<$BlogRSDURL$>

 

Preposterous Universe

Saturday, August 21, 2004
 
Jeb Bush, apostate?

"I think it's horrific that people would do that, I don't sense that is the defining element of this storm, though."--Gov. Jeb Bush on post-Charley price gouging in Florida. [SPI]


Some might argue that "price gouging" is an unreasonably pejorative label for free enterprise in its purest form. Catastrophes reduce supply and increase demand. Classical economics suggests that price gouging in the wake of natural disasters is inevitable and even desirable. High prices are said to discourage waste and non-profit hoarding and to increase the flow of goods to stricken zones. Many free market faithfuls also defend the entrepreneur's right to profiteer. They argue that owners are entitled to sell their goods to the highest bidder. The gospel of laissez faire teaches teaches that these entrepreneurs deserve whatever price their goods will fetch. On this view, it is simply wrong to interfere with the seller's right to name her price, regardless of the consequences of her business practices.

Rawls, justice, and desert have become hot topics in the blogosphere. (See Scott Paeth for a thoughtful precis of recent discussions.) Libertarian/objectivist Will Wilkinson has made Reflective Equilibrium a water cooler issue.

Rawls' method of Reflective Equilibrium (RE) can be used to reason about the ethics of price gouging. Rawls argues that we should develop our stance towards gouging (or anti-gouging laws) by scrutinizing our preexisting attitudes towards the practice and attempting to reconcile them. In this case, we feel the pull of two compelling normative claims: a) that property owners are entitled to dispose of their goods as they see fit, and, b) that people who demand exorbitant prices from desperate people act unjustly.

Our laws and public discourse reflect an some uneasy and incomplete middle ground. Florida is one of at least 20 states with anti-gouging laws. (For more details, cf the invaluable Brendan Koerner.)

As usual, Jeb Bush seems slightly unbalanced. As a free market apostle he ought to welcome the wave of free enterprise. Yet, he too recoils at the thought of greedy business owners exploiting desperate citizens. The irony isn't lost on Mark Kleiman:

I can see both sides of the argument; my point here isn't that anti-gouging laws are wrong, but that they ought to be controversial in a way they currently are not, at least among those who consider themselves principled advocates of laisser-faire.


Maybe Jed is just pandering to disgruntled electorate. Maybe he believes that the price gougers are (expendable) red-blooded entrepreneurs. Somehow I doubt that. The Governor seems sincerely appalled by the behavior of the storm profiteers. Sadly, I doubt this tension will prompt the governor to reassess his theory of justice.

[x-posted with Majikthise.]

 
Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll


Preposterous Home
Atom Site Feed (xml)
RSS Feed
Technorati Profile
Bloglines Citations
Blogroll Me

Elsewhere
3quarksdaily
About Last Night
Alas, a Blog
The American Sector
apostropher
applecidercheesefudge
archy
Asymmetrical Information
Big Brass Blog
Bitch, Ph.D.
Blondesense
BlogBites
Body and Soul
Brad DeLong
Chris C Mooney
Collision Detection
Creek Running North
Crescat Sententia
Crooked Timber
Daily Kos
Daniel Drezner
Decembrist
Deepen the Mystery
Dispatches from the Culture Wars
Dynamics of Cats
Electron Blue
Eschaton
Explananda
Ezra Klein
Fafblog
Feministe
The Fulcrum
Girls Are Pretty
Grammar.police
Jacques Distler
James Wolcott
John and Belle
Julie Saltman
Lawyers, Guns and Money
Leiter Reports
locussolus
The Loom
Majikthise
Matt McIrvin
Matthew Yglesias
Michael Bérubé
Michael Nielsen
Mixing Memory
Mr. Sun
Not Even Wrong
Obsidian Wings
Orange Quark
Paige's Page
Pandagon
Panda's Thumb
Pharyngula
Playing School, Irreverently
Political Animal
The Poor Man
Quantum Diaries
Quark Soup
Real Climate
Rhosgobel
Roger Ailes
Rox Populi
Shakespeare's Sister
Simple Stories
Sisyphus Shrugged
Smijer & Buck
TPM Cafe
TigerHawk
uggabugga
Uncertain Principles
Unfogged
Volokh Conspiracy
Wonkette


Powered by Blogger
Comments by Haloscan
RSS Feed by 2RSS.com


Archives
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005