Remember that time the George W. Bush administration tried to sneak a new gas tax onto the books and sort of succeeded?

You probably don’t, because not even those fighting over this measure in Congress understood what was going on. As far as I can tell, the only person who knows the full story is Hanna Breetz, a political scientist at Arizona State University who wrote a dissertation on U.S. alternative fuel policy back in 2012. It’s a dissertation that — mirabile dictu — broke news. But, because it’s a dissertation, no one noticed.

Breetz’s research provides a rare glimpse inside the political sausage factory that churns policy proposals into laws for the good old US of A. In this episode, nobody saw the full picture, and nobody was pushing for the thing that emerged in the end. It’s a story that shows how sometimes there is no guiding plan behind this country’s policy. The politicians weren’t rational planners — they were more like ants tugging a leaf in haphazard directions until they reached a destination.