Author Archives: Greg Morin

Facebook Unfriended by Congress

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the latest in a long line of corporate leaders called to the principal’s office err, that is, before Congress. So apparently this entity known as the United States Government (which has been spying and monitoring its own citizenry at a level that would make a former Stasi agent blush) has called Mr. Zuckerberg to task for apparent “privacy” breaches on the Facebook platform. Let that sink in for a minute: the US government monitors, records, and intercepts all of your web traffic and phone conversations but it is they, of all people, who are concerned about your privacy. Right.

So what exactly is Facebook accused of doing wrong? Apparently they allowed an outside company (Cambridge Analytica) to purchase PUBLIC information about Facebook users from an intermediary. In other words Facebook normally sells this information to advertisers (that is of course their entire business model), but instead someone else got the info for free and sold it. So it seems like Facebook is the wronged party here, not its users or the US Government. It’s the equivalent of the stock boy tossing loaves of bread in the trash and then selling them in the alley after his shift is over. And don’t even get me started on the whole “they allowed Russian trolls to buy ads and influence the 2016 election” nothing burger. Please, everyone who was going to vote for Clinton but then saw a Facebook ad disparaging Hillary and thus changed your vote, please raise your hand. Anyone, anyone? Bueller? Bueller? That’s what I thought.

You’d think Facebook got caught disclosing social security numbers and other sensitive information, oh, wait, that was the IRS. Come on people – what did you expect would eventually happen with all that personal info you’ve been happily typing away into their platform? This is a FREE service. Nothing in life is truly free. As they say, if the service is free, then you’re the product. Or more precisely your metadata is the product: your age, your gender, your likes, your dislikes, your hobbies and on and on. Now I may be showing my age but I do recall a time when television was “free” (and as an aside it is humorous to read about millennials just now discovering this “secret” method to get free TV! Over the air! Who knew?) Why was it free? Because advertisers paid for the entertainment you received just to have the opportunity to try and sell you something. Yes ads are annoying, but that is the price you pay (your time) for that “free” service. Facebook is no different. If you don’t want Facebook to use your private info then don’t use the service or limit what you expose of your life on that platform. This isn’t rocket science.

But, with respect to the Federal government’s snooping into our lives, there is no way to opt out of that short of never using any digital device ever. No phone, no computer, no internet. The men in black are plugged into all of these by virtue of their ability to threaten companies into submission in order to use their products as a backdoor into our private lives. That is the difference between private and public spheres of influence. Private ones are voluntary and can be left if desired. If I don’t want Amazon’s Alexa listening to me then I just turn it off and put it in the drawer. If I don’t want Uncle Sam listening to me then my only choice is to send a physical letter or go meet the other party in person. Also the worst outcome of a private company using your info is an attempt to sell you something you have no interest in. The worst outcome of the state doing so is throwing you in a cage for a myriad of its victimless “crimes.”

The fact that Congress believes they have the authority to call private citizens before their court betrays the reality of the world today. We are not a free people. We have masters. And when the master calls, you come. This is not the same as the employer/employee relationship. That is a voluntary interaction. Our interactions with the state are involuntary (assumed “consent” to their authority via voting notwithstanding). Tolerating bullies (the state) does not equate to voluntary acquiescence to their perceived “right” to order you about; it is simply tolerance of a bully, nothing more, nothing less.

World War III ?

“What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.” Donald J. Trump, August 29, 2013, Twitter.

Perhaps Donald Trump should start re-reading his own tweets and take his own advice. Of course Trump’s failure to follow the Constitution with respect to waging war is the least troublesome aspect of the US’s latest incursion into Syria (Presidents have been doing this since Reagan). What’s more frightening is that Trump can be so easily manipulated by such an obvious attempt at foreign policy puppetry by the Deep State (aka The Swamp, the entrenched unelected bureaucrats of the various intelligence agencies both foreign and domestic).

