Newsflash: Central planning creates inefficiency

Let me tell you why New Jersey sucks as a state. Driving through the state, as Danielle and I did yesterday, often requires refueling the car. It’s not a particularly strange concept, as mankind hasn’t yet figured out perpetual motion or cheap hydrogen fuel. It’s inevitable, really, so our stop on the New Jersey Turnpike yesterday was unsurprising. However, I’d forgotten that New Jersey is simple-minded.

Yesterday, we waited in line for full-service gas because full-service is the law. I haven’t used a full-service gas station since the last time I purchased gas in New Jersey. I won’t use a full-service gas station again until I’m in New Jersey again ever. If there’s a stupider law that affects everyday life, I’m not sure I can imagine what it might be.

Danielle and I discussed it as we waited in the twenty-plus minute line to have someone perform a menial task that I’m perfectly willing to perform on my own. I could only come up with two reasons why this would still be New Jersey law. Either politicians believe self-service pumps are too dangerous for untrained citizens to operate or they believe full-service will somehow lead to greater employment within the state. Considering I’ve been refueling my cars safely since 1989, I’m almost certain that safety can’t be the reason this law still exists. After a little research, safety was the reason legislators originally passed the full-service requirement. Gas is still a flammable liquid, of course, but technology has improved considerably from standards that existed early in the development of the car and refueling stations. Our friends and neighbors aren’t regularly setting themselves on fire or blowing up while pumping gas. The average Joe can handle it. Factor in the clearly untrained nature of New Jersey gas station attendants, as evidenced by the fine individual who pumped our gas shortly after taking a walk two car lengths away to smoke a cigarette, this reason is no longer valid.

So it must be socialism economics that perpetuates the practice. Sure, more attendants are needed to pump gas, but that cost gets passed to the customer. In my research I noticed a few links suggesting that full-service gas is still cheaper than it is in states that don’t prohibit self-service. That’s fine, but I don’t doubt that gas is more expensive than it needs to be. Regardless, I’ll discard the notion that it costs more. It’s a big item to dismiss, of course, but even if it made sense to do so, the environmental and productivity impact can’t be dismissed.

During our wait, we left our car running. So did every other driver in line. Every one of us wasted gas. We polluted the air for more than twenty minutes for no reason. Surely the danger from the cumulative toxins we all released yesterday is greater than the risk that one of us would set the place ablaze. Having seen the smog hanging over much of the Turnpike, who would deny this?

Of course, the economic impact of that wasted gas must surely be figured into the absolute cost of gasoline in New Jersey.

As for productivity, what else could every motorist in New Jersey have accomplished in the time wasted while waiting for full-service? Danielle and I wasted more than forty minutes combined. Multiply that by every family. On a Sunday afternoon, maybe that amounts to lost beer-drinking soymilk-drinking time. What about Monday thru Friday? What about commercial vehicle drivers? Surely this loss of efficiency should matter. It did to us.

I could almost think it was just a quirky feature of New Jersey and it added flavor to our culture. A few minutes after we left the gas station, we crossed the state line. The first service area off I-95 had a gas station. It had a few customers, each scattered among the various self-service pumps. No one was on fire. No one was spilling gas on the ground. Everything was fine, operating as smoothly as New Jersey. The only difference? The gas station had no lines. I don’t wonder why.

Other thoughts: Marginal Revolution from Nov. ’03, and NRO, from Sept. ’03

2 thoughts on “Newsflash: Central planning creates inefficiency”

  1. I always make a point of gassing up in New York state or Delaware. It’s a shitty-ass law and needs to be repealed!
    Former NJ resident

  2. Oh my god, this law was put into place in 1949. 1949! How has this law NOT been repealed in 57 years?

Comments are closed.