“The federal government could make a Rolls Royce affordable for every American, but we would not be a richer country as a result. We would in fact be a much poorer country, because of all the vast resources transferred from other economic activities to subsidize an extravagant luxury. To have politicians arbitrarily change the price tags, so that prices no longer represent the real costs, is to defeat the whole purpose [of an economy: to make trade-offs, with the prices of a market economy representing the costs of producing things].
Reality doesn’t change when the government changes price tags. Talk about ‘bringing down health care costs’ is not aimed at the costly legal environment in which medical science operates, or other sources of needless medical costs. It is aimed at price control, which hides costs rather than reducing them. […]
Whether in France during the 1790s, the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik revolution, or in newly independent African nations during the past generation, governments have imposed artificially low prices on food. In each case, this led to artificially low supplies of food and artificially high levels of hunger.
People who complain about the ‘prohibitive’ cost of housing, or of going to college, for example, fail to understand that the whole point of costs is to be prohibitive. […] The idea [that ‘basic necessities’ should be a ‘right’] certainly sounds nice. But the very fact that we can seriously entertain such a notion, as if we were God on the first day of creation, instead of mortals constrained by the universe we find in place, shows the utter unreality of failing to understand that we can only make choices among alternatives actually available.
[…] Trade-offs [as opposed to solutions] remain inescapable, whether they are made through a market or through politics. The difference is that price tags present all the trade-offs simultaneously, while political ‘affordability’ policies arbitrarily fix on whatever is hot at the moment. That is why cities have been financing all kinds of boondoggles for years, while their bridges rusted and the roadways crumbled.”
— Thomas Sowell in Barbarians Inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays