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Shall the Policy of Government Price-Control Be Adopted in the United States? (Classic Reprint)

Shall the Policy of Government Price-Control Be Adopted in the United States? (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Shall the Policy of Government Price-Control Be Adopted in the United States?

Price Control. Prices may be controld both directly and indirectly. They may be fixt by legal enactment; or by a board or commission, created by law, to effect the same purpose. Such a board or commission, might not have any legal power to fix prices and yet deliberately exercise great control over prices by crystalizing public sentiment behind their recommendations. During the war, the Fuel Administration had no legal power to fix prices. The only control the Food Administration had over prices was through its licensing power, while the legal position of the Price-Fixing Committee of the War Industries Board was, according to Professor Taussig, a member, "highly uncertain," yet all of these agencies directly controld prices.

But it is possible to control prices, to a certain extent at least, in a more indirect way. If the price of wheat is fixt, this action will certainly control somewhat the price of flour and thus the price of bread. If the price of cattle were fixt, it would affect the price of hides and this would affect the price of shoes, and the price of shoes helps materially to determine the cost of living, and the cost of living is probably the most potent factor which determines wages. Thus, the fixing of the price of things like wheat and meat indirectly exercises some control over many other things.

Difficulties of the Question. The students will soon discover that price control is one of the most subtle and elusive subjects with which economic science has to deal. This fact should be borne in mind in discussing the question. The factors which determine prices are so numerous and complicated and unseen that few people are able to visualize the process and see just how prices are determind. For this reason, the debater should be extremely cautious about taking some one fact or group of facts, which he happens to see, and then jump to the conclusion that these things determine prices. He will also run against many anomalous and apparently contradictory facts, but these he must be prepared to expect.

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