Price Gouging: A Life-Saving Market Mechanism

Price Gouging: A Life-Saving Market Mechanism

09/13/2018TJ Roberts

As Hurricane Florence prepares to ravage the Southeastern United States, social media warriors, and “news” outlets are exclaiming their outrage at the business owners who are raising prices on essential items such as water, food, gasoline, plywood, and even hotel rooms. This “price gouging,” however, is absolutely essential, for people’s lives are at risk due to this storm. When clouded by emotion, increasing the price of these commodities may come across as detrimental, and even malicious. But a sober mind must acknowledge the necessity of price flexibility.

Price Gouging and Basic Economics

We can look at the effects of price gouging from two perspectives: supply and demand.

On the demand side, increasing the price of these goods makes consumers more conscious of their purchases. In other words, this encourages people to live within their means. When a disaster is incoming, such as a hurricane or a blizzard, people will see others at grocery stores stocking up on water and other essentials. They will, however, purchase too much if the price stays the same. Whereas a storm and its immediate aftermath may last for a few days, people will purchase enough to last them for months, resulting in shortages.

By increasing the price of a good, customers are more likely to purchase only what they need to survive. Now, many will say that this just means that the rich will outbid the poor on necessary resources. But this is not the case when one thinks on the margin. In everyday life, the rich don’t outbid the poor on food because the rich do not need all the food in the world. They will only purchase food so long as the perceived benefit acquired is worth more than the money they will have lost if they make the purchase. In other words, price gouging stops the rich from buying all of the water and thus allows the poor to buy water that they may desperately need.

Keeping the Prices the Same Hurts Everyone

Suppose water stayed at the same price throughout a disaster. The receivers of the water will then be the first to show up. But what if the first comers take far more than they need for this disaster? Then there will be nothing left. By increasing prices, store managers are making sure that people only buy what they find to be necessary so that they do not run out of goods. This allows for a greater distribution of essential goods.

On the supply side, price gouging helps increase the quantity. The rich can only outbid the poor if there is a fixed amount of a given resource within the area in which a disaster has occurred. This is far from the case. By increasing prices, the market is signaling to businesses to reallocate resources to the area in need of resources. This has two effects.

First, entrepreneurs who live outside the disaster area see a willingness of consumers to purchase items at a higher price. That means that entrepreneurs will be far more likely to take the risk of traveling to the area to sell the items. This makes the number of goods to rise, allowing for more people to be able to access essential resources.

Second, charities see higher prices and begin initiatives to give resources to those in need. Governments cause shortages by implementing price controls. Charities and entrepreneurs save lives. There is not a fixed amount of goods. The price system readjusts incentive structures to ensure that enough people have what they need to survive a natural disaster.

Price gouging is no different from any other instance of price flexibility. Those who charge a higher price despite popular outrage deserve a medal, for they are saving lives by ensuring people only purchase what they need to survive a disaster. For all of you who will be affected by Hurricane Florence, stay safe and thank a price gouger!

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Record European Skyscraper

37 min agoMark Thornton

A new record breaking skyscraper for Europe has been completed as the tallest skyscraper in Europe. Under construction for six years, the 87 story building (Lakhta Center) in St. Petersburg will become the headquarters of Russia's natural Gazprom gas giant and its oil subsidiary, Gazprom. The building will not be finished on the interior and open to the public until next year.

This sets the stage for the Skyscraper Curse.

The STOXX European 600 Index, which consists of a variety of stocks from European stock markets is down 9% since September 27, about when the record was broken. HT: RB

 

 

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The Federal Government Can't Centrally Plan Immigration Any More than It Can Centrally Plan Society

5 hours agoZachary Yost

Immigration has featured prominently in the news ever since Donald Trump first announced his presidential candidacy and inveighed against Mexican immigrants and the crime they supposedly brought with them.

However, with the recent revelation that the federal government has separated over 2,300 children from their parents, immigration has again dominated the news, and with good reason: these actions were arbitrarily cruel and unnecessary.

Reasonable people can disagree about immigration policy, and the issue as a whole is not as simple as either side would like to portray. Specifically, concerns about the impact of immigration on American culture are often not given enough consideration by many people in favor of a more open immigration system.

However, conservatives favoring restrictions because of concerns about cultural change must then explain why they are willing to abandon core conservative principles like voluntary community, and why they believe that the U.S. government should centrally plan the culture of our society.

