Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy

By Thomas Sowell | Go to book overview

Chapter 23
Prices and
Purchasing Power

There seem to be almost as many fallacies about prices as there are prices. For example, it is common to hear that the same thing is sold at very different prices by different sellers. While this can happen, usually this involves defining things as being "the same" when they are not. Other fallacies include the notion that "greedy" sellers are responsible for rising prices or that "predatory" businesses destroy competition by selling below cost and bankrupting their rivals, so that they can then raise prices to monopolistic levels afterward. While these are only a small sample, looking at them closely may illustrate how easy it is to create a plausible-sounding fallacy and get it accepted by many otherwise intelligent people, who simply do not bother to scrutinize the logic or the evidence.


DIFFERENTPRICES FOR THE "SAME" THING

Physically identical things are often sold for different prices, usually because of accompanying conditions that are quite different. As noted in Chapter 6, two airline passengers sitting side by side in the same plane may have paid very different fares because one bought a guaranteed reservation, while the other was a standby who got on board when there happened to be space available. What they really bought were two very different probabilities of getting on board that plane. Only in retrospect did they end up with the same thing -- but people do not act in retrospect. As of the time they acted, they bought very different

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Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Chapter I - What Is Economics? 1
  • Part I - Prices 5
  • Chapter 2 - The Role of Prices 7
  • Chapter 3 - Price Controls 21
  • Chapter 4 - An Overview 39
  • Part II - Industry and Commerce 57
  • Chapter 5 - The Rise and Fall of Businesses 59
  • Chapter 6 - The Role of Profits -- and Losses 73
  • Chapter 7 - Big Business and Government 89
  • Chapter 8 - An Overview 105
  • Part III - Work and Pay 125
  • Chapter 9 - Productivity and Pay 127
  • Chapter 10 - Controlled Labor Markets 149
  • Chapter 11 - An Overview 167
  • Part IV - Time and Risk 173
  • Chapter 12 - Investment and Speculation 175
  • Chapter 13 - Risks and Insurance 193
  • Chapter 14 - An Overview 207
  • Part V - The National Economy 213
  • Chapter 15 - National Output 215
  • Chapter 16 - Money and the Banking System 223
  • Chapter 17 - The Role of Government 237
  • Part VI - The International Economy 267
  • Chapter 19 - International Trade 269
  • Chapter 20 - International Transfers of Wealth 283
  • Chapter 21 - An Overview 297
  • Part VII - Popular Economic Fallacies 303
  • Chapter 22 - Non-Economic Values 305
  • Chapter 23 - Prices and Purchasing Power 315
  • Chapter 24 - Business and Labor 329
  • Chapter 25 - An Overview 343
  • Sources 347
  • Index 359
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