Thomas Sowell

Government-run health care systems in countries around the world have longer waits -- sometimes months -- to get medical attention. In other words, the rationing goes on, but more haphazardly, because prices do not force people to ration themselves according to the seriousness of their problem.

It is the same story when housing prices are controlled by government. Rent control has allowed some people to take up more housing space than they would if they had to pay the full price that reflects other people's demand for housing.

The net result, whether in New York or San Francisco or elsewhere, is a lot of apartments with just one person living in each, and lots of families who cannot find a vacant place to move into. Housing shortages have resulted from rent control in cities around the world.

Housing shortages mean that some people are forced to live far from their jobs and commute, and some become homeless on the street. Homelessness tends to be greater in cities with rent control -- New York and San Francisco again being classic examples.

Economists have long been saying that there is no free lunch but politicians get elected by promising free lunches. Controlling prices creates the illusion of free lunches.

Prices not only ration existing supplies, they also determine how many new supplies will be forthcoming. When a new pharmaceutical drug costs an average of $800 million to develop, there is no point talking about "affordable" medications.

Either the $800 million is going to be paid or the supply of new drugs will dry up. Controlling prices does not change that.

This is part two of a three part series. To read "Priceless Politics" click here, for "Priceless Politics: Part III" click here.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate