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I was looking up the effects of anti-price-gouging laws on Google.

http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2007/Mungergouging.html

Hurricane Fran hit Raleigh, North Carolina about 15 years ago. About a million people were out of ice, power, and chain saws in 92 degree weather. An hour away, four lads in an unaffected area that had stocked up rented a couple of freezer trucks and bought 1000 bags of ice at $1.70 a bag. They drove into Raleigh, chainsawing the trees blocking them and clearing the road. They set up shop in Raleigh, charging more than eight dollars a bag. Few people in the line refused at the price. About an hour later, the cops drove up, handcuffed them, and took their trucks of ice to impound, where it melted. There's a $5000 dollar fine for price gouging in an emergency in North Carolina. The people waiting for ice at the high price, applauded the cops, apparently not realizing that there was now no ice at any price.

Meanwhile, the authorities were begging for ice from the feds and neighboring state governments. Cheap ice showed up about 5 to 7 days later. I'm sure the diabetics with rotting insulin in their refrigerators were cheered.

I hope that North Carolina has wised up by now, but I doubt it, because anti-gouging laws make people feel so superior to those evil people supplying their most urgent needs.

Gouging has two good effects, because it allocates scarce resources far better than any administrator. It attracts the goods from outside the area that can be sold at a healthy profit. That in turn lowers the price as goods come in. The contractor with two generators will think twice about buying a spendy spare that would better go to a nursing home that desperately needs it.

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