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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  26 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Three Cheers for Price Gouging During Hurricane Florence

Natural disasters are pretty much the genesis of community. Humans band together to overcome challenges that would crush individuals. This is basic social contract shit: we pay taxes and abide by rules so that when we are at a disadvantage, the greater community will protect us as we protect the unfortunate when we are not harmed.

Gouging is a fundamental attack on the social contract. Yeah - maybe you need a generator so badly you'll pay double... but in a disaster you need everything badly. Gouging upends the typical distribution of resources to the advantage of the few and powerful; Stossel's generator hero is getting there on highways kept safe by DOT, using gas certified and regulated by the Department of Commerce and selling in an environment kept safe by the police department. It's not like he showed up like the Great Humungus with an army of gay bikers at his back.

Stossel's basic argument is something along the lines of a free market allows the revelation of scarcity through price discovery. Fucking duh. A place without power needs power generation. A place without running water needs water. You don't need "price discovery" to determine this. You need the logical extension of the social contract to speed relief to affected areas so that everyone in unaffected areas can prosper under the sense that their society will protect them from the greater hardship of Hobbes' nastybrutishandshort.

It's not that this shit can't be refuted. It's that it can be solved by inspection. This here is some real Golden Rule shit and it takes a libertarian to argue that they're 100% A-OK as the starving, in-the-dark instruments of "price discovery."




wasoxygen  ·  26 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I agree that the best way to meet urgent needs following a natural disaster is for humanity to band together as one, loving and supporting one another with generosity and sacrifice.

Many people do this. If enough of us followed the Golden Rule, the gouger will have nothing to do, for people who can get generators through compassion will not pay a premium for generators.

Prices do convey information, which we can also get from the Weather Channel. They also provide an incentive for people to respond to urgent demand, when the Golden Rule is not sufficient.

kleinbl00  ·  26 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    If enough of us followed the Golden Rule

That right there is the crux of the issue, and where the rubber hits the road on libertarian/not libertarian thinking.

    Prices...also provide an incentive for people to respond to urgent demand,

No, that is. To the libertarian mindset, a market incentive is every bit as good as a social incentive. To everyone else, it's clearly, obviously, and self-demonstrably not.

wasoxygen  ·  26 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I am inclined to agree.

In my view, the non-libertarian philosophy is a grand scientific experiment, testing out systems of all kinds, discarding those which definitely end in mountains of skulls, tweaking and recombining ideas, trying to get the checks and balances just so, creating agencies to monitor agencies, sometimes ending with Sweden and sometimes with Venezuela, confident that if we can get the system right, and get people to love more and hate less, to work together and be fair and good to each other, we can lick all of society's problems.

I won't speak for others, but I advocate that we see reality as it is, and take human nature as it is, a complex mixture of self-interest, kin preference, and occasional random acts of kindness, assume that many people will do evil if they can get away with it, but most just want to get along and prosper, that market incentives are reliable because most people seek opportunities to improve their situation, that social incentives are essential because we are social creatures with herd instincts, that we look for arrangements that result in the best overall outcomes, focusing especially on reducing poverty, seeing that the increase in wealth following trade specialization and market exchange did more to improve worldwide health, peace and happiness than any grand plan, and stop worrying about inequality so much.

kleinbl00  ·  26 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The free market pundits love to slag on Piketty without acknowledging that his recommendation, after 500-odd pages of facts and statistics, was a free market economy regulated by socialists.

The question is not whether market incentives are reliable; the question is whether market incentives are more important than humans. The field of behavioral economics has demonstrated again and again and again that the more distance you put between an actor and the people he's acting on, the less humane he will be. Communism and libertarianism both work great so long as your society's population fits within Dunbar's number. As soon as there are strangers about, crime no longer has a victim. And nearly everyone can abide by the golden rule and the whole thing crumbles the minute someone steps out of line; call it prisoner's dilemma, call it tragedy of the commons, call it what you will libertarianism and communism presume a stable solution to an unstable problem.