Thomas Sowell, in his Basic Economics, has an excellent chapter on price controls. Because prices naturally settle at an equilibrium price, if the government uses artificial means to set prices then there will either be a shortage or a surplus depending if they set the price lower or higher than the equilibrium price. When governments let prices work, even famines can be avoided. Thomas Sowell illustrates this with two contrasting examples from India:
Halfway around the world, in eighteenth-century India, a local famine in Bengal brought a government crack-down on food dealers and speculators, imposing price controls on rice. Here the resulting shortages lead to widespread deaths by starvation. However, when another famine struck India in the nineteenth century, under the colonial rule of British officials and during the heyday of classical economics, opposite policies were followed, with opposite results:
In the earlier famine one could hardly engage in the grain trade without becoming amenable to the law. In 1866 respectable men in vast numbers went into the trade; for the Government, by publishing weekly returns of the rates in every district, rendered the traffic both easy and safe. Everyone knew where to buy grain cheapest and where to sell it dearest and food was accordingly brought from the districts which could best spare it and carried to those which most urgently needed it.
As elementary as all this may seem, in terms of economic principles, it was made possible politically only because the British colonial government was not accountable to local public opinion. In an era of democratic politics, the same actions would require either a public familiar with basic economics or political leaders willing to risk their careers to do what needed to be done. It is hard to know which is less likely.
Another take away is that this would not be possible in Democracy. Democracy naturally hates shortages being cured.