Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Things I Wish I Wrote... But Didn't.

Holy cow... Art Carden wrote a piece for Forbes this week that so clearly sums up the harm economically ignorant people do in the name of good intentions, I honestly wish I had written every word.

Just... read this:
What kinds of messages do price controls send about the kind of society in which we live?

They say that our society doesn’t know the lessons economics has to teach. Price controls create shortages, and they also drive a wedge between the price of a good or service and what people are willing to pay or accept. Suppose someone is willing to pay $10 for a gallon of gas after a storm but is only allowed to pay $2 in cash. If he values his time at $8 per hour, he will be willing to pay with $2 in cash and an hour of time spent standing in line. The cruel irony of this is that the entire difference between the legal maximum price and the price people are willing to pay for every gallon that is supplied will evaporate as people stand in line for gas. Everyone is unambiguously worse off relative to where they would be without price controls.

They say that our society is elitist. Price controls inflict positive harm on precisely the people we wish to help, and for what? So that people removed from the situation can feel good about themselves? Excusing others’ suffering in the name of your ideals is neither virtuous nor compassionate. The Foundation for Economic Education’s Sheldon Richman once said that advocating policies when you don’t understand their unintended consequences is “the intellectual equivalent of drunk driving.” If you’re advocating price controls and don’t understand what the laws of supply and dema.nd have to say about your proposal, you aren’t courageous or compassionate. You’re dangerous.
Art and Sheldon... I hatelove you both, I hope you know.

Is there anything left to say? Seriously... Today I was at the National Archives with MK. We went to check out the exhibit on how the US government has been screwing with Americans' food for the last Century. We haven't figured out exactly what to do with the exhibit yet, but one thing that stood out were pictures and recordings of Pete Seeger singing songs urging people to support the Office of Price Administration.

The OPA was Roosevelt's agency to dictate price controls.

I cannot even begin to explain exactly how disastrous these price controls were to the US economy. Among other things, they created shortages for dozens of goods & services, and directly contributed to healthcare becoming attached to employment - which has been a long-term disaster. But hey... Pete Seeger liked it...

Sheldon was right. If you advocate policies without understanding their unintended consequences, you aren't just wrong, you are dangerous. Very dangerous.

No comments: