Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Speaking as a Cranberry …

What is the point of odd–even gasoline rationing? It doesn't shorten lines. The people who fill up their tanks every six days will continue to do so. The people who fill up their tanks every five days will simply fill up every four days instead.

As far as I can tell, it's mostly based on the idea that people fill up their tanks based on random whims and that preventing them from doing so half the time will cut lines in half. On the other hand, some people claim that it will prevent “panic buying.” That is similarly based on the idea that other people's decisions are irrational but the decisions of People Like Us are rational and aren't any kind of “panic regulation.”

In the unlikely event that panic buying is a problem. It might make sense for gas stations to charge a flat fee to start filling up a tank on top of the usual per gallon charge. That need not cause resentment if the per gallon charge is reduced. Most of the panic buyers will either stop or go elsewhere and the few who stick around (because of the shorter lines) will provide an extra profit for the stations.

The title of this post is an allusion to a saying by Paul Ehrlich:

"To explain to one of them the inevitability of no growth in the material sector, or . . . that commodities must become expensive," the Ehrlichs wrote, "would be like attempting to explain odd-day-even-day gas distribution to a cranberry."

Addendum: The plague is spreading.


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