Just step back for a second and consider what we have witnessed this past few weeks. On March 29 Trump announced plans to begin pulling US troop presence out of Syria (much to the consternation of his hawkish advisors e.g the war monger John Bolton) and by that evening he already began to back pedal on that promise. Then a mere 7 days later there was an apparent chemical weapons attack by Syrian forces against rebel groups putatively ordered by Assad. For Assad tactically this makes no sense. So an occupying force in your country, whom you do not want there, says they are leaving and your first instinct is to do something so belligerently provocative that said occupying force would have no alternative but to stay? That does not benefit Assad at all. But do you know who it does benefit? It benefits the war hawks who are plugged into the military industrial complex (that Eisenhower so presciently warned us of) looking to enhance their own fiscal or power gains. Or the sad ideologues who still drink their own lemonade of believing they can somehow transform the Middle East into some sort of Western Democratic utopia. Yeah, because that model has worked so well in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So while there was much conflicting information on the ground coming out of Syria about who carried out these attacks or whether they even took place at all, the war hawks realized they must strike fast while emotions were still running hot lest they lose the wind filling the sails of the ships headed toward war. On this past Friday the US launched a strike against supposed Syrian chemical weapons sites. Unfortunately they (and we) may get a lot more than they bargained for. Russia clearly and unequivocally warned that any such strikes would be met with an equal response. For those unfamiliar with World War I, this is exactly how World Wars get started. Each side drawing lines in the sand and gathering ever larger groups of allies on both sides. As each side begins to escalate their responses we may quickly find ourselves embroiled in nuclear war. And for what? For nothing. For either a blatant lie or for an internal heinous act that is quite frankly not in any way related to the defense or security of the United States. It would be like Russia stating it is in Russian security interests to bomb ATF headquarters after our government slaughtered innocent civilians and children in Waco, Texas.

If Trump is truly concerned with ending the deaths of innocents perhaps he should end our support of Saudi Arabia in their incursion into Yemen that is resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of Yemenis children. Oh, but the Saudis are our allies, so that makes it ok when they slaughter innocents. Right, got it, murder is ok when it’s our friends. Donald Trump is just Hillary Clinton with tax cuts. As a New York Times best-selling author and historian Thomas Woods says, “No matter who elect you always get John McCain.”

Respect is a Two Way Street

This past week the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 673, which broadens the existing Georgia ban on texting while driving. The bill requires the use of hands-free technology when such devices are in use. The putative goal of this legislation is then to keep more eyes on the road and fewer in the lap. Certainly a laudable goal and for the most part it should have the intended effect (once drivers are pulled over – 99% of people are not plugged into the news cycle and will remain ignorant of this subtle change in the law until they themselves are informed by the local constabulary).

However it seems no new law is complete without smuggling in a perverse incentive clause. Such lunacy is the hallmark of government imposed rules. A perverse incentive produces the exact opposite of the desired outcome. One of the more humorous examples is the one in which 19th century paleontologist in China would pay peasants for dinosaur bone fragments they happened to find when plowing their fields. Win-win, right? Wrong: the villagers, they learned later, were smashing the bones into numerous tiny fragments to maximize the per piece payments. So in similar fashion this new law has a backdoor that will maximize, rather than minimize, eyes in the lap. It does not recognize an exception on the prohibition of device usage even when stopped at a stop light or stop sign. Since it is much more likely to be noticed using your phone while stopped (beat cop, motorcycle cop, or nearby patrol car) this continued prohibition will have the entirely predicable outcome of incentivizing people to clandestinely use their phone in their lap where nearby eyes are less likely to notice phone manipulation. It makes zero sense to disallow use while stopped. When your vehicle is not moving you present zero danger to anyone. At worst you may get honked at for not moving when the light turns green. If people know they can check their phone every few minutes at the next light they will be far more willing to simply wait until that opening arrives. But if that opportunity is proscribed and made even more fine-risky relative to use while in motion, then people will choose the less fine-risky path and do so while in motion.

