rights when you seek to deprive them of theirs? Every act of legal pillage is precedent for further abuses of power. Do you really think your team will always hold the reins of power in Washington, DC? [click to continue…]