Focus Point - A Century of Prices

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. The Economist ran one of those end-of-the-century features that caught my eye. It concerned the mysteries of the market, the way prices of things rose and fell during the 20th century.

Overall, average consumer prices in America rose 20-fold. But remove inflation, and a different picture emerges.

Technology and productivity ruled: The real price of a car fell 50 percent; A phone call 99.9 percent. But the technology-resistant cost of a hotel room went up 300 percent.

You'd think a Steinway grand would have gone through the roof, but it's only up 160 percent. Then again, you can have a cd player for less than one percent of the price of the piano.

Some are puzzlers: Real prices for eggs, wine and salt fell over the century. Pork chops, potatoes and theater tickets rose. For the soaring prices on cigarettes and beer, though, you can't blame the market. It's excessive government taxation.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, liberals and tax cuts.