If we must have road socialism (state ownership) then it shouldn’t be too much to ask that such owners provide the people with a safe product. To encourage a safe environment there needs to exist legal liability for the owners along with a set of fairly enforced and rationally understandable rules. We’ll never have the former but two out of three is better than nothing. When the rules (traffic laws) are neither fair (e.g. letter of the law rather than spirit of the law enforcement), nor rationale (ban on use while stopped) and to top it all off driven by blatant self-interest (fine collection) then drivers lose respect for those rules and the institution that enforces them and that loss of respects hurts all on the road. If people respect the reasons behind the rule, they’ll respect the rule. In Germany speed limits are set to maximize safety, not revenue. Drivers there will be slow down or speed up in unison upon changes – because they respect that the sign is conveying real information about the driving environment rather than a desire to hand out speeding tickets. If the state respects the driver, the driver will respect the rules.

Ostrich policies delay the inevitable

Following in the wake of the recent school shooting in Florida, corporations all across this great land of ours are falling all over themselves to virtue signal their adherence to right-thought by distancing themselves from an organization (the NRA) that had zero culpability in the recent shooting. Brilliant. Supposedly the NRA stands as some bulwark against “common sense” gun control being passed – even though such “common sense” laws already exist and would have thrown a roadblock at the shooter’s attempt to obtain a weapon had the federal government minded their own business. The irony is that a fair portion of culpability falls at the feet of leftist “do-gooders” and not the NRA.

During the Obama administration a new policy was established that had the goal of reducing racial “disparities” in suspensions and expulsions from school, part of Obama’s overall “School Leniency Policy”. Basically the policy was this: don’t report serious crimes to the cops, try to solve the issue “in house.” That’s a laudable goal perhaps, but not when the crime is extremely violent or the incidents are persistent. After the first year of implementing this policy more than 30,000 incidents of students physically assaulting teachers went unpunished and unreported to police. The shooter, Cruz, benefited from this system of see no evil, hear no evil. His repeated misbehavior and violent threats were quietly swept under the rug in order to achieve the goals of this federal program. Indeed, Broward county went quickly from leading Florida in student arrests to having one of the lowest arrest rates in the state. Pay attention here: this is exactly the same technique by which Cuba is able to report ultra low infant mortality (ignore the problem by killing preemies or aborting anything suspect) or that the UK can show very low homicide rates (only count homicides in which someone is caught and convicted… unsolved cases are ignored in the statistic). Very easy to get the result you want if you just ignore the problem.

In any event, because Cruz managed to evade getting caught up in the criminal justice system, he had no criminal record and thus easily passed the legally mandated federal criminal background check when he purchased his AR-15 in February 2017. In other words, President Obama is far more culpable in this particular case than is the NRA. If he had merely kept the Federal government’s nose out of how local schools manage their discipline problems Cruz would have been arrested many times and never passed a criminal background check. As an aside, it has been put forth that this is why the FBI did nothing with the tips about him; he wasn’t “in the system” so was not thought to be a credible threat.

One of the companies involved in the NRA tie cutting (discount loss for members) is the Georgia based Delta Airlines. In response, the fascist/cronyist Georgia legislature decided to swat them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. A tax bill that was wending its way through the legislature had some juicy sales-tax breaks for jet fuel that would have greatly benefited Delta. The legislature threatened Delta with the loss of those breaks unless they restored the NRA discount. Delta did not, and the legislature made good on their threat. As a private company Delta has the right to associate or not associate with whomever they please (unless they make wedding cakes, then they have to associate with everyone) so it is a glaring failure of democracy that it is possible for those in power to abuse it so. But it is also a failure that such corporate favoritism (i.e. cronyist direct tax breaks) can take place. Sometimes two wrongs do make a right.

Gun Laws: The Philosopher’s Stone of Violence

It’s happened again, there has been another unprovoked violent assault by a nut job with a gun. And with a predictability that would make Pavlov proud, the left has eructed onto the blogosphere and social media with smug condescension. Their target? The evil Republicans of course; they obviously WANT children to die. It’s as if the left honestly believes all we have to do is pass a couple of laws and (dusting hands) problem solved.

But, let us first dispel some fake new making the social media rounds. The first is the lie that there have been 18 “mass shootings” at schools in 2018. In fact there have only been 3, all others were either suicides, accidents or didn’t involve any injuries whatsoever.

Granted three is three is too many, however why not just tell the truth and say there have only be three? Why the constant need by the left to overstate the incidence of everything they find objectionable by redefining what those terms mean? Perhaps to make everything look like a crisis that requires immediate state intervention so their worldview can be forced upon everywhere else? Nah.

Likewise another tired narrative is how the US has far more shootings than any other country in the world. This is an example of the old false equivalency fallacy. Typically the US, a country of 300 million, is compared to some tiny little nation with a population of 5 million (Denmark say) without any mention of the difference in population. Clearly, every country equals every other country when comparing countries. But that is not how we do statistics.  Data must be normalized to population (rates per 100,000) and violent act (e.g. not gun assaults but homicides). When we do that, the US falls somewhere in the middle.

And if you look at individual US states and compare the strict gun law states to the loose gun law states and look at HOMICIDE rates (not gun deaths or suicides) you’ll see there really is no clear correlation one way or the other. Some super strict states (California: 4.9/100k) have a higher homicide rate than very lax ones (Montana 3.5/100k). New Hampshire has the lowest rate of any state (1.3/100k) – if you really believe laws make the difference then copy them. Isn’t the point to reduce all homicides, not just homicides using some particular weapon?

If the left were serious about stopping gun deaths they would lobby instead to end the drug war and make all drugs legal. It is easy to ignore the unseen, that is the non-newsworthy deaths of  a handful of people every day in every city all across the country due to drug-related gang turf disputes or shoot outs with authorities (bear in mind NONE of those would occur were drugs legal.) But roll a dozen or so deaths together in an afternoon and in one location and now it is Armageddon! Broken pipes get attention, but dripping faucets not so much.

Again not to belittle the deaths of anyone, but the point is it is trivially within our grasp to save the lives of tens of thousands every year by simply doing nothing – by simply ending the drug war. It costs nothing to do and in fact would yield a huge preventive dividend by allowing police to devote more attention to crimes with actual victims. But no, the left would rather continue to believe the fairy tail that somehow if we could only waive some magic wand and make all guns illegal (because that is the only reform that could even hypothetically have stopped mass attacks, all the other suggested reforms would have done nothing whatsoever to have stopped the attacks of recent memory) – well then we would have the promised land and all would be solved. Yes I hear it coming, the “Oh but Australia did it and it worked!” objection. Please. As I said above the difference in population between the two countries is 13:1. Since 1996 when Australia enacted a federal ban on firearms there have still been 11 mass attacks. Three involved guns (cough, banned, cough), the rest deployed other deadly means: arson, blunt objects, and vehicles. So yes, fewer “gun” attacks, but still plenty of violent attacks. On a per capita basis, in comparison to Australia’s rate, the US should have had 143 such attacks in the same period. The actual number? 34.

Words Speak Louder Than Actions?

Why so much hate for the Donald? If we look only at his actual policies they are in fact no different than any of his predecessors. Differences that may exist are in degree, not kind. Or non-existant at all. For example ICE deportations are both up and down under Trump when compared to Obama. They are up from FY2016 (61,094 vs 44,512) but dramatically lower under Trump than under Obama’s first years (averaging over 225,000 from 2008-2012). The point being before you start jumping up and down about what a monster some president is in comparison to “your guy” chances are high that “your guy” at some point did the exact the same thing or far worse. That goes both ways my Democrat and Republican friends. That’s because they are all the same. Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump – they’ve all been responsible for murdering innocent civilians in other countries by the truck load. But nobody cares because we wave the flag and chant “US interests” or “national defense” as if somehow that incantation is supposed to bring absolution. We’re all too eager to protest the president over something he said (mere words) but then stand silent with respect to their horrendous actions (murdering innocents). I guess actions don’t speak louder than words when it comes to Presidential concerns, at least where it concerns Trump.

Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump have all escalated the drug war. They have all been responsible for caging millions of people for the “crime” of having in their possession something that some other people think they shouldn’t have in their possession. If we threw people in cages for owning certain books there would be a groundswell of public outcry; yet change that word from “book” to “drug” and somehow it all makes perfect sense. There is no constitutional amendment (like alcohol prohibition had supporting it) mandating a drug war, so any of these presidents with the stroke of a pen could have ended this senseless and costly “war” on drugs. That not one of them has serves as a testament to their cowardice and wickedness.

So it is not Trump’s policies that the left finds so objectionable but rather his delivery. Indeed when he shuts up and bombs people the press fall all over themselves praising how “presidential” he is. For shame. Killing people is presidential? Trump is crude and blunt when he speaks. Not at all how we picture our Hollywood presidents to be. The press and the left would like someone from central casting (like Obama) filling the role – someone who just “seems” presidential. This crudeness is perhaps Trumps only redeeming quality. It puts the lie to the notion that presidents are somehow better, smarter, and wiser, than the rest of us and are worthy of the power we bestow upon them. They are not. With Trump we see the Everyman President. And it scares us. And it should. But it should scare us no matter who occupies that office. Do not be so easily duped by the silver tongue of the professional politician. If you focus on their deeds and not their words then perhaps we might one day reign in their power.

Not Neutrality Part 4

Now that the daily news cycle has shifted its focus from the end of human civilization (net “neutrality” rollbacks) to the latest outrage du jour over yet another autisticly unfiltered remark from Donald Trump (“s*****le countries”) now would be the ideal moment for a small dose of “the truth hurts.”

“Net Neutrality” is yet another Orwellian up-is-down state propaganda that does the exact opposite of the plain meaning of the words (e.g. see Social Security, Affordable Care, Patriot Act, etc.). Were one to introduce a bill called “Shipping Neutrality” that required all shipping carriers use the same vehicles over the same routes and charge the same amount to everyone regardless of package size or distance, then perhaps it might dawn on the proponents of net neutrality just how absurd their position is. The absurdity swells further when one stops to ponder the fact that the explosive growth and innovation occurring on the net occurred in an unregulated environment. Then in 2015 the FCC changed the regulatory landscape and “net neutrality” was born. A mere 2 years later it is being undone yet somehow the internet as we know it is going to come crashing down around us. I’d like to take a moment of silence so we may ponder the dark days on the net that were 2014.

The internet has flourished not despite a lack of regulation but because of it. Innovators were not required to approach the crown on bended knee in order to be granted permission to innovate. To get a glimpse of government oversight of a rapidly innovating industry look no further than the FDA. A massive backlog of drug applications (innovations) at the FDA creates an unending queue of useful products languishing in limbo while development costs skyrocket during the endless wait. Innovation in a state run economy moves at the speed of a single elderly Wal-Mart greeter. Such a drip-wise pace might seem adequate, that is until you have experienced the waterfall of innovation that is produced in the unfettered and unregulated free market economy (e.g. the internet).

The proponents of net neutrality are oddly conservative in their tactics. For conservatives change is bad. It’s bad because it instills FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in their heart. Those pushing the net neutrality agenda also play that fear card. They would have us believe our favorite websites will be slowed or blocked altogether if we don’t pay an endless litany of new fees. They see an á la carte internet (paying only for services you need) as tantamount to Sophie’s Choice. Please. Given the level of public outrage over even the thought of these ideas no ISP would be foolish enough to try such a thing. They would immediately lose their customers to ISP’s that did not engage in the hated practice.

But, and here’s the truth that hurts that nobody wants to face: it is their right to do whatever they wish. If they want to block websites, throttle speed, charge more or less for different services that is their right. If you own it you can do whatever you want with it. Just because modern society has become dependent on certain services (electricity, phone, internet, television, etc.) does not mean those things are basic human rights that must be supplied in an unaltered state at a fixed cost ad infinitum. For anyone to categorically state that another party must supply them with X at Y cost for Z duration and that if they don’t they’ll get their buddy Mr. Government to beat the living crap out of them until they do is the height of hypocrisy. It is hypocritical because you can be quite certain they would object if someone approached them with the same demand, that is, that they now must give their labor for others at some price and duration for which they have no say and that if they refuse to do so they will be thrown in a cage.

Neutrality delivered via the barrel of a gun goes by another name: tyranny. (for parts 1-3 see this page)

It’s A Wonderful Life (Without Copyright)

This holiday season I exited what is I imagine a rather exclusive club – those who have never seen “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Yes, I was always somewhat aware of its existence, what with the numerous cultural references, homages, and satirical spoofs one encounters in modern media. However I had never bothered to take the time to watch it until this past week. While this is no movie review, it was indeed endearing in a nostalgic/quaint sort of way; I can see why it is cherished and loved.

But, just as George Bailey got to glimpse the world had he never existed, I will ask you to ponder how your life might have been different had you never seen or heard of this film. Why? Because, but for a typographical error, it was nearly wiped from existence in 1974. Although the film premiered in 1946 it was not the box office success one might assume it was based on its current wide appeal. It actually did so poorly it drove Frank Capra’s (the director) production company into bankruptcy. And there it languished for the next 28 years (the automatic copyright period under the then governing 1909 Copyright act). But in 1974 a miracle happened: the filing for the additional 28-year extension was typographically botched in some way and it was not renewed.

At that point it was in the public domain. That meant that any network, TV studio, or local station could play it royalty free. We, the viewing public, were then inundated every Christmas for nearly the next 20 years with round the clock showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This forgotten tome became a cherished classic within a few short years, as permanent a fixture at Christmastime as Mistletoe or Eggnog.

Sadly in 1993 the copyright owner of the book (“The Greatest Gift”) the movie was based on was able to manipulate the court system and IP (Intellectual property) law to reestablish copyright over the movie. Some might argue this is only fair; they should be permitted to reap the rewards of their great grandfather’s efforts 50 years later. It is perhaps the definition of irony to use copyright law to establish ownership over something that derives its value solely from the lack of copyright.

So the moral of this story is that all our lives would be richer if some things (copyright, and all IP) had never existed. Consider the unseen harm of copyright: all of the otherwise obscure creative output locked away behind copyright never to be experienced by anyone. What, dear reader, are you missing out on?

(No, this is not a call for “free” stuff – without the artificial state imposed constructs of intellectual property laws other, non-coercive, models to artistic remuneration would emerge (as many have already today in response to online piracy)). If your business model requires the threat of violence to protect only the value of what you produce then there is something wrong with your model; violence is never the answer to getting what we want.

Riding the brakes?

Do you remember when those hurricanes hit Texas and Florida last month and since some people couldn’t access their money to buy food and other supplies the government just waived the law against theft so people could get what they needed more quickly? Yeah, me neither. But in fact the government did waive one law last month: the Jones Act. This waiver applied to affected ports in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.  But I thought laws were the very immovable bedrock upon which society was based. How can such pillars of civilization be summarily set aside? The answer is that such “laws” are not really law at all. They are but mere whims and cronyist preferences of those with the power to rule over we mere peasants. These “laws” rather than preventing victimization they instead create victims by benefiting one party at the expense of another.

The Jones Act of 1920 artificially restricts the transport of goods between US ports to only those vessels owned, operated and principally manned by US citizens. In other words no “ferners” can move goods from US port to US port. It was established for putative national security interests post World War I, predicated (as all such protectionist measures are) on a fear of the big “what if” nightmarish scenario of US goods being transported mainly by foreigners….shudder. Of course such a policy is amenable to the autarkist interests of any nation eager to engage in war.

So while the Act has benefited the US merchant marine industry, it has been at the expense of consumers, principally those on US protectorate islands (like Puerto Rico) who by necessity must have nearly all goods brought in by ocean. A 2012 study showed that it cost nearly twice as much to ship to Puerto Rico from the US as it would were a non-US vessel permitted to make such shipments. Another study showed it costs Puerto Rico $537 million per year. In other words $537 million more goes to US vessels (seen benefit) and $537 million fewer dollars goes to those businesses and industries (unseen harm) where that money would have been spent had it stayed in the pockets of the Puerto Rican people.

If a law becomes an obstacle in times of distress then think of what it does in normal times. Although one can get from point A to B while riding the brakes on a full tank, does it really require running on fumes to realize perhaps this constant braking is not a good idea? It is time to remove all such artificial drags on the economy. The role of government is to protect our rights, not to benefit one group at the expense of another.

 

Fallacies

Just as the warm, moist air of late summer engenders the destructive fury of hurricanes, so too do these storms bear the perennial fruit of economic ignorance. Like clockwork the talking heads either eagerly forecast economic prosperity or decry the mendacity of the evil price “gouger.” Or both. The former is the classic example of the broken window fallacy, which like a case of herpes, will never be fully expunged from humanity’s collective consciousness. The error lies in focusing on seen benefits while ignoring unseen harm. We are implored to consider the benefits of jobs that will be created as we set about rebuilding lost homes, towns, and infrastructure. But this economic activity is not enhanced; rather merely diverted. All the money spent on rebuilding would have, absent the hurricanes, been spent on other goods and services. It is those markets and industries that will in turn see economic decline as fewer people spend in those areas. Even if argued that the rebuilding funds come exclusively from the savings coffers of insurance carriers therefore it wasn’t going to be used anytime soon, that still does not change the economic dynamics. A huge influx of “new” cash competing for a fixed amount of supplies does nothing but cause prices to rise for everyone else (e.g. building supplies will be in higher demand therefore all users of such supplies nationwide will experience higher prices). These higher prices mean, again, fewer dollars to spend on other goods. The only sense in which one could argue that net economic activity increases is if we assign no value to leisure. Certainly if one works 12 hours a day rather than 8 to both rebuild what was lost and maintain what one still has, then output is indeed greater. But is that the world we want to live in, where we sacrifice leisure in the name of economic output? Why we don’t need a destructive storm to achieve that, just pass a law enforcing a 16 hour work day and we could double GDP overnight! Destruction is not the path to an economic free lunch. Everything has a trade-off. The only path to prosperity is through savings, capital accumulation, and investment of that capital toward avenues that make production more efficient (i.e. cheaper).

The price gouger fulfills a valuable economic role, namely the rationing of constrained supplies in direct correlation to need. The feedback is immediate and perfect. There is no need for the imprecision of someone overseeing how much has Person A bought in such and such time period if rationing is imposed by pubic or private diktat. This issue is not so much of a fallacy since people do generally understand principle that if supply goes down prices will go up. Rather, it is more of an issue of emotion; each person’s barometer of what a “fair” increase amounts to varies. The fallacy is in believing that someone charging an “unfair” amount deserves to be thrown in a cage. As much as people would like to redefine words, “victim” does not describe someone who paid more than they would have preferred. So, no victim, no crime and thus any laws against price “gouging” are themselves victimizing when those with a true need find nothing but empty shelves. Trading willfully unobserved harms for spurious benefits leaves us all vulnerable.