There is a non-negligible cadre of students who think that when economists teach the economics of price controls or how the problem of knowledge makes central planning doomed to fail, that it’s all just at best an interesting opinion or at worst brute political bias.
I’m not here going to comment on that. I’m sure, for example, that they are very consistent in applying this “critique” in all areas of their academic life.
Today we reflect on the following. I used to think that the way to have people understand the perils of central planning and price controls is to illustrate how devastating each had been and in particular to the very worst off among us. But that is most certainly not a useful method – people simply think you make stuff up or just refuse to believe it, even after a semester where they are required to pore through lots of economic research on these things. In 10 years I’ve never had a single student go to the real research and show that ANYTHING we’ve covered was questionable.
In an effort to have them understand the economics better I’ve tried to illustrate how, for example, people in MY position may actually fare better under central planning (I’m an economist who would be part of planning board) and under price controls. But all that does is make people think I am making that up, or they hate me more as a result.
So then I bring out the Big Guns. Knowing that students are required to hate Walmart we discuss how places like Walmart certainly would support a whole host of regulations that on their face look like they would oppose. And we discuss how businesses and regulations are like drug dealers and repeals of prohibition. Thinking that if their hated Walmart understood the negative impacts of such regulations maybe that they’d understand better was wrong of me. I think instead in makes them hate Walmart MORE and conclude that the regulations just need some tweaking.
Heaven forbid I went through the actual political history of price controls or showed the starvation and suffering from central planning… I suspect folks would think it’s all an elaborate lie in my mind.
So I ask folks, if I’m not permitted to instruct about the devastating impacts of central planning and price controls what am I supposed to … oh just forget about it. No one really cares, but that’s for another day.