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Uh Oh, Congressman Demanding Price Controls for Gas!

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South Carolina state Senator Dick Elliott has proposed a bill that would call for the wholesale price of gasoline to be capped for one full year, according to news reports.

"I don't like to interfere with the competitive free enterprise system, but in this case we don't believe the competitive free enterprise system is fully at work," Elliott told USA Today. "It's breaking families, it's breaking businesses, it's wreaking havoc with the economic system all over the state and all over the nation for that matter."

Elliott apparently has not bothered to read any history. Price controls, and their failure to help ease economic problems, date back to ancient Greece, which imposed price controls on grain and went so far as to establish an army of grain inspectors and even imposed a death penalty for evading the price control laws. The price controls naturally led to grain shortages, but did have the happy effect of creating an underground black market for grains that benefited entrepreneurs prepared to operate despite penalty of death.

Price controls imposed by Pennsylvania nearly starved George Washington's army. Price controls implemented by the French following the revolution, the so-called "Law of the Maximum," killed thousands of citizens before they were rolled back and hastened the public execution of Robespierre.

Perhaps Elliott will have time to ponder price controls at the beach this summer and take along the very readable and educational book, Forty Centuries of Wage and Price Controls, by Robert Schuettinger and Eamon Butler. It was published in 1979 in the wake of the disastrous 1970s price controls which actually created the very Energy Crisis they were drummed up to fight.

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