Rotem Sela is Awesome, Publicly Breaking the Law of Book Price Controls

This guy Rotem Sela is pretty cool. I know nothing about him, but what he’s doing is awesome. In this video, he’s wearing a shirt that says, “Books at illegal prices.” I’ve written about this minimum book price law twice, here and here. It’s a law that says prices on books by new authors must be above market level, in so many words.

By doing that, they make the books impossible to sell, putting new authors completely out of business.

It makes me want to cry how politicians just simply refuse to understand supply and demand, no matter how simple it is. Supply and demand meet at the market price. Make the market price illegal, and you have a surplus, meaning unsold stuff. The producers of the unsold stuff lose money. They stop producing it.

That’s it. That’s it that’s it that’s it. There’s nothing else to it. Same with minimum wage. Make market price wages illegal, and you have a surplus of workers, AKA permanent unemployment. That’s it that’s it. Nothing else to it.

Moshe Feiglin wrote a pretty good post today explaining the bad effects of the minimum book price law, but he still talks in socialist jargon and it bothers me. This paragraph, specifically, was pretty crappy: (worst parts in bold)

הכוונה היתה טובה – אין ספק (גם מרכס לא חשב להרעיב מיליונים). הרי סופרים מתחילים מקבלים גרושים ואת כל הרווח גורפות הוצאות הספרים המשומנות – אז למה לא בעצם? לקחת מהעשירים ולתת לעניים? מה יותר פשוט מזה. החוק עבר ברוב כמעט מוחלט

The intention was a good one, no doubt. (Marx wasn’t trying to starve millions either.) Of course beginning authors get peanuts and all the profit goes to the fattened book publishers, so why not price controls? Take from the rich and give to the poor? Nothing simpler than that. The law passed easily.

The implication is that, indeed, it would be nicer if authors got more money, but they don’t, and people are greedy, and there’s nothing we can do about it. These “reluctant libertarian” positions I call them are really annoying. It WOULDN’T be “better” if authors got more money. They get the money they get because that’s the market price for it. That’s it.

There is no and there cannot be any value judgement about what market prices are. They just are. They take into account what people want or don’t want and how much they are willing to pay, the supply the demand and the meeting point between the two.

And how does Feiglin know how much “profit” (by which he means interest) goes to the book publishers and how little goes to the authors? Has he looked at their profit margins? Does he see definitively that if the fat book publishers gave more of their fat profit to the sickly authors, they would still be net positive?

Whatever. He sneaks in these wacky sentiments sometimes when he makes a good point. And it’s annoying.

So Rotem Sela is breaking the law publicly and challenging the State in the open. I like this. Let’s see if he gets thrown into the Gulag by our enlightened lunatics in the Knesset. Also, interestingly, if you’ll notice he wording at the beginning of the video – “How did banks become so hated by the public?”

Good segway.