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Let them eat brioche

Stephen Karlson at Cold Spring Shops points to a story by Jonah Goldberg on what is allegedly the most insensitive statement in history: "let them eat cake" by Marie Antoinette. Apparently she never said it. Further, whoever said it, the proper translation of the sentence is "let them eat brioche." And more telling:

"back then France had a law on the books that required bakeries to sell expensive breads - including brioche - at the same price as cheap bread if the baker ran out of cheap bread."

The price of cheap bread was regulated too, of course, which gives rise to the problem. One regulation begets another, and pretty soon you get a bread riot because the system is so rigid and unresponsive that waste and want are commonplace. Antoinette's (allegedly) famous quote deals with the want side of the problem. On the waste side, Karlson points out that in 20th Century Russia

"controls on the price of bread provided an incentive for herders to buy bread at the controlled price, rather than grain at the supported price, to use as feed for cattle and swine."

Great point. Watch what you regulate. You might not get what you expect.