The Folly of Anti-Gouging Laws: WSJ or Mises Daily?

HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. of the Wall Street Journal channels David M. Brown at Mises Daily:

Hug a Price Gouger

“The public doesn’t want to hear it, but the public also doesn’t like empty shelves.”

Sounding like Bastiat, Jenkins concludes, “Crackdowns on gouging are plausible only because the advantages of not prosecuting price gougers belong to the category of the unseen—the public can’t see the supplies that would be available but for price-gouging laws. A good statewide New Jersey gasoline panic might correct that myopia, at least for a while.”


  1. When I read about price gouging I am reminded of something I saw after a hurricane hit Charleston, South Carolina (I can’t remember which hurricane). Two enterprising college students from Georgia rented a large truck before the hurricane his and filled it with bags of ice. After the hurricane they drove to Charleston and began selling the bags for about 5 times what they paid for them. There was a line that stretched for blocks of people waiting to buy ice.

    About an hour or so after the students began selling the police arrived, handcuffed the two students, then closed, locked and confiscated the truck and ice. That was not what made this memorable.

    As the police put the students into the back of the police car the crowd began cheering and clapping for the police, and as they drove away with the truck filled with ice following behind, the crowd continued to cheer. These people were willing to stand in a line blocks long for the chance to buy a $1.00 bag of ice for $5.00, yet when they were deprived of the right to ice they cheered. When asked about the incident people in the crowd said the students got what they deserved because they were price gouging. No one ever asked the people what they would do for ice or why they were willing to pay 5 times the price for ice.

    I don’t understand people. They will suffer to the point of death to uphold some idiotic perception of unfairness.

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