There was a recent disruption in the supply of gasoline to Georgia due to a ruptured pipeline. The resulting shortage was the predictable result not of the constrained supply but rather busybody price controls imposed by the Governor. The universal support by the public for the Governor’s actions betrays a breathtaking ignorance of basic economics. The law of supply and demand cares not one whit for your desire to maintain a constant supply of a good while forcing its price down.
Not only should “gouging” be “legal,” but in fact welcomed. Gouging ensures a supply of a good even when supplies are constrained. For example, gouging of event tickets ensures that you can get a ticket at a moment’s notice. Although the price is high would you prefer high price and ticket vs. no ticket? Rising prices due to increased demand is the market-natural rationing system. If prices stay low, then no one cuts back and the good is quickly consumed. High prices incentivize conservation so a given supply last longer and is available to those that desperately have a need of it. Hypocritically the state blocks private business from such practice but happily engages in it on a regular basis in the PeachPass toll lanes of I-85. I have personally seen prices go from 7¢ to over $11 for the same stretch. Of course this is a good thing, and the state knows it, so it is rather disingenuous for them to block it in other arenas.
The most common objection is what of the station that raises their prices during the day on the mere rumor of a disruption? They’ve already paid for the gas in the tanks in the ground – how can they possibly justify reaping these windfall gains? Easy. The higher price (and profit) ensures the station itself can buy more from their supplier at the soon to be higher prices. If the gas in the ground cost 25 and is sold for 30, then the station takes from those sales 25 and buys the same amount again. But if they are not allowed to raise prices and it soon will cost 100 to refill the station’s tanks, then they can only buy 1/3 of what is needed and so will run out that much faster each time. If they can charge 120, they can take 100 and fully replenish the tanks ensuring a steady supply.
A tertiary benefit of high prices is as economic alarm. It signals too society that resources are more urgently needed where prices are high. People then swoop in to access that higher profit potential and so the supply immediately begins to swell and prices fall. So even when such “gouging” occurs it will not last long as the market corrects itself naturally. No need for men with guns running around threatening people.
The usual objection here is that people can’t afford the higher prices. Please. No one is going to be filing bankruptcy because they spent extra on gas for a week or so. The above average amounts are no more than typical monthly discretionary spending (movies, eating out, etc.) The prospect of possibly foregoing a few luxuries doesn’t seem like the sort of essential human right that rises to a compelling state interest. Indeed, state intervention only makes matters worse – when it comes to economics, there’s no free lunch.
There is something eerily similar to the behavior of politicians competing for votes and that of divorced parents competing for the love of a child. There are two strategies deployed in this endeavor. Tear your competitor down with insults or build yourself up through gifts. With either approach there is little daylight between Democrats and Republicans. With Trump’s recent speech directed at working women we see that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is in degree, not kind. Both are quite willing to violate the rights of the individual upon the altar of compulsory collectivism, because you know, feelings. Trump promises six weeks of paid leave for working women. Clinton promises twelve weeks of paid leave for anyone caring for someone. Why so stingy though? It’s not their money after all. Why not promise a year of paid leave? Or two, or ten? Oh, that’s right, because of course we all know there are thresholds of cost that no business could bear. Let’s be reasonable after all. So in the pursuit of reasonableness our wise overlords-to-be dial back the burden-meter until some, but not all, business could manage to survive. Since only 12% of companies currently provide paid family leave we can draw the reasonable conclusion that this is a fairly expensive benefit. Were it not expensive then naturally every business would provide it (duh). And what adjective describes somebody that can afford really expensive things? That’s right: wealthy! So what kind of sorting might we expect to see if a large expense is imposed on large and small businesses alike? That’s right – smaller businesses will shut down leaving only the larger wealthy ones behind. Likewise the (artificial, government imposed) barrier to entry for new competitors will be so high that none will pass. I can almost understand Trump proposing this. As a large business owner it confers a competitive edge to his corporate interests. But the Democrats, those supposed champions of the “working men and women” leading the charge against the evil one percenters, they are in fact giving those ultra-uber rich businesses the greatest benefit imaginable: eliminating sources of competition. The irony is I’m sure Bernie would have supported a similar mandate while remaining blind to the fact he’s helping the very businesses he decries.
Such mandates further the goal of augmenting dependency on the state by slowly dissolving agency of the individual. The state views the employee as being too weak and stupid to make the best decision for themselves. If an employee would prefer more pay and less leave time, that’s not allowed. If an employee would prefer a higher wage in exchange for flexible working hours, that’s not allowed. If an employee would prefer having a job at lower wages vs. having no job at all, that’s not allowed. Mandated paid family or maternity leave is no different than a mandated minimum wage (i.e. price fixing). All benefits boil down to a monetary cost. If you mandate paid leave (the seen benefit), then you’re going to have to pay for it by subtracting from somewhere else (the unseen loss). That could be the rollback of non-mandated benefits, smaller bonuses and raises, or fewer workers hired. The last is most insidious as it leads to increasing unemployment despite no one losing their job. It further increases the work-load (and stress) on existing employees. When that happens many would gladly trade a lower wage for a smaller workload and less stress – but – that’s not allowed because children can’t make those sorts of decisions. Only the parents – the state – are wise and responsible enough to make those kind of decisions. Thank you wise and omniscient Dear Leader.
