Commentary

Are gas prices really the highest ever?

What is it about people always wanting to believe that we live in uniquely difficult times? I bet lots of people think we work longer than ever, have more pollution than ever, more crime than ever, and so on. From Eugene Volokh: All-time records: Check out this Washington Post story, which has the headline “Gasoline Prices Soar to Highest Point Yet.” The second paragraph echoes the headline: “The nationwide average retail price of regular-grade gasoline shot up to $1.75 a gallon yesterday, its highest level ever.” Only the last paragraph puts things in perspective: “And if it’s any comfort, current record prices are not so high in inflation-adjusted terms. For example, a gallon of gasoline was $1.25 in 1980, or the equivalent of $2.79 today.” A pretty important qualification, and one that makes the claims in the headline and in the second paragraph essentially pointless. But, hey, talking about records and extremes sells — perspective, unfortunately, doesn’t.

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.