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A derangement of legislators?

Or perhaps a ‘stupidity’ of congressmen? A ‘fantasy’ of lawmakers? An ‘arrogance’ of representatives? They all seem to fit.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Tuesday allowing the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices, but the White House threatened to veto the measure. The bill would subject OPEC oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, to the same antitrust laws that U.S. companies must follow.

The measure passed in a 324-84 vote, a big enough margin to override a presidential veto.

The US House of Representatives have just in effect declared that all foreign governments and businesses must be subject to the wishes of US politicians and their regulations and sell oil at prices that US legislators like. Or else. The sheer absurdity of this is breathtaking. Exactly what sanction were they planning against OPEC? Perhaps not buying their fungible oil? Yeah, that will do the trick.

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23 comments to A derangement of legislators?

  • A crack pipe of politicians ?

  • renminbi

    Have you ever watched C-Span or C-Span2? This wouldn’t surprise you then.

  • Michael Staab

    When the “body politic” of our nation, by the policies it enacts, finds itself under scrutiny because the real consequences of their policies is made manifest, their first move is to blame anyone but their own policies. Sure, sue OPEC, but what policies are in place now in the USA that brought us to this point?
    We cannot drill for our own oil, we cannot build refineries, and every god forsaken creature imaginable stands in the way of it through radical environmentalist laws. It is simply the chickens coming home to roost.
    If this is how our government handles this manufactured crisis, I can hardly wait to see the debacle nationalised health care will be.

  • Sam

    I was going to make a comment, but Michael above beat me to it, and did a better job. When you are unwilling to do what is required to solve the problem, but want to look like you are doing something, you end up with crap like this. The same Congress just voted against lifting restrictions that hinder efforts to extract oil from shale, of which the US has an abundance.

  • Laird

    I agree with the previous posts, and with Perry’s assessment of this foolish legislation. I also believe that the US antitrust laws (and probably those of all other nations as well) are idiotic and betray a fundamental ignorance of basic economic principles.

    But . . . .

    There’s a certain pleasant irony in the prospect of OPEC nations being haled into US courts on antitrust charges. They would have to hire legions of US lawyers, for years on end (I think that counts as “economic stimulus” in Washington), and if compensable damages were ultimately proven we could seize any bank accounts and other assets of that nation which happen to be within the US’s jurisdiction. Which might prove to be a serious headache for the State Department, but that’s just icing on the cake. Doesn’t that all sound like grand fun?

  • Doesn’t that all sound like grand fun?

    “Fun” as in “interesting times”?

  • john

    I guess I have to be a dittohead here, and agree with the previous posters. I wish one, just one of the oil company high muckety mucks had the stones to spell out just how absolutely flipping stupidly culpable the legislative branch has been in creating this issue. Of course then I guess I’d have to wish for one, just one media outlet with the stones to release said indictment into the wild…

  • Ernie G

    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

    – Mark Twain

  • nick g.

    So this is the New Monroe Doctrine? Or World Government by stealth? No wonder the US hates the UN- they’re rivals!
    Now is the time for the world to secede from America! ‘When in the courfe of human affairf, it becomef neceffary for, etc….’ And the current Mad President is the third to be called George! Something about that name must be revolting!

  • Its OPEC’s turn to experience US Extraterritorality. An outrage.

  • No one seems to be addressing Perry’s last point: how are they going to enforce it?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    This is bonkers. The OPEC country members are able – for now – to enforce some kind of production quota because of the level of demand for oil and the relative shortage of supply. In the 1990s, that same cartel was powerless to prevent oil prices slipping to as low as $10 a barrel in the middle of the last decade. I know this as I spent more hours than I care to recall tracking OPEC ministers around the hot streets of Vienna in the June of 1996 and 1997.

    If politicians really wanted to affect the trend in oil prices, they should get out of the way of attempts to develop new supplies (Alaska, etc), new energy sources (nuclear power).

