≡ Menu

But It Made Teaching Economics Easier Back Then!

Here’s a letter to the Los Angeles Times:

Joe Whitaker wants government to control gasoline prices so that a gasoline supplier “can’t simply raise its prices without authorization” (Letters, Aug. 13).

I’m guessing that Mr. Whitaker is too young to remember the 1970s.  Were he old enough to recall that decade he’d remember the anxiety of not knowing when he’d be able to refuel his car.  He’d also recollect wasting many hours waiting in long lines to buy fuel in short supply.  With such remembrances, Mr. Whitaker might be less eager to revert to the policy – government control of fuel prices – that caused those shortages.

I, alas, am old enough to recall the 1970s.  An especially vivid memory is from the summer of 1979.  One Friday at midnight my father drove to a gas station to wait in line for that station to open the next day at noon, when he’d then be able to buy a maximum of five gallons of gasoline.  Dad waited in the car from midnight until 6am.  I – having walked, in the early dawn, the mile-and-a-half from our home to the station – took over for him by waiting in the car the remaining six hours, from 6am until noon.  When the clock struck 12, I bought five gallons.  Driving home, I didn’t dare waste precious fuel by running the air-conditioner.

Neither my father nor I were deceived into believing that the price controls kept our cost of acquiring gasoline low.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030