Free Markets, Free People

Survey Finds Some Americans Not Averse To Price Controls

Very interesting opinion survey from the Center For Consumer Freedom. Essentially it’s about price control. Check out the first three questions and the responses:

B1 Do you think Congress should cap the interest and fees charged on short-term loans at 75 cents a week for a $100 loan?

* YES 56%
* NO 36%

B2 Cell phones and other mobile devices can be expensive. Would you support a bill in Congress to cap the costs of cell phone service so that lower income families are able to afford these products?

* YES 57%
* NO 41%

B3 AUTOMOBILES have risen in price dramatically over the PAST TEN YEARS. Inexpensive, high-quality vehicles are harder to find.

Would you support a bill in Congress to cap the costs of certain kinds of cars so that more families can purchase a safe, reliable vehicle?

* YES 55%
* NO 42%

So, when it comes to items which are expensive and (and I’m guessing here) the public identifies as an industry which makes too much profit (or has been vilified as such), they’re all for capping the price on them (apparently never watching TV and seeing the competing commercials for all of this, indicating market competition has most likely pared those profits down considerably).

Speaking of TVs, and coffee as well, suddenly the public isn’t so hot on capping prices:

B4 COFFEE prices have risen dramatically over the PAST DECADE, with many locations charging more than $3.00 for a basic cup of coffee.

Would you support a bill in Congress to cap the costs of coffee and other hot beverages to a more reasonable level?

* YES 39%
* NO 59%

B5 The price of televisions has risen in the past few years. The government should cap the price that electronics companies can charge for new televisions, since many new technology changes require a new television. Would you say you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with this statement?


56% disagree that TVs should have prices capped. And 59% say “no” to capping the cost on a cup of coffee.

I would love to see the reasoning behind the answers given on this survey, because it would appear that if you believe that government should be controlling prices, you wouldn’t differentiate between cell phones and coffee, and certainly not between TVs and cars.

I have to go with my first inclination here – the public is more likely to call for price controls on the products of industries which have been vilified by the press and government. Banks (loans), auto makers and telecommunications have all suffered from various levels of vilification rencently and in the recent past.

Coffee, however, is still “Juan Valdez”.

Unfortunately, even if true, it means that a majority of Americans have no problem with government price controls – it just means they require the industry to be out of favor before they do. And industry “vilification”, as we’ve witnessed lately, that’s certainly something this administration is more than willing to do. Above are your results.


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39 Responses to Survey Finds Some Americans Not Averse To Price Controls

  • Frankly i just cant stand the ignorance of people, and their apparent need to be ruled but the elites. Do they simply have no self respect? I know they love themselves, but they just seem to not respect themselves as a political/economic player. As if they truly believe that the political class is somehow better than them, but this makes no sense. Why has the ingrained narcissism left a place of humility for the political elites? Why does a narcissist want to be ruled?

  • I think the difference in attitudes between the various products is probably more to do with what people regard as
    necessities than with industry “vilification”(though there is a bit of that in the equation too.)  Simply put, many people are fine with the concept of the market, as long as it only applies to “luxuries”.

  • Sorry about the last post, don’t know why it came out like that…

  • loans are necessities?

  • Two major points: 
    1) I would like to see the demographics of the poll to better determine how it was targeted before I pass judgement on the results and ,
    2) 75 cents a week for a $100 loan translates to 39% interest.  Someone has got to be nuts to agree with conditions like this on a loan, credit card or no.

    • I was actually thinking along the lines of “who would lend 100$ at a measly .75% weekly interest?”  I think the question was aimed at short-term, payday loans (hence the low principal).  If I had a spare $100, I certainly wouldn’t lend it for 75¢ a week — any borrower at that rate is either likely to repay it ASAP (I’d make very little money), or rack up huge interest and default (you really think the guy who borrows it and realizes he owes 40$ after a year is going to pay up?)

  • Government schools exist to indoctrinate kids to defer to authority.   For the most part, they work quite well.  Maybe I’m just ornery, but, if my company didn’t give me a cell phone, I wouldn’t have one.  If it costs too much, I don’t want it.  If I do want it, I’m willing to pay for quality. 

    Be afraid.  Your healthcare will soon be "one size fits all."  Unless, of course, you are one of the political elite.  Then you will be free to get good care.
    McQ doesn’t seriously expect an answer about the reasoning behind the answers.  There isn’t any.  The public emoted as they have been conditioned to do.  Reasoning would be dangerous to the political elites and is met with scorn and condemnation. 

    You can believe we just paid over $300,000 to duplicate a picture of an airplane flying past the Statue of Liberty, if you’re stupid.  You can believe the taxpayers just got shafted for over $300,000 to pay off Obama’s campaign contributors if you’re a reasoning skeptic.  You decide what you are. 

