Friday, August 10, 2012

History of capitalism on the radio

At Active History, Joe Tohill gets active on "The Invisible Hand," a CBC Radio summertime series he calls "capitalist theology" and "neoconservative propaganda."

Tohill  is particularly aggrieved by a segment that
pays homage to price gougers—those who, in the aftermath of crises such 1998’s ice storm in central Canada or 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in the US Gulf Coast, seek to exploit a situation of crisis-induced shortages (not to mention the desperation of others) for personal financial gain.
Tohill, who has a recent doctoral thesis on the history of price control during World War II, argues that:

A bit of historical perspective on price gouging and regulation, perhaps, would reveal a less black and white picture than the show purports to reveal.   
Then, as now, free market enthusiasts argued for letting the invisible hand work its magic, but rational policy-makers thought otherwise. They recognized (as Munger and The Invisible Hand refuse to) that in a situation of crisis-induced shortages the price mechanism allocates goods not to those who most need them most but to those who can most afford them. 
....  In the end, despite the presence of considerable black market activity and enforcement difficulties, price control—backed by consumer rationing, government allocation of key resources, and an array of fiscal measures—worked remarkably well in both Canada and the United States during World War II.

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