Price gouging op-ed appears in the Washington Times

Michael Giberson

This morning’s Washington Times carries my op-ed on price gouging. You should run out and buy a copy at your local newsstand, call the editor with loads of praise, encourage him to solicit my views more frequently, etc.

Alternatively, read the op-ed at the Times website and offer comments here, there, or both places.

The op-ed provides three examples to illustrate the effects of price gouging policy. Since the op-ed format doesn’t allow footnotes, here are some references to accompany the op-ed:

  1. “A Boston-area water main break in May 2010 had officials warning retailers not to price-gouge on bottled water. It was political grandstanding – the state’s price-gouging law only applies to gasoline – but prices stayed low.” See http://www.thebostonchannel.com, “Price Gouging Put In Check During Water Crisis,” for quotes from Governor Deval Patrick. The extent of the legal authority assigned to the Division of Standards is to ensure that prices charged at the checkout stand match the prices listed on store shelves, but of course perhaps not every merchant knows all of the details of the relevant state laws. The state’s Attorney General and other local officials issued similar anti-price gouging statements. Other details from contemporaneous Boston-area news accounts.
  2. “In January 1998, an ice storm left millions of people in the United States and Canada without power for days. Chazy Hardware, a small hardware store in upstate New York, sent one of its trucks on a hazardous trip into neighboring Vermont to secure electrical generators for several customers.” The details are taken from a court decision in the case People v. Chazy Hardware, 176 Misc. 2d 960 – NY: Supreme Court, Clinton 1998.
  3. “Some gasoline retailers went to extraordinary efforts to resupply. Other retailers, including Frank Shumpert of Pelion, S.C., refused new supplies when those supplies came at higher cost, preferring to be out of stock rather than be charged with price gouging.” Shumpert is quoted in the Columbia, SC, The State newspaper, “S.C. attorney general launches gasoline price-gouging probe against suppliers,” September 15, 2008 (No link). See more in Price Gouging Report issued by the Office of the Attorney General of South Carolina, July 25, 2009. Report was at http://www.scattorneygeneral.com/newsroom/pdf/2009/gaspricegouging.pdf but is not online anymore.
The Cato Institute helped me find a home for the op-ed, and it is also posted on their website at http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=13164.
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