    • If   you think that our school kids have learned to be deferential to authority, then you haven’t spent much time in the school system.

      (I am a teacher BTW)

      The problem is not indoctrination, the problem is willful ignorance. Even normally smart people seem to be totally turned off by economics.  They don’t think about it and don’t want to.  They have no idea of the consequences of things like price controls and tariffs.

      • Not to pick on you MarkD, but the indoctrination line of argument is just not compelling.  Far too many kids aren’t that interested in learning, and certainly not anything that requires rigor.  Their parents aren’t interested either.  Since it’s relatively easy to live a decent life in the USA without really knowing a lot, there isn’t much incentive.  Now that you can lay at the feet of the progressive/statist class as they are constantly striving to make everything done for us by default. 

        • I agree with MarkD: kids (and adults, for that matter) ARE indoctrinated.  Perhaps it’s not a sort of “classic” indoctrination that sees them learning some sort of program or catechism by rote (hey, TAO’s only been in office for 100 days; give the man a little time!), but people are having a certain set of beliefs beaten into their heads to be regurgitated without much conscious thought when required.  Call it “soft” indoctrination, or indoctrination by ignorance.  I think that this sort of thing is why so many people have a persistent belief in “global warming”, or voted for TAO, or bought into the AGI bonus lynching: they don’t really know any facts, but rather are pummeled with a barrage of simple slogans and ideas to the point that those slogans and ideas are unconsciously internalized.  If one were to ask WHY they believe in global warming or voted for TAO or thought that AGI employees should have their money stolen by the government, I doubt that they could explain it in any rational, fact-based terms.

          The schools play their part in this process in two ways.  First, they are part of the barrage.  Second, they fail to educate students in critical thinking skills, making them vulnerable to propaganda / indoctrination.  In the particular subject of economics, there is little or no formal education at all in the publics schools, and hence there is little or no understanding of how markets work or of the historical relationship between price controls and production, i.e. price controls sooner or later cause production to decrease because profits decrease.

  • “loans are necessities?”

    I meant to say things that are perceived as necessities.  It’s a matter of debate what constitutes an actual necessity (and barring a few extreme cases, I wouldn’t put loans in that category.) , but if people think they need something, as opposed to want something, they are probably a lot more likely to support price controls on it (as evidenced by the fact that governments typically have the most political support for price controls on staple foods like bread and milk.)

    As an aside, 39% on a short term loan would for most places be a sizable cap.  My company does printing for the local “pay day loan” store and their typical rate is around 585%…

  • President Richard Nixon put a wage and price freeze in place back on August 15, 1971 for ninety days.   While it was controversial, it was generally accepted.  Moreover, after the 90 days a number of phases of wage and price controls remained, lasting until 1974.  So I doubt the survey is any great change in public opinion over the last 40 years.   And the last time wage and price controls were used, it was a Republican President (one who had been seen as very conservative when elected).

    • Yes, and like most government meddling it made things worse. 

      BTW Nixon was perceived as conservative, perhaps, for a short while.  However, he certainly was anything but.

  • I think it’s just rational, short-term thinking, as in “Gee, I sure would like all those things, but sometimes they’re too expensive.  If the government made them cost less, I could get more of them, so I win.  Price controls are great!”

  • SShiell:  Thanks for doing the figuring. I just did a fast mental thing of .75 (weekly) X 4 (weeks)= $3.00 a month on $100.
    Imagine the vilification of a bank charging 39 % interest on a home loan.  Yup, some price control.

  • Erb, Nixon was considered a “Conservative” by smelly hippies such as your self…I think Conservatives saw him as pereferable to Humphrey and that other smelly hippie McGovern, but I don’t think they thought of him as a “Conservative.”

    To Smelly Hippies such as yourself, anyone to the Right of McGovern is a Conservative, to us Cosnervatives, not so much.

    • My first political activism was, as a South Dakotan in 6th grade, going door to door to canvass for Richard Nixon.  He was running against George McGovern, a World War II decorated war hero, and a Senator from South Dakota.  McGovern was always very clean cut, opposed drug legalization, and seemed uncomfortable with the counter culture.  I drove people to the polls for President Ford in 1976, and was at the GOP convention in Detroit that nominated Reagan.  I was a Republican until the mid-eighties.  So I’m not sure where you’re getting this smelly hippy stuff.  The reality was that Nixon had always been seen as conservative.  Ike chose him in 1952 as VP to mollify the conservative base. 
      The reality is that Nixon had to deal with the times.  Consider the GOP today: they call Obama a socialist, and people’s support for socialism increases — they figure the GOP screwed up the economy, what the GOP doesn’t like must be good.  The far right makes gay marriage a rallying cry, and in ONE MONTH support for gay marriages jumps from 33% to 42%.  They attack Obama on ‘pandering’ by apologizing for America’s past misdeeds, and support for Obama’s foreign policy increases, people like not having an arrogant President dissing the rest of the world.   If a party doesn’t understand where society is, it marginalizes itself.  Nixon understood the art of the possible.  Republican extremists are pushing their party into an abyss it could take a long time to emerge from.