  • This has more than a whiff of the current presidential primaries about it.The Democrats are still targeting George Bush,even though he isn’t standing,and his “Buddies” the Saudis.
    The tactic would seem to be,push George Bush into vetoing the idea,then smear the Republican contender McCain by association. Obama has already said that “change” means not ” buddying up to the Saudis for oil”.

  • John K

    Even when Britain actually ruled a quarter of the world, I don’t think we thought we had jurisdiction over the other three quarters. But as has been said, this is political bullshit, grandstanding of the worst sort by third raters who would be more usefully employed boffing interns.

    On the subject of oil shale, I don’t really like this stuff. It takes huge amounts of energy to clean this thick tarry substance into usable oil, and the energy needed is natural gas. It does not make sense to me to burn lots of very clean gas to try and make what will always be really heavy crude. Still less of a scam then ethanol mind you.

  • David Beatty

    john, well said. I’m reminded of the scene in “Blazing Saddles” in which Gov. Lepetomane (Mel Brooks) says:

    “Holy underwear! Sheriff murdered! Innocent women and children blown to bits! We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!”

    Of course, if they *really* wanted to do something, drilling restrictions and regulations would be eased or even lifted. Grrr …

  • Steven Groeneveld

    Of course I am reminded of the quote attributed to Bismarck, “He who likes sausages and respects the law should never watch either being made.”

    I am sure OPEC is as untroubled as De Beers has been over the years in its diamond marketing monopoly by the threat of US legal action. There are plenty of ways around them, particularly when the market (in de Beers case the host of suckers willing to pay a premium for worthless stones) wants your product.

  • Paul Marks

    The whole concept of “anti trust” or “fair” competition is a nonsense – if a group of companies decide to sell their products at the same price (or whatever) that is nothing to do with the government.

    The idea that the government can promote competition and that such action will benefit the public is based on the misconceptions of the perfect competition theory of neoclassical economics.

    However, in what seems to be a particularly mad case of anti trust (the case Perry points to) the Congress has (in spite of itself) a point – in that the oil concerned was stolen by the various governments who make up OPEC.

    Of course the idea that American law should be applied overseas is demented – but it would be a good thing if the OPEC governments returned the oil to the oil companies who developed it and allowed them to sell as much as they could.

    Of course the above is not exactly what people like Senator Dick Durban (spelling alert) have in mind – as according to these people it is the oil companies who are to blame for high prices.

  • Paul Marks

    What could the government people (Congress and so on) do about high oil prices?

    Well they could allow oil companies to drill for oil in the areas of Alaska which they have put off limits – and off the coast of California, Florida and New Jersey. And they could allow the developement of the vast amounts of oil shale in Colorado.

    And they could get rid of the regulations that have prevented the building of refinaries for decades.

    And they could get rid of the regulations that have prevented the building of nuclear power stations.

    And they could abolish Capital Gains Tax – which holds back the development of new technology.

    And the chances of the Congress doing the above – ZERO. The Democrats hate oil companies and atomic power companies.

    Most voters will never know that their “friends and defenders in Congress” are actually the cause of the problem. This is because the main stream media (even some people on Fox News) blame the oil companies for high prices.

    Basically the print (nine out of ten newspapers) and broadcast media (bar some other people on Fox News and a handful of other people – such as John Stossel on ABC) are just propaganda outlets for the Democrats.

  • Laird

    As usual, Paul has nailed it.

  • krm

    Alisa – The legislation would be ‘enforced’ through the great american passtime: litigation.

    It would generate fees for US lawyers (one of the great ‘special interest group’ bankrollers of the Democratic Party).

    It would also ultimately backfire pretty stupendously as the OPECers would find ways to retaliate that we could do nothing about (and perhaps would force the US into the position or either having to admit impotence in this area or use miltary force – which the Democrats would never do, at least not appropriately or competently).

  • Paul Marks

    I had forgotten about the trial lawyers – second only to the teacher unions as the bed rock (financially and otehrwise) of the Democrats.

  • DS

    When you mix economic illiteracy with democratic demagoughery and pandering this is what you get.

    What is truly sad is that this will be very popular amongst the government-educated masses.

  • Stolen in entirety, with attribution. Thanks, Perry.