Last week's call by Harry P. Bosworth, former Carter administration inflation fighter, for mandatory wage-price controls has opened the way for new debate on the issue, but hasn't yet won many converts among other economists.
An informal survey shows a few economists now seem more willing to explore the controls issue than was the case even a month ago, but a manjority still appears opposed to mandatory restraints.
At the same time, Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, remains firmly against mandatory controls, making it highly unlikely that Congress would give Carter authority to impose them.
Rep. William Moorehead (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Banking subcommittee that would handle such legislation, says he won't even consider controls until Proxmire and the White House drop their opposition.
The prevailing sentiment in Congress still is that controls won't work. In formal balloting last month, the House Democratic caucus rejected a leberal-backed controls resolution, 94 to 50.
Bosworth's call last week sparked a flood of reaction from other economists.
Although a handful of economists had recommended a controls program before, Bosworth was the first former Carter administration official to do so.
Bosworth said he had come to his decision on controls because he had concluded that traditional monetary and fiscal tools no longer could work in today's inflationary environment.
That same day, Otto Eckstein, former Johnson administration economic adviser, told Congress he thought the controls issue should be explored, but stopped short of flatly endorsing the proposal.
However, most maintstream economists remain opposed to controls, on grounds that the restraints would result in distrotions and inequities in the economy and ultimately end up increasing inflation.
Robert Eisner, a Northwestern University economist, said yesterday controls would not work because they could not deal with the sectors which are experiencing the most inflation, such as energy, food and housing.