I had intended to write something about my thoughts on the economic consequences, such as they may be, for those of us not directly affected by the Katrina disaster. I had intended to, yes, but every day I read something new that I must either reject or allow to refine my own opinions, and as all the things I'm reading are written by people much more wise about such things than I am, I'm still struggling to piece it all together myself. It would be the height of arrogance, and idiocy, to pretend to have something important to say on the matter. Besides, the Gas Guy already said something much more eloquent anyway.
Of course, me being me, I started writing this little one-paragraph bit, and it turned into more of a rant than I had expected. So there's more after the jump.
I had hoped to say that, maybe, the current gasoline crisis might change Americans' behavior vis a vis their driving habits. I now think, in light of the events I've seen around town in recent days, that this was foolish optimism on my part (I'm a glass-half-full type of guy, even if life tends to present us all with a series of nearly empty glasses). Fevered predictions that vacant land, KMart parking lots, and used vehicle dealerships would by this time be overflowing with abandoned SUVs and those of some means would be camping outside Honda and Toyota dealerships to buy Insights and Prii have proven to be, well, fevered. And stupid.
I suppose what it all boils down to is, we're comfortable. We'll keep putting the bloody money in the bloody gas tank because, after all, we bought these damnable gas-guzzlers as status symbols, and the real sign of your status is that you are so well off that you have no need of worry about the price of gas. So we'll keep on filling up at $3 a gallon, or more, or less, and reduce spending somewhere else. All to keep up appearances, to keep up with the Joneses.
Why isn't a Prius a status symbol--you know, a symbol of your intelligence? I can understand with the Insight, which is hideous, an automotive abortion worse even than the Scion Breadbox (which, incidentally, is remarkably fuel-efficient). But the Prius is at least somewhat nice-looking, if far too cartoony to be taken seriously (it would look terrific on a set of those big bubble tires you see on cropduster airplanes). Why don't these damnable auto manufacturers make a hybrid that looks like it might actually be fun to drive? You could make a hybrid convertible Mustang. It wouldn't sound the same or go as fast, but its owner would be able to buy many a steak dinner with the money he'd save by driving it. Is there some unwritten rule that a hybrid must look like something Roy Jetson doodled on his homework?
I don't know what to make of it all. The conventional wisdom is that large natural disasters do not affect the macroeconomy of wealthy, industrialized states. The theory goes that the loss of economic productivity in the disaster's aftermath is made up for by the new jobs created by reconstruction. Of course, it's all well and good to talk about macroeconomic stability, but the microeconomy of a lot of families in Louisiana and Mississippi is another matter entirely. I don't imagine the folks in the Astrodome are heartened by the fact that the nation's macroeconomy will be fine.
And I think that's why I find it hard to condense the whole thing down and talk about "what it all means," as if I knew the answer to that anyway. There's little enough I can do as an individual for other individuals. There are plenty of other people who's job it is to discuss how the nation as a whole moves forward. And there's plenty of people in Washington still worried about who's fault it is that nobody's knickers got in a timely enough twist over the whole matter. I think the best thing I can do, as an individual, aside from donating money to effective charities (note links on sidebar), is start riding my bicycle to work and hope for a hybrid Outback, regardless of what Subaru says on the matter. So that is what I shall do.
Once the weather cools down a bit, of course.