One of the core conservative insights stressed by both Edmund Burke and Friedrich Hayek is, in the words of political theorist Linda Raeder , that “social order appears as a product of the interplay of historically evolved institutions, habit and custom, objective law, and impersonal social forces.” In their time, both Burke and Hayek opposed efforts to reengineer society through central planning, whether by French Jacobins, Russian communists, or American and European democratic socialists, precisely because such efforts necessarily suffered from an inability to take into account the vast amount of local knowledge required for successful planning.

Hayek called this the knowledge problem, and wrote that

this is not a dispute about whether planning is to be done or not. It is a dispute as to whether planning is to be done centrally, by one authority for the whole economic system, or is to be divided among many individuals.

A core component of conservatism is the rejection of central planning. As conservative luminary Russell Kirk’s eighth principle of conservatism says “conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.” Conservatives, especially those concerned with the cultural effects of immigration, should explore and embrace ways of decentralizing the power of immigration away from the federal government to the state, or, even more ideally, the county level.

With over 320 million people in the U.S., it is nonsensical to think that one uniform immigration policy is sufficient to address the circumstances and needs of everyone in every place. Decentralizing the issue allows for every state to experiment to see what works best for them.

While such a radical idea may seem untenable in our current political climate, it is not infeasible in the long run, and it provides a ripe opportunity for conservative scholarship on the issue on many fronts.

On the judicial front, some legal scholars contest the idea that the federal government even has any legitimate authority over immigration at all. This is a view, which, if widely adopted, would certainly make implementing plans for decentralization much easier. Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano, the network’s senior judicial analyst, has said that “the Constitution itself — from which all federal powers derive — does not delegate to the federal government power over immigration, only over naturalization.”

Similarly, George Mason law professor Ilya Somin has argued that “the Naturalization Clause does not create a power to prevent foreigners from entering the country. It merely allows Congress to set conditions for the grant of citizenship.” Elsewhere he has contested the idea that Article I, Section 8, Clause 10 of the Constitution permits federal regulation of immigration under the auspices of the concept of The Laws of Nations. While such views are not currently widespread, merely discussing them helps to move the ball forward.

On the level of practical implementation, the Cato Institute has a white paper exploring the possibility of establishing a state-based visa system modeled on similar systems currently in place in both Canada and Australia. The proposed system would have the benefit of allowing labor to flow into those parts of the countries where it is needed and kept away from parts without a labor shortage or that don’t desire immigrants, as well as allowing for states to implement their own policies concerning welfare eligibility. This system would also create incentives so that immigrants stay in their sponsoring states by making it part of their legal residency requirements, which would alleviate fears that immigrants in New York would immediately start to flood into Pennsylvania, or vice versa.

It is my own view that some kind of sponsorship system, in which citizens post a bond or surety and are liable for the good conduct of the immigrants they sponsor, is a good way of aligning incentives for all parties concerned. As writer Chris Calton has pointed out , blanket immigration restrictions not only affect foreigners, but also affect American citizens who wish to interact in both economic and social ways with these potential immigrants. If people want more immigrants, then it makes sense that they should be willing to internalize any potential externalities, whether it be potential welfare dependence or crime.

Such an incentive structure offers a compromise between those who are enthusiastic about immigration and those opposed. Sponsorship programs in one form or another have been suggested by people across the political spectrum, such as Matthew La Corte and David Bier at the Niskanen Center, law professor Eric Posner and economist Glen Weyl , and Arc contributor and Mises Institute writer Tho Bishop .

Developing a decentralized framework should be a starting point for any view of immigration policy that takes essential conservative views about the fundamental nature of society seriously. Any true conservative would be up in arms over the idea that the government can somehow centrally plan widget production, yet many are willing to cede the idea that the government can somehow successfully centrally plan the makeup of society itself, which is much more complex than any industry.

It is time to take conservative principles seriously and begin the development of a truly decentralized approach to immigration.

Originally published by Arc Digital.

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Jeff Deist on the Accad and Koka Healthcare Podcast

11/19/2018The Editors

The Accad and Koka Report, hosted by two MDs, focuses on free-market approaches to medicine and health.

Drs. Michel Accad and Anish Koka recently hosted Mises Institute president Jeff Deist for a no-holds barred look at how Congress, the medical establishment, and lobbyists work together to make healthcare anything but free. Watch the interview here.

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Sheriff Tries to Clean Up Government

11/15/2018Mark Thornton

In an attempt to "clean up" government the sheriff of tiny Marshall Country, Alabama (pop. 97,000) ordered 22,000 rolls of toilet paper and 450 cases or trash bags. No word if this was an accident or if it was an attempt to bankrupt the county.

Extra Toilet Paper at the Sheriff Sept. in Marshall Co.

