Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sadly, history does repeat itself

It's bad enough that the legislature in Hawaii is dumb enough to think that price caps are a sensible response to high gas prices, but now it seems politicians in California and other states and considering the same folly.

I just love this quote from the LA Times story:

Hawaii embarks this week on a radical experiment to cap gasoline prices, a move being keenly watched nationwide by legislators and consumer groups.
I wonder what the hell they think is going to happen? That somehow this time the laws of economics won't apply? That simply because that's how they'd like it to be, some other less efficient allocation mechanism like queuing or the black market or influence peddling won't kick in when prices are regulated and can't do the job?

What conceivable reason is there to believe it won't be just like the last time this was tried in the 1970's? And if that's not enough evidence for you, the Soviets spent seventy years trying this experiment on a national scale in every corner of their economy and were willing to sacrifice tens of millions of lives to their vision of a planned economy, but still it always turned out the same way - scarcity amidst waste and waste amidst scarcity and everywhere, absolutely everywhere, queues.

Given that we won the cold war because the Soviet economy imploded, how willfully ignorant do you have to be not to have learnt that the market is the only sustainable mechanism for allocating resources and creating wealth? But it seems in politics that it's impossible to resist the temptation to tell the public once again that government can somehow make water flow uphill, turn lead into gold, and yes, magically make gas prices lower. And way too many voters are stupid enough to believe it.

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