paft (paft) wrote in talk_politics,

Just in Time for Halloween!

I suppose it’s appropriate that we get this truly scary, fanged, and drooling glimpse of the face of modern capitalism on October 31st. CNBC Senior Editor John Carney has decided to weigh in on the subject of price gouging during a disaster.

What’s striking is the bland cluelessness, a level of naivete that, feigned or not, borders on the murderous. After pointing out that, once a few of these layabouts experience having to pay, say, $100 for a case of bottled water, they’ll have received a salutary lesson in being prepared for disaster, Carney observes:

One objection is that a system of free-floating, legal gouging would allow the wealthy to buy everything and leave the poor out altogether. But this concern is overrated. For the most part, price hikes during disasters do not actually put necessary goods and services out of reach of even the poorest people. They just put the budgets of the poor under additional strain.

Right. The poor never have to do without “necessary goods and services” in normal times, so they certainly won’t have to do without them during disasters like floods and hurricanes! For the most part, anyway. And if a few poor people are unlucky enough not to be part of that “most,” seeing a few bodies of neighbors who’ve died from hypothermia or thirst will teach the rest of those lazy beggars a lesson about the dangers of overconsumption!

Carney apparently believes the plight of many people during a disaster is about dickering over prices rather than access to resources that could save lives. “This is a problem better resolved,” he declares, “through transfer payments to alleviate the household budgetary effects of the prices after the fact, rather than trying to control the price in the first place.”

Of course, this is only going to help those people who managed to survive in a "marketplace" where the prices of goods are jacked up to the point where they end up having to choose what live-saving goods to purchase. Potable water? Uncontaminated food? Dry warm blankets? Hey, if you can't afford all of them that's just now how the marketplace works, buddy, and if you or a member of your family ends up not making it because you chose wrong, those are the Randian breaks.

Surely the transfer payment you get later will compensate for having to watch them die.

But wait! There's more! Carney has followed this post up with another mentioning merchants giving away perishable goods, in which he asks:

Clearly, people could pay market prices for the perishing goods. Does the fact that they aren't mean consumers are gouging merchants? Should this be illegal?

Is this man from another planet?

Tags: disaster, economics
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