 

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78 Million Americans Now Live in States with Legal Recreational Marijuana

11/15/2018Ryan McMaken

Advocates for marijuana legalization won another victory this year as voters in Michigan voted to approve legalization of recreational marijuana in last week's election.

This comes only a month after Canada finalized its legalization of recreational marijuana, making it only the second country where the national government has legalized nationwide recreational use.

Nevertheless, with the addition of Michigan to the eight other states that have legalized recreational marijuana (not counting the District of Columbia), 78 million Americans now live in jurisdictions where it's been legalized.

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Were these states to form their own country, it would be the nineteenth largest country in the world — larger than the United Kingdom and France.

This new reality has already made itself felt in federal policy.

In 2017, Congress voted to deny the Justice Department funds to enforce federal laws against medicinal marijuana.

And when now-outgoing US Attorney General Sessions announced plans to crack down on marijuana use that had already been legalized at the state level, he received bipartisan opposition in Congress. Not even republicans in Congress from pro-legalization states want anything to do with a ratcheting up of the Drug War.

Also pending in Washington is the "Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act" which, is essentially a "states' rights" bill supported by both parties in the name of reining in the drug war. Its purpose is to recognize what the Tenth Amendment already makes clear: that the federal government has no authority to dictate to states as to what people can eat or smoke.

One shouldn't expect many politicians to apply this philosophy across the board, although recognizing the importance of decentralization in the Drug War is a good first step.

Trump has suggested he will support the bill.

Illinois and New Hampshire may be next on the list for legalization, perhaps in 2020.

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The New Bob Murphy Podcast Interview with Jeff Deist

11/15/2018The Editors

Bob Murphy has a terrific new podcast called, unsurprisingly, The Bob Murphy Show. His focus? "Free markets, free minds, and grateful souls." Bob tells us he plans to focus more on individuals and their personal stories than libertarianism or economics per se. He's already hosted Tom Woods and Carlos Lara, and has big ideas for noteworthy future guests.   

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Here Bob and our own Jeff Deist discuss Jeff's time in DC, and what it's really like behind the scenes in the feckless US House (hint- people are uglier, dumber, and less cunning than House of Cards). They also consider Jeff's work in the world of private equity M&A, and how low interest rates cause huge distortions in how--and whether-- deals are done.

Be sure to subscribe to Bob's new show!

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An Easy Alternative to the Brexit Agreement

11/15/2018Gary North

Prime Minister May says that she has reached an agreement with the European Union.

The agreement is 585 pages long. Every time politicians vote to implement a 600-page document that was written by high-level bureaucrats, the liberties of the citizens of that nation decline. The devil is in the details, and there are a lot of details for the devil to get into.

She got it through her cabinet. Now she has to get it through Parliament, which is going to be a challenge. The pro-Brexit people hate conciliation, and the Remainers don't want to agree to anything remotely like Brexit.

She was never a big fan of Brexit. She is going along with the whole thing grudgingly. She has stalled an agreement for almost 2 years.

If Parliament won't vote for her agreement, then Britain will depart from the EU on March 29. It's automatic.

I have a solution. Parliament does not have to accept any agreement. No agreement is necessary.

Here is my Brexit solution. Parliament votes for this law.

Her Majesty's government adopts a policy of zero tariffs and zero import quotas, beginning tomorrow.

That's it? That's it!

There would be no negotiations with foreign countries. There would be nothing to negotiate.

If exporters located in EU countries want to sell something to the Brits, good for them. If there are Brits who like the products and accept them, good for them.

Tariffs are simply sales taxes on imported goods. Anytime a government cuts taxes, that is positive.

Revenues to the government would fall. This is also good.

Import quotas don't generate any revenues. There shouldn't be any import quotas.

Would trade go up between buyers in Great Britain and sellers in the European Union? You bet it would. Everybody likes to be able to sell at a discount, and, overnight, exporters to Great Britain would find that their goods now sell at a discount. No sales taxes are tacked onto the goods.

Would this be good for British buyers? Of course. Who wants to pay sales taxes?

Would financial companies leave Great Britain? No. Why should they? All of a sudden, the whole world would want to sell goods to residents of Great Britain. The doors would be open wide. If it's good for trade, it's good for finance.

If Great Britain did this, its economy would not sink. Other countries in the European Union would figure out that the benefits of staying inside the EU don't compensate for the liabilities associated with the surrender of national sovereignty. Anyway, a substantial minority of voters in those countries would figure this out. All it would take would be a policy of zero tariffs. In other words, all it would take would be a reduction of taxes. "We're outta here!"

