American biofuel policy increases hardship on the Guatemalan poor, and you help every time you buy gasoline

Michael Giberson

Next time you see one of those “This product may contain up to 10 percent ethanol” stickers on a gas pump, ask yourself why federal government biofuel policies are forcing you to help increase hunger and hardship among poor Guatemalans.

Sure, politicians in their comfortable offices in Washington, DC, didn’t intend to help starve the world’s poor. But biofuel policy is requiring conversion of food to fuel and contributing to higher corn prices, so having that effect.

Looking at you, Iowa Congressional delegation.

Price gouging on guns?

Michael Giberson

Newly showing up in the “price gouging” news searches: claims of price gouging on guns. From a news report on the Atlanta Gun Show:

“This gun show hasn’t seen this amount of people come through the door in 10 years. It’s very busy,” said [vendor Monique] Migneault.

And the number of people isn’t the only thing that increased.

“Stuff’s way up on prices. Any kind of assault rifle, they’re up there. It’s bad,” said [shopper Brandon] Jessup.

[Another shopper, Michael] Roberts noticed the same thing.

“I bought an AK-47 last year for $600 and this year it’s close to $1,200. The same exact gun,” said Roberts.

Jessup called it price gouging, but vendors said it’s not.

“We can’t get these guns for the same price we did six months ago, or even last week for that matter. They’ve actually gone up since last Wednesday, so we have to pass that on to customers, so as a business we can stay afloat and maintain our status quo,” said Migneault.

And from another gun show in North Carolina:

Organizer Joel Koehler, [said] “People keep coming and coming and coming” …

He added the only cancellations he had were vendors who were sold out and didn’t have inventory. …

Gun dealer Dean Barr said his business is booming.

“We sold in one month what we normally sell in a year. December was a record month in gun sales all time,” said Barr.

Barr said even thought prices have doubled for the most popular firearms, he is protecting his livelihood, not capitalizing on tragedy.

“People look at dealers or distributors and think they are price gouging, remember this happened before the Christmas shutdown. Nobody has been making guns for two or three weeks,” added Barr.

Price gouging also mentioned in news stories about gun shows in Oklahoma City and Forth Worth, and in gun owners online forums, and industry sites. Prices are up at Michigan gun shows too.

In my Regulation magazine article on price gouging I said price gouging claims require three factors: a price judged unfairly high, an emergency or difficult situation, and a product or service useful in responding to the emergency. According to these reports, prices for guns and high-capacity magazines are reportedly double that of a year ago. The emergency is a bit more abstract, but arises from the concern that changes in law may ban certain popular types of guns and related equipment. The easiest way to beat the possible new restrictions is to stock up now, making guns and magazines goods that are useful in responding to the emergency.

Now, I wonder if any of these sharp price increases happened during declared states of emergency in states with anti-price gouging laws, or in states with anti-price gouging laws not requiring a declaration of emergency?