Hot Air reports on New Jersey going after price gougers, and by “price gougers” we mean “people trying to provide goods and services to areas wiped out by Superstorm Sandy”:
When allowed to function properly, the free market works very smoothly in bringing people the goods and services they want, in the amount that they want them, and for the price at which they value them. As much as people don’t like hearing it, the laws of supply and demand are no less vital in the event of an emergency — but politicians sure do love to rag on those greedy, profiteering businesses that jack up their prices in the event of a sudden supply shock or demand spike (a.k.a., “price gouging”). Anti-price gouging laws are a huge mistake that hurt the public at large, because all they accomplish is preventing the free market from doing what it does best: Quickly and efficiently adapting to conditions in a way that benefits everyone, and in an emergency especially, price gouging can save lives.
In a nutshell, price gouging incentivizes people to take only what they really need to survive, meaning that a greater amount of people will be able to get the necessary supplies instead of arriving at the store to find rows of empty shelves. What’s more, high prices can incentivize suppliers to bring more of the sought-after goods into the affected areas.
In disaster areas like parts of New York and New Jersey, the question is not, “Would you rather have expensive gasoline or cheap gasoline?” The question is, “Would you rather have expensive gasoline or no gasoline?”