Price Gouging Has Defenders

And there are more of them all the time.

Free market fantasists like those at the American Enterprise Institute, an organization dedicated to writing economic fairy tales, seem to be coming out more and more in favor of allowing price gouging during disasters (emphasis his).

Rising, market-based prices following a disaster are the most effective method possible of allocating scarce resources, eliminating shortages, and attracting essential supplies to the areas that need them the most.  In fact, market-based prices are also the most effective method possible of allocating scarce resources, eliminating shortages, and attracting essential supplies to the areas that need them the most before a disaster – wind and rain don’t change that reality.

I’m not sure what’s worse, the euphemism or the delusion. Either way, this is fucking sick.

David Brown at Mises Daily reprints an article he wrote after Hurricane Charley, which I lived through up here. Essentially his argument is that raising prices to incredible heights ensures the equal distribution of goods since it prevents people from hording what available resources there are. I might almost agree with this, but what Brown fails to do is recognize that it also entirely cuts people unable to pay for $15.39 a bag ice out of the market. It presumes that there are no people who would have bought only one bag of ice because that’s what they were able to afford, and it callously ignores that people who require ice but can’t afford those prices will suffer as a result. As per usual, the free market fetishists don’t much give a shit about the suffering of others and cling to a system that requires suffering meet a certain level before any change is affected, abhorring the pro-active and glorifying the reactive, whether or not it’s far too late.

What Mark Perry and David Brown don’t seem to understand is that there is a cost in human lives that they are ignoring. The problem with price gouging is not that it’s economically unsustainable, it’s that people who can’t afford artificially inflated prices fucking starve to death. I understand that these are poor people and therefore unworthy of life by the standards of Perry, Brown, and their ilk, but can they at least pretend to a shred of humanity?

And I may be unfair, here. They may be among the hordes of people who seem to believe that with no government, no regulation, and perfect laissez faire capitalism, the Invisible Hand will gently guide us all to Fantasy Land where magic unicorns will give rides to children for $3 a pop and we’ll all know the dignity of work. Everyone is always equal there and only rises or falls based on their effort. Everything is bought and sold and there’s no government to make people into selfish meanies, because democracy is inferior to economic anarchy where the only law is that which is determined by contract.

This is not some isolated opinion. Even presidential candidate Mitt Romney seems to think that a disaster zone is the perfect time to make a buck (emphasis mine).

Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

I fail to see how predicating disaster relief on whether it will result in profits for a corporation is somehow better than ensuring that people who are in need of disaster relief actually receive it.

But of course, the people saying these things will never be in this position. Mitt Romney will go to another one of his houses. Mark Perry will do whatever Mark Perry does in an emergency, which I suspect is not worry about where his next meal will come from because the price of all the food he needed up buy has just skyrocketed.

This is why I’m a liberal: because thinking that a disaster is a time to seek profit is inhuman, and the twisted fantasy world that people like Perry and so many millions live in has no basis in reality. It’s no different than saying that without somebody telling me how gravity works that I would be able to fly just by flapping my arms. Except when I say that and believe it, only I get hurt. When Mark Perry and David Brown say this shit and believe it, other people get hurt.


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