Capitalism will fix 99.9% of the problems we have with supply of necessary items during a crisis.
If only we allow it to work.
The wife and I stopped at Meijers last night to get a few things to top off the ol prepper inventory. It was almost a surreal experience however, as nearly every cart we saw was full to the brim and strangely guarded, as-if each person was carrying around their most treasured worldly possessions.
I guess the WuhanVirus panic has taken over. And along with that, folks are planning on hiding out in their homes with as much as they can, at least until the NBA resumes its normal schedule.
By now folks have probably heard of the toilet paper crisis. There are few stores if any that have any stock of toilet paper left on the shelves, and there are many videos of morons with dirty derrieres have been cage matching it to make sure they have enough wiping paper to last them through the year 2022.
*Public service announcement – Note that the picture above is recently taken. Also note this property is defended, and I am always home.
Meijer had an entire aisle empty that used to contain all the Toilet paper an entire town might need for a month. In the next aisle, the voided shelves (toilet paper joke?) had once held all manner of disinfectant wipes. Flour, Sugar, some other sundries that keep well, also showed signs of being in-demand at above normal levels.
Sam’s Club has apparently has sold out it’s notable TP supplies, and this is hardly a local phenomenon. The wife did sneak off again to the local grocery (Toms Market) this morning to gather a few food items that we forgot at Meijers, and while there she witnessed a near free for all, with folks buying nearly everything they could get their hands on.
Tom’s actually had toilet paper, but they were also limiting purchases to one-per-person as a means of providing enough for everyone who actually needs it. This didn’t sit well with one customer who apparently had a LOT of toilet time planned, and raised holy hell with the underpaid cashier.
There is an easier way of handling this however. But it carries the risk of action from an overly aggressive state and federal government. (with the best of intentions)
Once again, there are legislative critters who believe it is THEIR prerogative to protect customers of privately owned business from predatory practices. From MLive:
As hand sanitizer and other sanitary products become more scarce with the onset of coronavirus, Michigan officials are warning consumers against price gouging – and new legislation in the Michigan Senate aims to stop it from happening during emergencies.
The bipartisan bills backed by Sens. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, and Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, and Attorney General Dana Nessel would define price gouging as businesses raising prices above 10 percent of what consumer goods, lodging or energy products cost immediately prior to an emergency situation.
Just remember these actions when someone says “capitalism is failing us – see? Look at the shortages!” They simply couldn’t be more wrong.
Assume that a ‘capitalist’ response was to happen unimpeded by the hammer of government however, and what might actually happen? Would shortages become worse? Would prices become unreasonable? Would the bears have to go back into the woods and use the rabbits?
What if the manager of Sams Club said “whoa, we just dropped 25% of our stock because people are hoarding TP!” ? If the response was to raise prices immediately in a significant way, the legitimate buyers who might otherwise find barren shelves, would see what? Wouldn’t there be a chance that people might more accurately gauge their need for said product?
And if you absolutely need something, is it better to go without, or pay a higher price to guarantee that it will be available?
I have written on this before. Multiple times. And it needs to be repeated.
This is a message that needs to be re-issued every couple of years. Price ‘gouging’ serves a purpose. Higher prices provide value to the buyers AND the sellers when uncontrollable conditions dictate it. In 2008 I wrote about Granholm’s similar quest to use government for control of gas prices:
But when considering the situation, how bad is it to charge more for gas, and at WHAT point is it considered price gouging? Not only that, but what RIGHT does GOVERNMENT have to CONTROL Prices? If a station owner is looking at NO deliveries for the next two to four days raises his prices because his supplier is unable to guarantee delivery, who is in a position to criticize it?. What is that person supposed to do? By gas prices going high temporarily, it guarantees that those who TRULY NEED the resource will have it.
Need is different from WANT.
Need, is VERY MUCH different from want.
This really drives home the argument that capitalism is never going to be allowed to exist in our presumably free market system. As long as government can tell a business owner what prices to charge, who can shop in their stores, or whether smoking (a legal activity otherwise) is acceptable in a privately run store, we cannot at all consider this country’s business dealings to be truly ‘capitalist’ in any way shape or form.
Yet clearly, capitalism if allowed to work, has obvious benefits!
If Meijer, Sams or the local store were allowed to price in a way that provides a disincentive to hoarding, people with poopie butts no longer have to look at the cat funny when the TP cupboard is prematurely bare. Other products that become freak out points for irrational humans would also see necessary numbers remain for those who truly must-have them!
There is no exception to the benefit. Especially in a situation where there is no expectation of delivery disruptions.
As I point out in my other posts that with gasoline, disruptions can be mitigated by price increases, leaving enough for the absolute needs that do exist during crisis. Likewise even without supply disruptions, increasing the price of something as common as toilet paper can provide for those who will gladly pay a couple bucks more to keep their kitty clean.
Oppose anti-gouging legislation always. Contact your legislators and tell them to support real free markets.
And poo well my friends.