The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Monday, October 24, 2005

Price Gouging

Richard Posner, on government measures addressing price gouging:
What prompts such reactions besides sheer ignorance of basic economics (a failure of our educational system) and demagogic appeals by politicians to that ignorance is the fact that an unanticipated curtailment of supply is likely to produce abnormal profits... Such intervention is nevertheless a profound mistake, and not only from some narrow "economic" perspective that disregards human suffering and distributive justice. If "price gouging" laws or even merely public opinion deters refiners and dealers from charging the high prices necessary to equilibrate demand and (reduced) supply, there will be shortages. Consumers will still be paying a higher price than before the shortage, but they will be paying the higher "price" in the cost of time spent waiting on line at gasoline stations, or (if they drive less because of the shortage) in the form of restricted mobility. And those who need the gasoline the most, not being able to express their need by outbidding other consumers for the limited supply, will suffer the most from the shortages. The only beneficiaries will be people with low costs of time and nonurgent demand.

One visit to Costco yielded ample empirical evidence.