Is price-gouging in a disaster a good idea?

All right, I am finally going to write this. I see a lot of conservative commentators saying that they wish governments would allow price gouging as a practice to provide market discipline to all the selfish assholes who are hoarding essential goods. And they are not completely wrong… Those selfish assholes are legitimately going to break the supply chain in what used to be the world’s richest country at some point. You’ve got Grandma and Grandpa sitting on a multi-million dollar 401(k) right now and they are going to put it all into toilet paper and canned tuna and building the Great Wall of Chef Boyardee like total psychos. It’s some sicko sport to them now. In North Carolina, thieves recently hijacked a semi with 18,000 pounds of toilet paper to sell. These people are so crazy the media are going to start quoting toilet paper in kilos. The people who behave like this are a plague unto themselves right now.

So normally I would agree 100% with the argument that price gouging is an excellent way to deal with the perverse and deeply antisocial behavior of hoarding and a virtuous way of protecting access to essential goods and services. But other aspects of the local government response to this problem are making that bad logic in reality. Note: I am not attacking you for suggesting this. You are right on the basic economics. But we are clearly not in a “free market” situation these days and people need to be allowed to survive.

I live in a hurricane-prone area and I have seen hoarding on this level to a much smaller degree before. I can’t believe I would have now experienced something that would allow me to make light of hurricane hoarding. Ahead of a hurricane, jerks will back up giant tanks in the bed of their pickups to buy up all the gas for their generators. The gas stations run out of gas quickly, and that makes it hard for people who need to evacuate. Those people need to be price-gouged – sorry not sorry, you’re an asshole.

But current circumstances are really fucked up, y’all. I have been very open here about how my father had an aneurysm several years ago. He cannot leave the house right now. In fact, everyone in regular contact with him cannot leave the house right now. It’s not as easy for him as go to a supermarket and wait in line for blah blah blah, then go to the next supermarket and wait in line for blah blah blah. This is not a matter of inconvenience for him. He is not an entire population, however, so in a rational world this situation should be easy to manage.

The hoarders broke my parents’ ability to prepare for this event. And now they have broken the online delivery systems on Amazon and local supermarkets. I thought about buying food for them and getting in the car and driving 2,000 miles or whatever it is from Florida to Denver to deliver it to them, but I have a family here myself and I am not sure with curfew and shelter-in-place laws that I would even be allowed to return. At this point, they are going to be relying on people from their church to get food to them physically. Thank God they have a church.

It doesn’t have to be that way and it infuriates me morally that it is. All these idiots with a lifetime supply of stuff in their garage because cable news told them this was going to be just like The Walking Dead are making it so that people who are vulnerable – not hypochondriacs, but actually vulnerable – cannot get food. It’s legitimately sociopathic behavior, not unlike the jerks in the Senate who are trying to front-run a Great Depression in their portfolios.

Now why should someone like my father have to pay $1,000 for what should be a basic grocery run because some woman wants to buy all the Dawn dish soap because in some nutso prepper scenario in her brain she can trade it for something she actually wants? Personally, I would rather the government tell her to shape up or they are going to throw her in prison with the coronavirus.

People are going insane because they are marinading in bad information and fear-mongering. And they are behaving in downright evil ways.

I hate to get all religious after the above, but this is exactly the kind of thing one would expect of a nation that has turned its back on God and lost all communitarian instincts whatsoever. This is a civilization that lacks a wisdom tradition, and it shows. It shows all the freaking time now and I am sick to my bones of seeing it in action.

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