No nation needs to sign a 500-page agreement in order to leave the EU profitably. It simply leaves the EU, abolishes tariffs and quotas, and starts trading.

Come one, come all! Let's make a deal!

This article originally appeared here at GaryNorth.com.

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A Trump-Pelosi Budget Deal is a Recipe for the Worst Kind of Tax Increase

The most disturbing outcome of the recent mid-term election isn’t that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be a Member of Congress. I actually look forward to that because of the humor value.

Instead, with the Democrats now controlling the House of Representatives, I’m more worried about Donald Trump getting tricked into a “budget summit” that inevitably would produce a deal with higher taxes and more spending. Just in case you think I’m being paranoid, here are some excerpts from a recent Politico report.

The dust has barely settled on the midterm elections, yet tax talk is already in the air thanks to President Donald Trump signaling openness to higher taxes, at least for some. …Trump said he’d be open to making an “adjustment” to recent corporate and upper-income tax cuts… Those off-the-cuff comments are sure to spark concerns among Republican leaders… Trump also suggested he could find common ground with Democrats on health care and infrastructure.

To be fair, Trump was only talking about higher taxes as an offset to a new middle-class tax package, but Democrats realize that getting Trump to acquiesce to a net tax hike would be of great political value.

And I fear they will be successful in any fiscal negotiations. Just look at how Trump got rolled on spending earlier this year (and that orgy of new spending took place when Democrats were in the minority).

I fear a deal in part because I object to higher taxes. But also because it’s quite likely that we’ll get the worst kind of tax hikes – i.e., class-warfare increases in tax rates on work, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship.

The political dynamic of budget deals is rather straightforward. So long as the debate is whether to raise taxes or not, the anti-tax crowd has the advantage since most Americans don’t want to give more of their money to politicians.

But if both parties agree with the notion that taxes should increase, then most Americans will — for reasons of self defense — want higher taxes on the rich (with “rich” defined as “making more money than me”). And those are the tax increases that do the most damage.

Interestingly, even economists from the International Monetary Fund agree with me about the negative consequences of higher tax rates. Here’s the abstract of a recent study.

This paper examines the macroeconomic effects of tax changes during fiscal consolidations. We build a new narrative dataset of tax changes during fiscal consolidation years, containing detailed information on the expected revenue impact, motivation, and announcement and implementation dates of nearly 2,500 tax measures across 10 OECD countries. We analyze the macroeconomic impact of tax changes, distinguishing between tax rate and tax base changes, and further separating between changes in personal income, corporate income, and value added tax. Our results suggest that base broadening during fiscal consolidations leads to smaller output and employment declines compared to rate hikes, even when distinguishing between tax types.

Here’s a bit of the theory from the report.

Tax-based fiscal consolidations are generally associated with large output declines, but their composition can matter. In particular, policy advice often assumes that measures to broaden the tax base by reducing exemptions and deductions are less harmful to economic activity during austerity. …base broadening often tends to make taxation across sectors, firms, or activities more homogeneous, contrary to rate increases. This helps re-allocate resources to those projects with the highest pre-tax return, thereby improving economic efficiency.

By the way, “base broadening” is the term for when politicians collect more revenue by repealing or limiting deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, and other tax preferences (“tax reform” is the term for when politicians repeal or limit preferences and use the money to finance lower tax rates).

Anyhow, here are some of the findings from the IMF study on the overall impact of tax increases.

Mitchell1.jpg

The chart on the right shows that higher taxes lead to less economic output, which certainly is consistent with academic research.

And the chart on the left shows the revenue impact declining over time, presumably because of the Laffer Curve (further confirming that tax hikes are bad even if they generate some revenue).

But the main purpose of the study is to review the impact of different types of tax increases. Here’s what the authors found.

Our key finding is that tax base changes during consolidations appear to have a smaller impact on output and employment than tax rate changes of a similar size. We find a statistically significant one-year cumulative tax rate multiplier of about 1.2, rising to about 1.6 after two years. By contrast, the cumulative tax base multiplier is only 0.3 after one year, and 0.4 after two years, and these estimates are not statistically significant.

And here’s the chart comparing the very harmful impact of higher rates (on the left) with the relatively benign effect of base changes (on the right).

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For what it’s worth, the economic people in the Trump administration almost certainly understand that there shouldn’t be any tax increases. Moreover, they almost certainly agree with the findings from the IMF report that class-warfare-style tax increases do the most damage.

Sadly, politicians generally ignore advice from economists. So I fear that Trump’s spending splurge has set the stage for tax hikes. And I fear that he will acquiesce to very damaging tax hikes.

