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Forty Centuries of Wage and Price Controls

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00268ZR48
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,887,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Economy theory suggests that price ceilings produce shortages and price floors produce surpluses. Good theories should have testable results. This book describes examples in history where the government initiated price controls. It then shows the ill effects such controls caused. The most insightful criticism comes from perceptive contemporary sources who cite the source of their misery. Examples from ancient Eqypt, Hammurabi's Babylon, ancient Greece, French and American revolution, Civil War, World War I and II and the Communism states. The book was written as a polemic against political pressure to freeze prices (remember Nixon's price freeze), yet is still readable and valid today.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beginning "Way back when . . ."

"For the past forty six centuries ( at least ) governments all over the world have tried to fix wages and prices from time to time."

Why do they do it?
How do they do it?
How does it work?
What happens?
How do the people react?
How does it fail.?
Why don't they learn?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is very interesting and clear in how it states the problems seen throughout history when the government tried to fabricate a parallel reality and solve problem by just saying they shouldn't exist. The book clearly states how wage and price control was applied in different parts of the world in different times in order to solve some sort of shortage or inflation problem.
What the book lacks is a deeper review of the ways used to apply the controls and how exactly it under performed to solve the problems. In some cases it is due the lack of information from very old scenarios and in other cases I think the authors tried to keep it simple enough to be readable.
The book is old and if you are looking for recent information, you won't find it.

In general, a very interesting and insightful book about a topic not yet understood by a lot of people and governments (e.g. Argentina)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent overview why devaluing currency, the resulting inflation, and govt's effort to control "runaway" prices result in horrible unintended consequences. Also explores why rulers are reluctant to break the cycle, once started.
If you're interested in econ, this is a great topic, pretty easy read, well worth the time and money.
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Format: Paperback
Forty Centuries of Wage and Price Controls by Robert Schuettinger, published in 1979, reviews how controls placed on wages or prices by governments from Sumer to Nixon have failed. As the book was written prior to Reagan’s presidency his economic ideas are not covered. Using many ancient texts the author is able to demonstrate that whatever government has tried to control the economy it results in distorting the market to such a degree that the economy often ceases to work at all.

The normal result of controlling prices is products leave the market. Controlling wages causes people to leave the market. In some remarkable examples, especially during the Roman Empire and the Diocletian Reforms, the price of critical commodities were pegged below the market and those items just disappeared. In the case of wheat the farmers left the land. It got so bad that the government ordered people to stay on the land and grow the crops on pain of death. The prices were so low and the taxes so high the farmers were starving. Thus, the wage and price control plan failed miserably.

Governments also try to control inflation; however, argues the author, inflation is always caused by an excess of money – which is debatable. Cheapening the money by increasing its supply only works for awhile because the inflation it creates eventually destroys the economy. Mr. Schuettinger cites, naturally, the great German inflation of the 1920s.

The book also tackles the problems of controlling the economy in war; however, the arguments here are less effective. War is so different from a “normal” economy. In wars the government buys items and then destroys them in combat. It also takes large numbers of people out of the economy (soldiers) reducing their consumer buying activities.
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