  • What amazes me is that there are actually 39% of people who think that there should be a coffee and TV price cap! It’s not a majority, but that’s still A LOT of people.

    I read on the CCF site that it was a 1000 person survey–a good sized sample.

  • I was wondering if anyone would recall Nixons policies in the 70’s. I was there and old enough to be aware—he was considered a conservative.
    I burnt so much gasoline looking for gasoline that the actual price I paid for the gasoline I actually needed was probably double.
    We really don’t want to go through price control and rationing again.

  • The thing is, , the people who support price controls are, for the most part, already being “rationed” out of having what they want/need by the price, as they tend to be on the bottom end of the economic scale.  Therefore, even if price controls lead to shortages and/or rationing those people will come out, at worst, no worse off then they already are. In fact, many of them may view their position as better as now “everyone” is experiencing the deprivation they currently are.  Arguments based on shortages will have no truck with people who are currently doing without the goods/services in question.

  • Yeah, the interest question looked like a trick to me too. 
    What it tells me something doesn’t need to be sensible to people, it just needs to ‘sound’ sensible to them.
    Only 75 cents!  on a 100 dollars!  wow!!!!! what a bargain!
    It’s right up there with that car that’s under $10,000!, you know, the one that costs $9,999.00.

    Obviously we’re stupid.  If there was ever a class that was supposed to protect us from ourselves it might have been the media, but we know where they are.  And the educators, well, we have Scott show up and cite Phase 1 of Nixon’s plan that was  ‘generally accepted’.    Like we had much freaking choice!  We can endure almost anything for 90 days.  If I thought Obama was only going to pull his left shift for 90 days I wouldn’t bat an eye.

    Essentially we’re screwed unless it all goes to hell so badly that I don’t even want to think about it.

  • “Only 75 cents!  on a 100 dollars!  wow!!!!! what a bargain!”

    Seeing as that question was clearly directed at short term “pay-day loan”/title loan type loans, 39% is in fact a significant (perhaps as much as several hundred %) drop from what most of those loans currently charge.

    • It says ‘short tem loans’ – like Obama’s campaign, the hearer (reader) can paint any picture they want on that canvas about what a short term loan is.

      You may think of it as a pay-day loan, I may think of it as a loan for, say, a year from Lowe’s to have my screen doors installed, as opposed to a car loan for 5 or a house loan for 15-30.

      I’m sorry to hear that pay-day loans currently charge a higher rate, I’m also sorry to see a rapid growth in ‘pay day’ loan shops in the first place, and a rapid growth in places that will lend you money on your car title.  THOSE are all bad signs, I’m old enough to know those things have always existed before, but they weren’t found on Main Street USA, they were on the “back streets”.
      They’ve moved up to being EVERYWHERE.
      Because I live closer to the border than many I always somewhat presumed they were there for the less documented amongst us. 
      Do I think there should be a limit on interest?  yes, because I grew up in a time where the rates charged currently by credit card companies would have caused them to be classified as ”organized crime’.

  • “Because I live closer to the border than many I always somewhat presumed they were there for the less documented amongst us.”

    Sadly, I think they now pretty much draw from everywhere, especially those who are too financially weak to have much choice and/or too stupid to realize they’re being shafted until too late.  My office is right across the street from our local title loan establishment (as you said smack in the middle of an area that a few years ago would have considered such an thing unforgivably “seedy”).  Every Wednesday a truck arrives to cart away the repossessed cars, and by the next Wednesday there are a fresh dozen or so waiting…

  • No one who supports price controls has lived with them. They simply don’t understand what perverse incentives mean. Just like they didn’t understand real estate prices could go down, or that “free” healthcare is not possible. I think its that people’s mental model is that a planned economy should be possible.

    Its a fact that even in situations where 99% of the public figure out that something is bad, say hyper inflation in Zimbabwe,  there are still enough elites (with guns) who could make money arbritaging official rates that such stupid policies continue for some time.

    If corn is cheapish, no one bitches about subsidizing ethanol. Let the price of tortillas go up enough though and the MSM might write some news about it. LOL.

  • I would gladly pay 75 cents on a hundred dollars if it meant my check wouldn’t bounce in the next 5 days…what’s the bank charge for a bounced check?

