of the most widely held beliefs is that it is good to employ people,
so that they will spend money in the community. They want more people
working on existing jobs. A make-work economy is a prosperous economy.
This belief was widespread in 1850, when Frederic Bastiat wrote
his classic essay on the broken window. A broken window creates
jobs! So, let us break more windows!
of this position is to believe that labor-saving machinery makes
societies poor. The logic of it would ultimately ban backhoes
and have people with teaspoons do the digging.
think that voters would not believe such a thing these days. But
in two states, Oregon and New Jersey, they do believe it. They
believe it with an intensity that keeps laws on the books forbidding
car owners to pump their own gasoline. The laws have been on the
books for 60 years.
480.385 Civil penalty for gasoline dispensing law violations.
(1) The State Fire Marshal may impose a civil penalty not to exceed
$500 for each violation of any provision of ORS 480.315 to 480.385
or of any applicable rule adopted by the State Fire Marshal.
In 48 states,
customers are allowed to pump their own gasoline. In 48 states,
filing station attendants no longer exist as a profession. Labor
costs are lower. These savings are passed on to customers in the
form of lower gasoline prices.
any convenience store that sells gasoline must hire a gasoline
attendant. So, there are fewer convenience stores acting as sellers
of gasoline. This law restricts entry into the field.
are few customers from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., it is unprofitable for
stations to hire full-time attendants. The solution is to close
the stations. When the stations are closed, the manager turns
off the pumps. No one can buy gasoline at the station.
Monday morning, October 17, I was taking my rental car back to
the airport. I planned to buy gasoline at the one filing station
I knew was open in Eugene, home of the University of Oregon. It
was closed. A sign was on the door: "We will resume 24-hour
service on October 17." But 4:30 a.m. did not qualify as
I went looking
for any open station. I could not find one on the major highways
out of the city.
are well aware that they cannot buy gasoline from 11 p.m. to 7
a.m. They have come to accept this as a way of life. They do not
understand economics. They do not understand economic cause and
effect. The proximate cause: a legislated restriction on pumping
your own gasoline. The actual cause: the desire of a cartel in
1951 to restrict entry. The newly invented self-service gasoline
industry was only two years old. Lower gasoline prices threatened
the profits of the existing operators of filing stations. Notice:
we used to call them filling stations as though a dollar's
worth of gas was not good enough, even at 1951's prices. The service
station cartel in Oregon stood firm with Chuck Berry six years
Workin' in the fillin' station too many tasks.
Wipe the windows check the tires check the oil
a dollar gas!
Too much monkey business. Too much monkey business.
Don't want your botheration, get away, leave me be!
later, the law is still on the books. The voters refuse to repeal
the gasoline industry figured out that the more gasoline it sells,
the more money it makes. It has sought to have the Oregon law
repealed. In 1982, the voters rejected this repealing legislation.
Back in 1951,
the station owners had to come up with reasons to keep the price-cutting
self-service stations from entering the market. There had to be
a plausible reason not just protecting station owners'
profits. So, it was done in the name of protecting helpless consumers
who would otherwise blow themselves up by pumping gasoline.
and New Jersey, it is still 1951. Well, not quite. A minimum-wage
guy with a cap with the bill over his neck is your friendly agent.
These guys are gone.
over the United States, people who pump gas do not blow themselves
up, but in Oregon they might, or so the Oregon law indicates.
The pump technology is not sufficient to protect Oregonians, who
are basically children. That, anyway, is what the statute implies.
Read it for yourself.
Policy. The Legislative Assembly declares that, except as provided
in ORS 480.345 to 480.385, it is in the public interest to maintain
a prohibition on the self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable
liquids at retail. The Legislative Assembly finds and declares
dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by dispensers properly
trained in appropriate safety procedures reduces fire hazards
directly associated with the dispensing of Class 1 flammable
safety standards often are unenforceable at retail self-service
stations in other states because cashiers are often unable to
maintain a clear view of and give undivided attention to the
dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by customers;
liability insurance rates charged to retail self-service stations
reflect the dangers posed to customers when they leave their
vehicles to dispense Class 1 flammable liquids, such as the
increased risk of crime and the increased risk of personal injury
resulting from slipping on slick surfaces;
dangers of crime and slick surfaces described in subsection
(3) of this section are enhanced because Oregon's weather is
uniquely adverse, causing wet pavement and reduced visibility;
dangers described in subsection (3) of this section are heightened
when the customer is a senior citizen or has a disability, especially
if the customer uses a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, walker,
cane or crutches;
by other states to require the providing of aid to senior citizens
and persons with disabilities in the self-service dispensing
of Class 1 flammable liquids at retail have failed, and therefore,
senior citizens and persons with disabilities must pay the higher
costs of full service;
to toxic fumes represents a health hazard to customers dispensing
Class 1 flammable liquids;
hazard described in subsection (7) of this section is heightened
when the customer is pregnant;
exposure to Class 1 flammable liquids through dispensing should,
in general, be limited to as few individuals as possible, such
as gasoline station owners and their employees or other trained
and certified dispensers;