His claim about lack of sophistication caused me to reread the article/pamphlet. I recommend that you do too. You can download it here. It turns out to be quite sophisticated. I think Carter conflates clear writing with lack of sophistication.
And in rereading it after all these years, I concluded that it really is about housing. If Carter meant to say that once one accepts their reasoning, one can easily conclude that absence of price controls more generally is a good idea, then he would be right. But Carter doesn’t make clear whether he means that or something else.
It’s also interesting that Carter would highlight this article. If you ask an economist who doesn’t live in a rent-controlled apartment whether he favors rent controls, the probability that he will say no and that he will make arguments very similar to those of Friedman and Stigler exceeds 0.9. That’s why I say that I’m not sure Carter understands how economists think.
He certainly doesn’t understand how Friedman thought.
(DBx: David, characteristically, bends over backwards to be gentle and generous with Carter. David’s character is admirable. It’s the direct opposite of what seems to be Carter’s character. Carter strikes me as being quite like Nancy MacLean, the Duke “historian” who, in writing about James Buchanan, either had no earthly idea about Buchanan and his works, or she intentionally misrepresented Buchanan and his works. Such is the case with Carter on Friedman.)
But the Biden budget doesn’t follow this advice. It spends more money on social causes and makes government larger without coming up with enough new revenue to pay for it. The budget proposes to spend 24.5% of gross domestic product on average over the next 10 years. The post-World War II record before the pandemic was 24.4% in 2009, and the 50-year average is closer to 20%. Meantime, revenues are projected to rise only to 19.7% of GDP by the end of the 10-year budget period, just below the record share of 20% in 2000 during the dot-com boom. The gap reflects additional pressure on deficits and debt even as rising deficits from the Social Security and Medicare programs pose a significant challenge.
The situation provides a perfect example of how government meddling can backfire. Measures sold as easy fixes to social problems, economic discrepancies, or other situations where central planners think it would be better if they—not employers—get to call the shots can end up leading to unintended consequences that set back the very folks they sought to help.