We take certain liberties with this title: we realize that since one is dealing with human individuals, particularly human individuals stuck in an insolvent, soon to re-default nation, stupidity can never peak per se, as the next day will without doubt bring some peak-er instance of even more profound idiocy. However, at this particular moment, this may be it.
What happened is that on Friday, Argentina fined supermarket chains including Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, and Carrefour for “failing to maintain adequate stocks of price-controlled goods.” This happened after the country shocked everyone in late January by devaluing the peso by 18 percent, effectively wiping out the purchasing power of its population by the same amount and forcing a mad scramble by the population into retail outlets, such as Wal-Mart, where the people were desperate to convert their increasingly more worthless pieces of paper for tangible goods resulting in a “run on the Wal-Mart” and depleting store shelves of virtually all goods, price-controlled or otherwise.
Also, in a press conference on Friday, trade secretary Augusto Costa said that the government has opened 141 investigations from consumer complaints on pricing and shortage issues that would violate “fair price” agreement signed with state since Jan. 27.
In other words, it is not the government’s fault that it has unleashed soaring inflation courtesy of yet another major currency devaluation, and in addition, quietly admitting several days later that it had been lying all along about its soaring rate of inflation over the past decade in order to keep the popular mood jovial (even though said population had every clue just what the true inflation rate of goods and services in Argentina was… the same as in the US).
No: it was Wal-Mart’s grave error for not stockpiling enough key products which the population would scramble to procure upon this (and all future) instance of currency devaluation.
And so it must be punished. From Bloomberg:
Carrefour will be fined 1.3 million pesos ($166,462) and Wal-Mart was ordered to pay 604,000 pesos for violations detected through complaints by consumers, Trade Secretary Augusto Costa said at a news conference today in Buenos Aires. The other companies were Chilean retailer Cencosud SA’s local unit, Vea, Spanish supermarket chain Dia SA and local companies Coto and Chango Mas.
“The goal isn’t to hand out fines, it’s to comply with the price agreement on 194 basic goods,” Costa said. “But if there are violations we’ll continue to implement the law.”
Actually, the goal is to hand out fines, considering the “law” is about the dumbest thing one could conceive. And remember: price controls in insolvent socialist paradises always work (at this point Venezuela now, and soon France, and the US are free to chime in):
The Argentine government has moved to control price increases after President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner let the peso tumble the most since 2002 in January to stem a fall in international reserves and make the South American nation’s exports more competitive. Consumer prices rose 3.7 percent in January from a month earlier, the government said in its first measure of a national inflation index. That would be the highest monthly figure in more than a decade, based on the Greater Buenos Aires index, which was the previous gauge.
You mean to say that when inflation is “suddenly” revealed to be borderline flirting with the “hyper-” prefix, that people will rush to empty out one and all retailers of whatever goods are in inventory? Unpossible.
But while all of the above in itself is certainly grounds for today’s instance of “peak stupidity”, what really takes the cake is the following:
Fernandez has called on Argentines to use consumer hotlines to denounce retailers that charge excessive prices or fail to properly stock shelves.
At this point it is unclear who is spinning faster in their grave: Lenin, Goebbels or Joe McCarthy.