Lynch the Gougers!

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If
you haven't heard, the Phoenix metropolitan area is running low
on gas. Long lines of drivers with short tempers wind from the few
stations with the precious fluid. The media sends out small armies
of reporters and cameramen to further annoy those stuck in queues
said to last up to two hours. As usual the media inflames rather
than informs. They have turned a temporary shortage into a u2018crisis'
through their persistent caterwauling that agitated the driving
public to fill their cars, SUVs, and other vehicles to the brim
whenever possible. The media manipulated fear and caused a minor
panic, proving that as a propagandist, even the lowest form of journalist
can incite the mob.

Recently,
the web site of the local newspaper, The Arizona Republic,
showed an irate man yelling at station employees because the price
of a gallon of gas was $3.99. He believed the gas price should be
lower. For him, and the rest of us, that price would be $0.00 a
gallon. That's human nature.

The
station owner would love to sell it at $1,000 or more a gallon.
That's human nature. Business prudence informing the market has
established the rates for a gallon, as of August 20, from $1.99
to $2.49. Given the circumstances this is not unreasonable.

They'll
never admit it, but those envious feelings are quite universal in
enterprise because greed drives transactions and is kept at bay
only by the market. The simple law of supply and demand is as set
in human transaction as the law of gravity is in physics. Virtue
often acts on greed to mitigate it, but in our secular society virtuous
elements are quickly disappearing because government has stepped
in and promised everyone it would punish the greedy and protect
the victims… if only the populace ceded more liberty for the chimera
of an all-encompassing u2018security' and u2018protection.'

The
truth is: the democratic mob wants something for nothing because
it believes it's entitled to it. Demagogues inflame the mob. Gas
line executives are duplicitous, station owners greedy, poor computers
victims, while the government will ride to the rescue.

The
Hillary-esque governess of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, a lawyer,
turned bureaucrat, turned politician, presented this view in a recent
news conference. She probably has never run a business in her life.
This socialista said in a recent press conference, "Arizona
drivers deserve to get gas when they go to gas stations. That’s
not an unreasonable expectation." We deserve gas? We merit
gas because of some inherent right? She speaks like a true socialist
who wants to inflame one group against another for the financial
benefit of lawyers who feed on this kind of meat in the various
courts in the nation and for the extension of government power in
the social and economic realms.

She,
the dull-witted media, and usual suspects of socialists from both
parties in the legislature believe the right course in this alleged
u2018crisis' is to go after u2018price gougers.'

"We
need laws on u2018price gouging,' the governess growled. Later she added,
“… I’m angry that the private sector, which is supposed to be
in charge of running gasoline into the Valley, doesn’t have its
act together to deal with a critical situation, so now the public
sector has to step in."

When
she, or any politician says, "the public sector," she
means government: more laws, more regulations, more bureaucrats,
more taxes or u2018fees.' While they try to soothe the mob's savage
breast with calls to punish u2018gougers,' politicians quickly rise
up to take more and more power, knowing the mindless believers in
democracy will cheer the ominous move.

What
is price gouging? Nobody knows, but one thing is certain: it's another
way for government bureaucrats to kick in the front doors of small
businesses and dip their vile hands into the tills of these generally
powerless people.

The
punitive redistributionist idea of anti-gouging laws inhibits business
and magnifies government; especially the policing agencies that
tend to become immune to elimination. These laws will require another
layer of government to sit atop the businessman's enterprise influencing
whatever he does by instilling fear in him. He will probably realize
over time that it's better for him to sell out or just close shop
than to continue as a legally-bound slave to a nest of bureaucrats
who have the authority to make his life miserable and to strip him
of his livelihood.

The
idea that bureaucrats can alleviate any ill real or imagined, such
as u2018price gouging,' is the political equivalent of faith healing
by quacks. The gullible pay the admission price, swoon at the charlatan's
tricks, and fall prey to the deception. The quack, though, gives
a better show and usually disappears over time; the former are with
us forever like allergies in springtime.

Yet,
the question of what is u2018price gouging' has not been answered. Check
out some u2018price gouging' laws from around the country and you will
notice one constant. It is the metaphysical element of u2018unconscionable.'
Though lawyers may squabble over this term and give it some distorted
meaning, it has no meaning to real transactions.

