Venezuela, Economics, Politics and Toilet Paper

Economics

When I heard that in the 2008 Presidential election it would be the first time in a long time that we would have a true wide open primary in both parties, I became interested in politics.  Can you believe that back then, I felt that if Romney didn’t win the GOP primary I would likely support the Jr. Senator from Illinois?

HA!

Anyway, before I started blogging I was a big commenter on Alan Colmes‘ site.  Only after experiencing frustration at being unable to format my responses did I begin blogging.  But while over at Alan’s place, I realized that I knew not thing one about economics.  I Googled basic economics and was driven to Amazon’s “Basic Economics” by Thomas Sowell.

I ordered the book and my life changed.

One of the money quotes?

The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.

A real life example:

The government has announced an emergency toilet paper run for 50 million rolls

Venezuelans are scrounging around for toilet paper. Markets throughout the country have run out, and when they are in stock the rolls fly off the shelves.

The country of Venezuela is running out of toilet paper.

Why?

State-controlled prices — prices that are set below market-clearing price — always result in shortages. The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union. [AP]

Venezuela also has tight controls on foreign currency, which makes it hard for companies to import raw materials and equipment, slowing down production of a wide range of goods, according to the AP.

I should add a correction to Mr. Sowell:

There is never enough of anything, when the cost is sufficiently low, to satisfy all those who want it.

 

3 responses to “Venezuela, Economics, Politics and Toilet Paper

  1. Two thoughts:
    1) Scarcity and shortages are slightly different concepts, one is an immutable fact (for most commodities) and one is a market phenomenon. That doesn’t necessarily disprove anything, but I wanted to make it clear.

    2) The clip art you used is by Phillip Martin, which I knew instantly because he taught us that style when he was my teacher for sixth grade (this was in Morocco). He was (and is) a friend of our family; every year we hang some beautiful painted eggs that he made as christmas ornaments.and gave us. Though his cartoon art is great, the man is a fantastic artist in “more serious” styles as well. He still travels around doing murals, almost always for kid-related charity. http://themuralman.com/ Forgive the personal note, it’s just such an odd thing when the world connects dots for you in unexpected ways.

    • Scarcity and shortages are slightly different concepts

      Yup, I agree.

      Beer is a scarcity. Yet there is no shortage.

      However, if beer is offered at low enough of a price, there will be a shortage. And that point changes based on other factors.

      Ice is a scarcity but today, at its current price, there is no shortage. Hurricane hits, same price results in shortage.

      Forgive the personal note, it’s just such an odd thing when the world connects dots for you in unexpected ways.

      Not at all, very cool stuff!

      • Ice is a scarcity but today, at its current price, there is no shortage. Hurricane hits, same price results in shortage.

        Exactly. I’m not against all price controls, though, as I think they are useful in things like crops (when done sensibly), but they have a tendency to develop a life of their own and run amok.

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