By special arrangement with the authors, the Mises Institute is thrilled to bring back this popular guide to ridiculous economic policy from the ancient world to modern times. This outstanding history illustrates the utter futility of fighting the market process through legislation. It always uses despotic measures to yield socially catastrophic results.
It covers the ancient world, the Roman Republic and Empire, Medieval Europe, the first centuries of the U.S. and Canada, the French Revolution, the 19th century, World Wars I and II, the Nazis, the Soviets, postwar rent control, and the 1970s. It also includes a very helpful conclusion spelling out the theory of wage and price controls.
This book is a treasure, and super entertaining!
I've owned a first edition of this book for several years now, tipped off to look for it by a brief mention in a Mises Institute daily article. I've always loved history, and I found this book enjoyable in that regard. Most basically, it presents a long, well-documented litany of historical wage and price controls - all of which never worked, of course, or even had some very bad unexpected consequences - many so interesting that they tend to stick in one's mind. When I first read it, I thought, "This should be in print." And, thanks to the Mises Institute, here it is! So, get a copy, pick your era of interest, and read on for lots of obscure historical tidbits that you can present at parties as convincing evidence of the foolishness of wage and price controls.
This is a history of wage and price controls, and a sermon against them.
The history portion covers antiquity to modern times, in Asia, Africa, Europe,
and the Americas, in democracies, monarchys, and dictatorships of the left and
right, from gentle, moral persuassion through "jawboning" to long prison
sentences and long lists of death sentences.
They claim controls have never worked, always cause additional social damage,
such as shortages and crime, and often make inflation worse. I know of no
counterexample of their claim.
Washington's terrible winter at Valley Forge was caused by the price controls
imposed by the Continental Congress. The Allies retained the Nazi controls
after WWII. Goering, from prison in 1946, wondered why. He could not make
it work. Why would we repeat his mistake. The German economic miracle started
almost immediately after controls were ended.
Other controllers also admitted their attempts failed. I wish the authors
had collected opinions from all controllers, admitting failure or offering
excuses. They could not, of course, because there were so many, all diverted
from doing something that might have been useful.
There is an extensive bibliography, a useful index, and chapter notes
documenting the claims in the main text. They even include a translation
of the price fixing portions of the Code of Hammurabi.
The sermon at the end is less satisfying. They summarize the historical
evidence, speculate on the process of inflation (but get the cause right
-- government), and try to demolish the plans they feared Jimmy Carter
was about to launch.
This book is over 25 years old. I did not notice anything that would have
to be erased from the history section for a second edition, just change the
speculation about Carter's actions to history and add a few more chapters.
I recommend this book for all politions, and all voters. If enough read
it, perhaps there will not need to be a second edition.
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