Imposing controls to stop nominal prices from rising therefore actually lowers real prices below market rates. This leads to shortages, something long-suffering Venezuelans know a thing or two about. Their country is tragically being gutted of its accumulated capital by disastrously wrongheaded economic policies.
Equally mistaken, though not quite as harmful, is the Quebec government's plan to control the price of books in order to keep sellers from selling them too cheaply. Pauline Marois's Parti Québécois wants to cap discounts on new books at 10% to protect small booksellers from competition from online and big-box retailers. Whereas Maduro imposes price ceilings, Marois wants to impose a price floor, which will keep books above their market rate. As my Québécois Libre colleague Larry Deck quipped, "Surely nobody would buy fewer books just because they cost more, right?"
Ceilings or floors, fixing prices by diktat distorts market signals and makes most everyone worse off. Depending on their pervasiveness, price controls can lead to a little—or a lot—of hardship. Quebec's politicians would do well to think twice before emulating an economic basket case like Venezuela.