by Simon Black of Sovereign Man
One of the most repeated lessons we see over and over again throughout human history is that bumbling politicians almost invariably try to ‘fix’ inflation with price controls.
Emperor Diocletian famously imposed strict price controls across the Roman Empire in 301 AD to fight off inflation that had resulted from a massive debasement of the Roman currency.
Naturally, Diocletian’s price controls weren’t successful. They’re never successful. But that dismal record of failure hasn’t stopped politicians from thinking that they can do it better.
From Hammurabi to modern day Argentina, from ancient Egypt to Richard Nixon (who “ordered a freeze on all wages and prices in the United States” in 1971), price controls have literally never worked, ever.
But I’m suuuuuuure Elizabeth Warren’s price controls will succeed.
US Senator Elizabeth Warren doesn’t think inflation was caused by government edicts shutting down the economy, massive money printing to pay for deficit spending, or handing out free money while supply chains were restrained.
Last Thanksgiving she blamed “big poultry” and “greedy corporations” for “charging Americans extra just to keep their stock prices high.”
And now Warren is at it again, telling her Twitter followers, “The prices Americans are paying for groceries and other essentials are at all-time highs. One of the reasons? Giant corporations are price gouging & reaping record profits.”
To solve the problem, she recently introduced a bill to make it illegal for businesses to set an “unconscionably excessive price during an exceptional market shock.”
“Unconscionably excessive” is not defined.
But “exceptional market shock” could be caused by “a natural disaster, failure or shortage of electric power or other source of energy, strike, civil disorder, war, military action, national or local emergency, public health emergency, or any other cause of an atypical disruption in such market.”
In other words, we have been experiencing a constant “exceptional market shock” for at least the past two years, with no sign of it stopping.
Perpetrators will be “presumed to be in violation” if they set a price higher than the market average of the previous 120 days.
In short, the bill would set price controls.
First of all, this is obviously going to make inflation worse.
Regulation is inflationary. Instead of doing something productive, companies will have to hire compliance officers and lawyers to fight off the “preponderance of evidence” the Federal Trade Commission needs to accuse them of “price gouging”.
Second, why only care about giant corporations price gouging & reaping record profits?
The US government reaped a near-record $3.6 trillion in 2020 and then a record $4.3 trillion in 2021 tax revenue, according to the Treasury Department.
Is that not tax gouging during these years of crisis?
If Warren really cared about Americans making ends meet, she would work to cut every tax she could think of.
Because taxes are also inflationary— income taxes force companies to pay employees more, gas taxes raise the price at the pump and the cost of transporting goods, tariffs and sales taxes increase costs, and so on.
Warren also had the audacity to say corporations “get away with [raising prices] because our markets lack competition.”
But she seems to believe that her price controls will apparently stoke competition???
It is also noteworthy that in the past, Warren has denied that wealthy Americans may leave the country to escape high taxes. Wrong again Lizzie!
Just look at the record numbers of people renouncing their US citizenship, or the massive backlog of successful people moving to Puerto Rico to take advantage of the island’s generous tax incentives.
Now, history shows us that after price controls come people controls.
Emperor Diocletian of the Roman Empire, for example, imposed the death penalty on those who didn’t follow his price controls. And then he forbade anyone from quitting their jobs or leaving town.
This isn’t some wild conspiracy theory— just look at the people controls they put in place during the COVID lockdowns.
The good news is that with governments following the same thousands-years-old script, it is easy to get out ahead of their controls with a proper Plan B.
For example you can use certain retirement structures to either reduce your current taxable income, or alternatively allow investments to grow tax free— we’ve written about this a lot lately to our premium Sovereign Man: Confidential members.
You can reduce the impact of inflation by keeping some savings in real assets like precious metals. Gold and silver have held their value since long before Diocletian, but haven’t yet seen the price increase you might expect from 40-year-high inflation and stock market shocks.
The point is there will always be Diocletians and Warrens whose solutions just make the problems worse.
And there will always be ways for intelligent people to make sure they don’t take the brunt of the politicians’ mistakes.
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