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Rand Excerpt: On the Energy Crisis (in the 1970s)

The following excerpt is from "The Energy Crisis," published in The Ayn Rand Letter of November 5, 1973 (pp. 257-260):

The oil industry is being destroyed by a bombardment of paper -- of governmental rules, regulations, directives, edicts, commands -- any one of which is as intelligible and exciting as the small print in an insurance policy. You would not be able to read it or integrate it -- no one can. But that bombardment is more effective than other kinds of air raids: it blasts your power stations, extinguishes your lights, freezes your homes, stops your motors, locks your factories, wipes out your jobs, and leaves a barren land on which nothing will grow again for generations [....]

There is always a scapegoat: the industrialist, who may be sent to jail by one government agency for obeying the orders of another. Integration -- of plans, activities, knowledge, thought -- is forbidden by the nature of the politicians' game. Their deliberately cultivated, evasive, concrete-bound, range-of-the-moment level of perception would make a retarded five-year-old look like a genius of abstract thinking. And, on the basis of such perception, they issue orders to an industry that functions in terms of decades and deals with the entire globe. [...]

The result of our present economic system is that the men who do the work -- in this case, the oil industry -- know the state of their production at a given moment, but do not know what edict will shatter them next month or next year. The government officials do not know the state of the industry they are controlling -- nor what edict they will feel like issuing next week. The Arab oil embargo was not the cause of the energy crisis in this country: it was merely the straw that showed that the camel's back was broken. [...]

There is no "natural" or geological crisis; there is an enormous political one. It is in the nature of a mixed economy that its policies are rationally inexplicable, that there are no identifiable causes, no accountable initiators, no ascertainable villains -- and that you are losing your jobs, giving up your automobiles, catching pneumonia in unheated bedrooms, not because some giant evildoers are plotting your destruction, but because some seedy hack wanted an unearned salary, and some crummy professor wanted an undeserved prestige, and some measly shyster wanted a chance to fish in muddy laws, and none of them cared to or could watch the state of the country's economy, and the sum of such termite aspirations has eaten through the pillars of the structure so that one kick from a sheik was sufficient to make it crumble.

Omissions from the text are shown with bracketed ellipses. All other punctuation and spelling is from the original.

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