Misery line-up

by Don Boudreaux on April 20, 2004

in Prices

John Kerry has revived the “misery index,” pioneered during the miserable 1970s. The presidential aspirant insists that

a combination of soaring college and health care costs and stagnant incomes have battered working families during Bush’s three years in office.

Financial Times columnist Amity Shlaes admirably deconstructs Kerry’s use of this “index.”

One of my most powerful memories of the 1970s is that, as a teenager, I waited several hours in long lines just to buy a measly five gallons of gasoline on each visit to the gasoline station — and this when I found gasoline at all. This experience was miserable. Today, in contrast, we have none of the price controls that caused gasoline shortages (and the corresponding long queues). More importantly, there’s no serious movement to reinstate such controls, despite the recent run-up in prices at the pump.

While difficult to quantify, the absence of many 1970s-style price controls makes today much less miserable than the Nixon-Ford-Carter era.

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