All of which will lead to predictably bad results.

P.S. A columnist for the New York Times accidentally admitted that the only budget summit that actually led to a balanced budget was the 1997 that lowered taxes.

Originally published at International Liberty
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President Trump’s Iran Policy – Is It ‘Normal’?

11/13/2018Ron Paul

It’s not often that US Government officials are honest when they talk about our foreign policy. The unprovoked 2003 attack on Iraq was called a “liberation.” The 2011 US-led destruction of Libya was a “humanitarian intervention.” And so on.

So, in a way, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was refreshingly honest last week when, speaking about newly-imposed US sanctions, he told the BBC that the Iranian leadership “has to make a decision that they want their people to eat." It was an honest admission that new US sanctions are designed to starve Iranians unless the Iranian leadership accepts US demands.

His statement also reveals the lengths to which the neocons are willing to go to get their “regime change” in Iran. Just like then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it was “worth it” that half a million Iraqi children died because of our sanctions on that country, Pompeo is letting us know that a few million dead Iranians is also “worth it” if the government in Tehran can be overthrown.

The US Secretary of State has demanded that Iran “act like a normal country” or the US would continue its pressure until Iran’s economy crumbles. How twisted is US foreign policy that Washington considers it “normal” to impose sanctions specifically designed to make life miserable – or worse – for civilians!

Is it normal to threaten millions of people with starvation if their leaders refuse to bow down to US demands? Is the neoconservative obsession with regime change “normal” behavior? Is training and arming al-Qaeda in Syria to overthrow Assad “normal” behavior? If so, then perhaps Washington’s neocons have a point. As Iran is not imposing sanctions, is not invading its neighbors, is not threatening to starve millions of Americans unless Washington is “regime-changed,” perhaps Iran is not acting “normal.”

So what is normal?

The continued Saudi genocide in Yemen does not bother Washington a bit. In fact, Saudi aggression in Yemen is viewed as just another opportunity to strike out at Iran. By making phony claims that Yemen’s Houthis are “Iran-backed,” the US government justifies literally handing the Saudis the bombs to drop on Yemeni school busses while claiming it is fighting Iranian-backed terrorism! Is that “normal”?

Millions of Yemenis face starvation after three years of Saudi attacks have destroyed the economy and a Saudi blockade prohibits aid from reaching the suffering victims, but Secretary Pompeo recently blamed Yemeni starvation on, you guessed it: Iran!

And in a shocking display of cynicism, the US government is reportedly considering listing Yemen’s Houthis as a “terrorist” organization for the “crime” of fighting back against Saudi (and US) aggression. Labeling the Yemeni resistance a “terrorist” organization would effectively “legalize” the ongoing Saudi destruction of Yemen, as it could be justified as just another battle in the “war on terror.” It would also falsely identify the real culprits in the Yemen tragedy as Iran, which is repeatedly and falsely called the “number one sponsor of terrorism” by Pompeo and the rest of the Trump Administration neocons.

So yes, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told one wicked truth last week. But before he demands that countries like Iran start acting “normal” or face starvation, perhaps he should look in the mirror. Are Pompeo and the neocons “normal”? I don’t think so.

 

 

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Woodrow Wilson Made Democracy Unsafe for the World

11/12/2018James Bovard

This week is the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s speech to Congress seeking a declaration of war against Germany. Many people celebrate this centenary of America’s emergence as a world power. But, when the Trump administration is bombing or rattling sabers at half a dozen nations while many Democrats clamor to fight Russia, it is worth reviewing World War One’s high hopes and dire results.

Wilson was narrowly re-elected in 1916 based on a campaign slogan, "He kept us out of war." But Wilson had massively violated neutrality by providing armaments and money to the Allied powers that had been fighting Germany since 1914. In his war speech to Congress, Wilson hailed the U.S. government as "one of the champions of the rights of mankind" and proclaimed that "the world must be made safe for democracy."

American soldiers fought bravely and helped turn the tide on the Western Front in late 1918. But the cost was far higher than Americans anticipated. More than a hundred thousand American soldiers died in the third bloodiest war in U.S. history. Another half million Americans perished from the Spanish flu epidemic spurred and spread by the war.

In his speech to Congress, Wilson declared, "We have no quarrel with the German people" and feel "sympathy and friendship" towards them. But his administration speedily commenced demonizing the "Huns." One Army recruiting poster portrayed German troops as an ape ravaging a half-naked damsel beneath an appeal to "Destroy this mad brute."

Read the full article at USA Today.
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