“We will never forget.” This sentiment is nearly universally applied in remembrance of the September 11 anniversary. But what does it mean? Since most do not personally know someone who perished, it is doubtful it is intended to memorialize a particular individual. Rather, it is intended as a warning to those that attacked us, “I will never forget how you hurt us; you will pay for what you have done.” It is a passive-aggressive remembrance. But when a bee stings someone perhaps it is more fruitful to try understanding why they got stung than to wage war against the hive. Yes, the bee stung me and that rightfully makes me angry, but, perhaps my buddy should not have thrown that rock at the hive five minutes earlier. Maybe, just maybe, that had something to do with it. Sometimes we pay the price for the misdeeds of others. It is not fair. It is not right. We can’t change the past. But we can change the future by learning from the past.
Instead of being led by the nose, we need to start asking the questions we’re not supposed to ask. If the 9-11 assailants did what they did because they hate us for our freedom, then why have there not been attacks on every “free” western democracy for the past two hundred years? For some reason the history books seem to be silent on jihad-style attacks in the 1920’s or 1870’s. I wonder why. It is odd that the “modern” notion of Islamic extremist only developed post 1950’s. Let’s not forget that the US and UK governments played a hand in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état that saw the democratically elected Mosaddegh ousted in favor of a puppet dictator (the Shah). Let’s not forget that the Middle East was arbitrarily carved up by European powers in the wake of World War I and II. Let’s not forget Israel was created in 1948 by the UN by forcible removal of people from their homes. There is no single cause to this mess, but, that is the nature of an abusive relationship. A multitude of transgressions, large and small, will after many years culminate in a response. An abused spouse may long endure abuse until finally one day they strike back, violently. Such events do not occur in a vacuum.
To be clear, this is not “blaming America,” unless you subscribe to the fallacy that America is its government. Consider: my neighbor repeatedly tosses his dog’s poop over his fence into another neighborhood despite their protestations to cease such behavior. Then one day those neighbors toss a grenade back which also results in my house being damaged. I’m going to darn well blame them both! My neighbor’s actions precipitated this response. Stating that my neighbor played a hand in those events does not mean I’m disloyal to my neighborhood and blaming my neighborhood. A member of the group is not the group itself. Repeat after me: blaming our government is not blaming America. That is the lesson we should never forget: the actions of those we elect have consequences.
Labor Day, according to the US Department of Labor is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers” and as a “national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” While true, there is a major missing component in this tribute: capital. Show me a worker laboring without any contributions from capital and I’ll show you naked primitives feeding off berries and dead carcasses. Every advance in the standard of living is built on a foundation of both labor and the deferred consumption (capital creation) that permits the creation of tools to augment laboring efforts. Holidays should be deployed to remind the populace of that which normally escapes public notice. This is exactly why we need a “Capital Day”. Although capital surrounds us, it is too often ignored, like the air we breathe, and like air, our society would be dead without it.
The fact that most of you are now probably scratching your heads and wondering what possible role capital has played is all the more reason to have such a holiday. Yes, workers perform the labor needed to drive the engine of commerce, but they do not do so in a vacuum. Who paid for the building that they work in? The equipment and tools they use? Their wages? No one asks these questions. It is somehow assumed these are exogenous resources simply laying about waiting to be donned by the heroic laborer.
No, they are not manna from heaven. The capitalist provides them by virtue of having deferred consumption and thus saving resources. That savings (capital) allows them to pay others to build the tools needed to enhance the capacity and efficiency of the worker in their role as laborer. The machinist creates multiple cars in a day using tools, the material handler moves tons of goods with a forklift, the office worker performs millions of operations a day with their computer, and so on. And when done performing those tasks the workers are paid long before the revenue generated from their labor returns to the capitalist – paying someone for their service so far in advance of revenue generated from that activity necessitates that money, capital, be saved and available. Without capital every newly hired worker would have to wait weeks or months before receiving their first paycheck.
The market capitalist (as opposed to the cronyist political capitalist who partners with government in order to gain advantage) risks all. For every success, dozens more fail and lose everything. Capitalists are not mere fat cats earning a living off the sweat of the laborer – no, they play an important and vital role just as the laborer does. They provide and coordinate the resources needed by laborer to actually labor. It is a partnership, but one where one partner is honored, while the other is at best perplexingly ignored or at worst, reviled. Let us never forget the importance of both, here’s to Capital Day!