Check out this interesting snipet from a little letter-to-the-editor from George Mason University Professor Donald J. Boudreaux (I highly recommend reading the original thing – here via CafeHayek):
Asked by your “pump patrol” reporter about rising gasoline prices, a motorist at a gasoline station noted that “My tank is actually way more than half full now. I’m topping it off because I’m sure the price will be even higher this weekend.” When your reporter then asked her “What do you think explains these rising prices?” she replied “Speculators.” Your reporter followed up with “Do you think they should be stopped?” The motorist responded immediately: “Of course! They’re criminal.”
Speculating that the price of gasoline will rise, this motorist took action today – buying gasoline that she otherwise wouldn’t have bought today – that puts upward pressure on the price of gasoline today.
This is an interesting study in the importance of terms. The frequent use of the broad term “speculation” has obscured, at least to some extent, just what speculation means. In a similar fashion, the term “financial tools” has been used to obscure practices that are often unethical and/or criminal.
It’s essential that we all put in the time to understand just what these terms mean in our modern political discourse. Otherwise, we will inevitably become far too reliant on the judgment of our politicians and members of the media.
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