Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Isn't Helping

For those not living in the upstate New York region, we've been hit with a major flood, arguably the worst this area has ever seen in some three hundred years of being inhabited by Westerners.  Entire towns such as Owego were under water, have no utilities, and after six days, no real access to groceries.  Enter New York's attorney general:

"As hurricane and flood victims work to get their lives and property back in order, my office stands ready to enforce price-gouging laws so that no one is taken advantage of in this difficult time. New Yorkers are strong and resilient, and our state will recover stronger than before, but consumers must be protected throughout this process."
This is not helpful.  Yes, to one who doesn't think about it for more than two seconds, a very sudden rise in prices during an emergency might seem like a horrible thing to do.  If you're buying up canned goods, you're going to complain about how all of a sudden you have to pay so much more because something bad happened to you.  Clearly unfair, right?

That is, until the guy who can't get to the store until four hours later shows up.  If prices remain low, all of the scarce goods will be gone by whomever gets into the store first, as these people are stocking up for the long haul.  Those who show up later get nothing.  Not they have to pay so much more, but rather they get no food at all.  Higher prices means people buy less; people buying less means other people can have a shot at buying scarce products. 

The market is not broken, even during times of emergency.  Ironically, the laws to prevent "greedy capitalists from exploiting people during tragedies" really puts the screws to those who need resources the most. 

Sometimes, you have to think about morality for more than the nanosecond it takes to form a gut reaction to something in order to find out the truth of the matter. 

I work in the only grocery store that will be open as of tomorrow at 9 AM.  We're not raising prices.  Try as we will to get shipments in, we could very well run out of a lot of products pretty quickly. 

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