Politicians like power, not lessons.

Here’s another example of why Sen. Obama’s economic thinking scares me. (Not enough to vote for Sen. McCain, but more than enough to not vote for Sen. Obama.)

Sen. Barack Obama rolled out a proposal yesterday to curb speculation in energy markets, which his advisers said would help stabilize soaring gasoline prices.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee laid out a four-step program that would, among other things, close an “Enron loophole” that protects some trading in energy futures from federal oversight, his advisers said.

I don’t know enough about oil futures to offer any educated comment. But I know that suggesting placing allegedly-benevolent government regulators with a specific goal in mind (i.e. lowering gas prices) is a recipe for disaster. Central planning does not work. The laws of economics are not mere suggestions. Where price can’t reach its natural point, even if that includes speculation, supply will decrease.

An interesting insight into how economic facts are irrelevant to all politicians:

“I think everyone believes there’s too much speculation in the oil markets, and a lot of it flows directly from that particular loophole,” New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) said on a conference call hosted by the Obama campaign.

I do not believe that there is too much speculation in the oil markets. I believe there may be unwise speculation in oil, but that will catch up to the speculators.

I, like everyone who travels any distance in a vehicle powered by gasoline, feel the effect of any speculation in oil. So what? What legitimate claim do I have to say to you that you can’t speculate in oil? The arrival of speculators in baseball cards in the late ’80s/early ’90s killed the economical fun of the hobby for me. Where a pack of cards used to cost 50 cents for a dozen or so cards, the price changed to $2 for six cards. Should the government have regulated that? It even had the built-in “for the children” excuse.

But oil is different!

Is it? People have made choices, whether to live far from work or drive inefficient cars (relative to other available choices). Choices have consequences.

If we approach this debate honestly, many of those being hurt today by the rising price of gas are speculators. They speculated that oil would be cheap and abundant forever. They speculated that oil prices would stay within their comfort zone. They lost. And now the market for less efficient SUVs is changing.

Why should I trust that politicians actually care about the problem when proposals like this clearly demonstrate that the most recent lesson – the speculative effect on housing – is entirely lost on politicians? More importantly, will this increase in “gotcha” regulation decrease if/when the speculative bubble pops? Speculating does assume that prices are artificially high, that there’s some lower point at which prices “should” be. It is about nothing but the price of gas, right?

Post Script: Proposals like this strengthen my belief that Bob Barr’s candidacy will harm Sen. Obama. There are libertarian/moderate voters who will never vote for Sen. McCain and want to see the death of George W. Bush-style Republican government. Where they might’ve voted for Sen. Obama, spewing stupidity after stupidity in a populist appeal to those ignorant of economics will cost him votes. Maybe the net will benefit him, but there will be a trade-off. How is Sen. Obama a new kind of politician?