Monthly Archives: October 2012

NJ Governor Christie Doesn’t Like Price Gougers

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Foundations of the Market Price SystemSomebody has to kill this myth. I’m going to attempt to contribute to that end today.

The myth to which I’m referring is that so-called “price-gouging” should be outlawed because doing so makes people better off. I care not to go into whether it is evil in “taking advantage” of people in need, though I feel like this would be a hard position to defend (since when are sellers not looking for the highest price at which they can sell?). The most basic reason is this: when two parties engage in a voluntary trade, both expect to benefit from it. Otherwise, they would not participate in the trade. This is even the case when people are seen as “price gouging.”

In this EconTalk podcast regarding the aftermath of a hurricane in North Carolina, Mike Munger of Duke University explains how the electricity went out and hence, his refrigerator was not operating. He had quite a value of food stored in it; without power, it would go bad. Many others were in the same situation and sought bags of ice to keep their food cool. The spike in demand caused the price of a bag of ice to increase to several times its normal price. This may seem like a bad thing, but it has the beneficial effect of increasing the likelihood that those who value the ice more will be the ones obtaining it (for example, someone who requires the ice for baby formula and values it more highly than someone who simply wants to chill his beer will be more likely to get the ice). Even though the price of ice is several times higher than usual, as long as it is lower than the cost of spoiled food, the purchaser will gain.

A higher price will also lead to more people supplying the good, which has the beneficial effect of increasing its supply, obviously, but also limiting the price increase. This is what happened with some guys from out of town. They decided to rent ice trucks and stock them with several bags of ice, hoping to sell it to those without electricity. That they did. Long lines formed and people grumbled about the higher price, yet revealed their willingness to pay it by purchasing the bags of ice. Both buyer and seller were made better off. However, somebody called the cops, who subsequently arrested the ice sellers for price gouging and commandeered their trucks (which they turned off, causing the ice to melt into water). Strangely, people cheered as these ice sellers were hauled off. Did this make them better off? Well, before they had the option to buy ice at a higher price or choose not to buy ice. Now they had no option to buy ice. Obviously, this doesn’t improve their situation, but can only make it worse.

And so it goes with price controls. Price ceilings have the effect of reducing supply; a low price is of no help if one cannot find anyone willing to sell it at such a price. This consideration doesn’t change in light of natural disasters.

What is disappointing is that heads of state show themselves to be ignorant of such economic reasoning. Governor Chris Christie of NJ has threatened to punish price gougers in light of Hurricane Sandy. Apparently he thinks it’s better to have nothing than to have the option of buying something you want at a higher price. Or he thinks sellers are perfectly willing and able to meet everyone’s demand in a time of crisis at normal prices. Either way, its a bad thing for sellers and buyers in New Jersey.

Now Writing for Adam Kokesh

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A few weeks ago I was invited to write news segments for Adam Kokesh’s new Adam vs. The Man News show on YouTube. This is the first one that was produced:

You can see the full pilot episode here.

Disclaimer: I can assure you that any colorful language used was added by someone else. I am careful about how I write, not wanting to needlessly offend people with curse words or vulgar terms. I think voluntarism has a place for everyone and should not be confused with libertinism.

What is kind of funny about it is that I auditioned several months ago. Adam wanted me to write four days a week. I said I would rather write two days a week. I didn’t hear back from him for several months. Since then, I had discontinued listening to his show because I had actually found him to be too offensive for my tastes. He seemed to be on the side of good since he was promoting the voluntarist message, but I sincerely hope he’s not turning anyone away in the process.

I was offered a writer position a few weeks ago, now with the promise of being paid $2.50 for every 1000 views my videos get (I’m still waiting to see that money, but I’ll let you know when it comes). As well, I was told that AVTM was interested in getting our work as writers promoted, though I’m not sure how that works since we aren’t even cited as contributors to my knowledge. So I decided to try it, at least for a while…

Let me know what you think, whether it be of this story, Adam Kokesh, whatever.

NDAA on Cracked.com

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Being somewhat new to Cracked.com, I was pleasantly surprised to find an article about the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. It starts off quite well, saying things that need to be said. The first is that you don’t have to wait until you are in a jail cell to be able to say that there are serious infringements of liberty going on. I especially like how the author addresses the question of whether Obama is a liberal, making the point I made on No Time 4 Bull that most political labels are meaningless. Are modern liberals supposed to care about civil liberties and be anti-war? Try and find one. Or better yet, try and find one who won’t be an apologist for Obama. And yet, the Cracked writer seems to come out and say that there is no such excuse in this case.

Regrettably, however, the second page of the article does not tidy things up well, as it seems to defend the rationale for the NDAA (and makes me question whether I should even recommend the piece)! I was very surprised, as the first page was so very insightful about the sad state of the public’s knowledge of the police state and the effort to combat it, yet the second page lives in some statist fantasy land, where 9/11 events could be around any corner. If this were the case, why would the US government have to create so many false terror plots? [Note: I can’t claim that I’ve read and verified everything in the preceding link. It is just meant to provide examples.]

Anyway, I don’t agree with everything in the Cracked.com posting, but I’m glad that a variety of outlets (including comedy sites) are bringing NDAA up. People should be aware of what their rulers plan to do to them.

Shift – Liberty in North Korea

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Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) is an organization that came to my campus this spring. One of the things they do is help refugees from North Korea resettle in other places, such as South Korea and the US. I like this, as it is applying the method of Opting Out.

I will put the disclaimer that I don’t like some of the language used in the video, such as “In the 18th century, we believed that Africans were less than human.” I’m not sure to whom “we” is supposed to refer, but I assume it’s Americans, past and present, in general. But it is a principle of methodological individualism that only individuals act. I, for one, and I trust you, the reader, never supported chattel slavery. To say that “we” believed in slavery in this way is nonsense.

Other than that, they are correct in saying that perceptions matter and that we might not even be aware of them. In my own experience, even though it was right under my nose if I had bothered to look, it’s obvious that the State does things that would be considered criminal if private individuals did them. But I never questioned that the State should exist until their criminal nature was pointed out to me and a rational alternative was proposed. Likewise, when many people think of North Korea, they see a closed, communist society that has a nuclear program. Often missing from the analysis is that communism kills people, mostly through starvation and deprivation due to irrational economic policies, as well as a totalitarian regime that kills dissenters.

Thus, I want to do what I can to lend support to this organization in the hopes that North Korean society will become open enough such that charitable organizations will allow greater opportunity to help people there. I would totally be interested in sponsoring a little North Korean boy or girl. Anyway, check them out if you’re interested.

Watch “Pro Libertate Podcast #3” on YouTube

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William Grigg does some amazing work and it deserves to be witnessed. This video is about how police officers who embezzle millions of dollars won’t even face criminal prosecution, but one who defends people against other police officers can expect to be fired. Please also check out his blog at libertyinourtime.blogspot.com.