    • laughing – like I said, “organized crime”.   Another instance of the argument that you’re encouraging them ‘not to do something’ by making the cost high.  You’re not going to stop them, but you ARE going to make a hell of a profit while arguing you’re trying to protect the people you’re penalizing.

  • “No one who supports price controls has lived with them.”

    The negative effects of price controls only effect those who had the goods/services being capped before the controls went into effect.  Those without (who are usually the ones who do support price controls) can’t end up with less than nothing, so at worst, they will be in the same position they were before the cap.

    If I don’t have a car due to price, and the price of a car is capped, even if this leads to a car shortage, I still won’t have a car, but if I can somehow find one, I would be able to afford it.  In this situation, it’s entirely logical that such a person would support price controls.

  • “If I don’t have a car due to price, and the price of a car is capped, even if this leads to a car shortage, I still won’t have a car, but if I can somehow find one, I would be able to afford it. ”

    No, you won’t.   History shows that you will have to have connections to get on the waiting list for that car.  You will have to have better connections to move up the waiting list.  You will have to grease palms along the way.  You may even have to pay cash in full – up front – for the price-capped car.  Used cars will go up in price – in fact, they may cost more than new cars, since you can buy them today instead of in however many months the waiting list is long. 

  • I think it’s worthwhile to try and break down the groups. First there are the consistent nos. They know that price controls don’t work, or just don’t trust government to make them work. That’s the only rational reason to vote against them, unless you’re in the tiny minority that actually run the affected businesses.

    There’s the impulsive group. They haven’t really read the question or thought through how a market works. I suspect they don’t see “congress writing a bill to cap” but rather “prices going down.” Well, if you think something is too expensive it’s rational to want the price to go down. Many people don’t understand how a business works or how markets work and it would not benefit them in their personal lives to understand it.

    And there’s the fixed-pie group, our mortal enemies. In their world, there’s a fixed amount of wealth and you have to get your cut by hook or by crook. To their mind, the various greedy producers are finding ways to hike their prices and rob us more and more *until* Congress comes in and regulates it.

  • Perhaps the greatest delusion I’ve ever had was believing in democracy.

    It always has and apparently always will perish from its excesses. It will vote itself into ruin while griding individuals into paste.

    • Myth of the Rational Voter – Bryan Caplan.

      Depressing stuff.

      • Ambrose Bierce had this all figured out long ago, when he defined ‘Vote’ in the Devil’s Dictionary as “the instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.”

        Milton Friedman explained how, while a democracy inherently preserves the right for citizens to advocate radical change to society (such as a change to a socialist model), a socialist society can never support that right (such as a change to a democracy), even if it was designed to protect dissension. It would essentially require a socialist government to subsidize subversion.

        • The two-word explanation for what has happened: public schools.

          The one-word answer: Erb.

          It is no mystery why that bright, eager ten-year old American parents send off to school every morning is returned to them after senior year in high school a half-broken, confused, semi-imbecile. Thirteen years of incarceration under the care of the teachers union ward matrons will take a toll.

          Then it’s on to the most closed-off, isolated, anti-thought and anti-reason place in America where the job can be finished: the American university. There the Erb infection is put right into the bones and the half-broken are fully broken and made ready for the brave new world. The voter is ready for the practice of democracy, which one just square one is to vote the neighbors income over to the public schools on threat to his property. Thus the cycle is renewed.

  • Change the question to “Do you think there should be a price cap on your labor?” Obviously dimwits and TAO voters will not figure out the relationship between the two questions.

    • I suspect a lot of the people for the price caps already believe a cap exists on their labor.  Wage mobility in union jobs is fairly well codified, for example.  You can’t compete your way to better pay in a lot of instances.  Taxi drivers come to mind too.  So, they probably feel if we live in this world, why not everyone else?

  • “No, you won’t.   History shows that you will have to have connections to get on the waiting list for that car.  You will have to have better connections to move up the waiting list.  You will have to grease palms along the way.  You may even have to pay cash in full – up front – for the price-capped car.  Used cars will go up in price – in fact, they may cost more than new cars, since you can buy them today instead of in however many months the waiting list is long.”

    You’re missing the point.  Even if they don’t get on the waiting list for the car, they still are neither better nor worse off than they were before.  Thus, to them, they really do have nothing to lose as in the “worst case scenario” they are in exactly the same position they’re in now. 

    • They are worse off because, as mentioned the price of even used cars goes up. Plus, most Americans can afford even a used car, so the amount of people who truly would not be affected and thus “have nothing to lose” is very small indeed.

  • “so the amount of people who truly would not be affected and thus “have nothing to lose” is very small indeed.”

    My point was that this group of people who form the base of political support for price controls are in this group (or think they are), and your arguments based on shortages will have no effect on them.