I
go to the gas station and wait in line. The large sign out front
tells me the price of a gallon of gas is $10.00 a gallon. Still,
I wait and fill up my car's tank. The seller of the goods made me
an offer that I AGREED was fair at this time because I NEEDED the
product.

I'm
relatively happy that I have gas and temporarily have eliminated
the worry of running out.

Down
the road I see an owner, who apparently went insane, charging only
$1.00 a gallon. My reaction? I kick myself for not taking a greater
risk, but realize that at least I have gas to get to the bar, the
ballpark, my girlfriend's home, and later to pick up my wife at
work. If I hadn't filled up on $10 a gallon gas, I wouldn't be able
to pick up the wife!

However,
if I'm part of the mob crying out for vengeance I call the attorney
general and in my meekest, most pitiful voice cry, "I've been
gouged! I DEMAND justice!"

Or
if I'm really inflamed by the unseasonable heat I go fetch a bat,
return to the owner, and beat him or his goods with it. Then I shout
at the TV cameras as I'm hauled away, "Power to the people!
Vengeance is mine saith the mob!"

Both
scenarios, preferably the latter, in our victim hungry society makes
for easy news, unfettering the alleged journalist to do the real
work of hair combing, trouser crease straightening, calling friends,
stock quote checking, or the myriad of chores filling the days of
reporters in these End Times.

The
true nature of life in the world is transaction, every day, day
in day out, hour in hour out. In economic transactions, it is solely
based on two people-buyer and seller. It's not pretty, mostly not
involving sex. Broadcast of most transactions would send the most
ardent couch potato into a deep sleep if shown on the evening news.
u2018Crisis' sells; u2018shortage' sells; u2018price gouging' sells; but the
daily lives of most Americans do not sell advertising or newspapers.

But
the fact remains, whether or not the media and politicians like
it, if I don't like your price, I go elsewhere. If I can't go elsewhere,
I may accommodate my needs in a reasonable and rational way. Nobody
holds a gun to my head to pay an unfair price. The decision is solely
mine.

Most
people are like me, waiting for gas, willing, though not happy,
to pay the price to keep us off buses.

The
neighborhood gas station near my home had long lines on Monday,
August 18. By midafternoon the gas was gone. A station employee
told me, "No gas till Friday." Then yesterday I heard
that a shipment would be in for Thursday. I woke up at 4:00 AM,
drove to the station, filled my tank… no waiting. I went home drove
my other car to the station, filled the tank, again no waiting.
The price was $2.39. On Monday the station's gas price was $1.89,
or fifty cents more per gallon. I paid the price without kicking
the pimply-faced teen to unconsciousness or death. There were few
other drivers also filling up, yet with this largesse of petroleum
product none of us was smiling.

We
grimly faced the real world as the rational men we're supposed to
be. We might not like it, but we like it even less to be slaves
to the State.

On
Wednesday, I spoke with an employee of the same station. She said
that on Tuesday, the day following the lines, she had no deposits
for the bank. There were few customers coming in to buy sodas, chips,
ice, and other items usually purchased with the gas. My son was
one of the few customers on Wednesday. While the hysterics shout
about u2018price gouging,' few pay attention to the real costs the owner
must bear. With an erratic supply of gasoline, and the threat of
little more for the rest of the month, the owner must make the economic
decisions that impact his employees. Lay offs? Closure? Cut back
on hours? Will he win back any of his loyal customers? Will his
supplier squeeze him out of business during this shortage? Will
he be able to meet his own mortgage or pay on his other debts? These
factors weigh on the pricing decision. He did not enter business
to lose his shirt. Yet a cloud of mosquitoes alights on his shoulder
to watch every move.

Will
the Arizona Attorney General incited by governess Napolitano legally
lynch our neighborly station owner? Probably not. But the media
will sniff out some business owner, ridicule him in public, and
perhaps even destroy his business because his prices were u2018unconscionable,'
yet there were enough people who wanted and needed his product enough
to pay the price. They drove in, filled up, and left. They could
have driven on and waited. That's the free decision we still can
make in our market economy.

Will
we be able to make those decisions tomorrow? All bets are off when
government smells an opportunity to metastasize.

August
22, 2003

Dario
McDarby [send him mail] owns
McDarby Writing Service, which writes commercial copy for small
businesses and non-profits in the Phoenix area.


        
        

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