MAY 12, 1948
NEW YORK, Tuesday—It is quite obvious that nobody is anxious to return to any restrictions which are not positively necessary, and it is quite obvious also that the President's request to Congress for certain restrictions to combat inflation was a reasonable one and should have been considered in a nonpartisan way.
Prior to the end of price control the National Association of Manufacturers prophesied that, once restrictions were removed, prices would seek a proper level. Their prediction was obviously based on the hope that production would soon equal demand to a more or less reasonable extent. They did not, I am sure, think carefully enough about our position in the world. They did not consider how much had been destroyed in the rest of the world during the war, and how much we would have to help in restoring other nations—let alone the possibility of bad harvests in Europe, which later came about.
The result of all this is that we have never returned to the normal situation where the old economic laws could apply, and the prophecy of a return to the good old times never came true. We are facing today a situation in which there is scarcity—and scarcity will continue for a long time. The only real chance that people have for equitable treatment in procuring the necessities of life is in rationing where necessary and in price ceilings.
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Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas, in her speech in Congress which I discussed in the preceding column, pointed out that under OPA a pound of butter cost 65 cents in 1946. Last year a pound cost 82 cents; and this year, in the lowest-price stores in Washington, D.C., it cost 93 cents. Two lbs. of coffee cost 60 cents under OPA, 98 cents last year, and $1.06 today. So it goes on almost everything.
Of course, if we go back to rationing and price control, we may have black markets. No patriotic citizen deals in a black market, but human beings are occasionally weak, and we know of people who, even in the war days, never denied themselves certain things which were rationed and who seemed to feel that they had a right, as long as they had the money, to buy in the black market.
I never could understand that, since it seemed to me that everyone should want to share and share alike. Special privilege, either when we are fighting a war or fighting for peace, would seem something that everyone should want to do without.
But even if we should have black markets again, I believe public opinion could be aroused and that it would be possible to control them to a large extent. Manufacturers, farmers and producers in general would really lose nothing by a return to price control, for the prices set would take into consideration the cost of production and a reasonable profit to the producer, and the volume of sales would be steady.
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I was very much impressed by the amount of research and the tables which appeared in the Congressional Record as a part of Congresswoman Douglas' speech, and perhaps the most impressive thing is the way in which the savings of the people are rapidly dwindling. What will happen when they come to an end? Whether Republicans or Democrats are in power, if our economic system breaks down, no Administration will have a happy time. And what is far worse, the whole world will have a desperate time of suffering.