While I was listening to Neil Cavuto on Fox News earlier, I was shocked about what was being said during an interview with the Florida Attorney General. The subject of the interview was “price gouging” in the state. Pam Bondi, the AG, is a supposed Republican but she made clear that she was going to aggressively pursue those that were “price gouging.” Both Bondi and Cavuto were outspoken against the practice. You may ask why I put that in quotation marks. Let me explain.
First, how does the State of Florida define “price gouging?” According to the AG website,
Florida Statute 501.160 states that during a state of emergency, it is unlawful to sell, lease, offer to sell, or offer for lease essential commodities, dwelling units, or self-storage facilities for an amount that grossly exceeds the average price for that commodity during the 30 days before the declaration of the state of emergency, unless the seller can justify the price by showing increases in its prices or market trends. Examples of necessary commodities are food, ice, gas, and lumber.
Florida law and the attorney general are either not Republicans if they support this law or the Republicans have turned their backs on capitalism and the free market. What the state deems “price gouging” is really nothing more than supply and demand in action. I realize that some people may think this to be a heartless position, but those that oppose “price gouging” are actually more heartless.
During an emergency situation like this, we see people rush to stores and begin cleaning off shelves of every type of food, especially water. Prior to Hurricane Irma threatening the state, the price of a case of water was probably less than $3 for a case of 24 bottles. At least, that’s what I saw last week while in Florida to see my father who died this past weekend. A gallon of water probably cost $1. Now that the state is facing an historic hurricane in Irma, everyone is freaking out because they didn’t prepare ahead of time. I live in Central Texas, but we have enough water to last us at least two weeks or more. That’s for a family of four. I’ve heard stories of a case of water now going for as much as $99.
While I think paying $99 is both cold and heartless on the part of the seller and utterly idiotic for any buyer, this is how the free market works – and it’s not a bad thing. See, Florida restricts anyone from charging more for a commodity that “exceeds the average price…during the 30 days” before the emergency declaration. That means that the high demand, which is impacting the short supply, can’t be adjusted in an emergency.
There’s actually a very valid reason for raising prices on these commodities. With prices being artificially maintained at a lower cost than their value, the state is actually encouraging hording. Since stores can’t raise the price of water substantially to manage demand, it’s very easy for a single person or a few people to buy up entire stocks of inventory. By raising prices, it effectively reduces the quantity that a person can buy and leaves room for more people to purchase a popular product even if at a higher price. Sure, they can’t buy as much, but more people are able to buy SOMETHING. With prices mandated at lower levels, many people are left with nothing because there is no restraint on buying.
Naturally, there are some measures that can be put into place to mitigate this, like putting a minimum purchase allowance on these items, but then people only need to either visit other locations or have family members separately purchase their minimums. There are really no controls and nothing to stop people from getting back in line or going to different cash register. Higher prices control for that and keep people honest.
Real conservatives and libertarians shouldn’t be attacking businesses or individuals that are trying to profit off of a disaster. After all, there are many businesses whose sole service is predicated on natural disasters. Don’t roofers, contractors, plumbers, and carpenters also profit off of them? If someone is selling a product for $99 like the douchebag on Amazon and another person is willing to pay $99 for that product even though its real value is probably $5-10, then so be it. That’s how the free market works. We don’t have to like it, but if you believe in a free market and capitalism, you should at least recognize and support it philosophically.
If the government is so concerned with price gouging of commodities, then the government should provide those products to affected citizens at either a lower cost or free. After all, this is the true nature of government as opposed to regulating who we can marry, what kind of insurance we should have, or selling lemonade on the curb in our neighborhoods.
The AG’s website does contain some good advice, however:
• Plan ahead. Prepare for a disaster before it happens. Always have the following items on hand:
• Five gallons of drinking water per person in your household
• At least two working flashlights
• A portable radio
• A telephone with a cord – If the electrical power is lost, a cordless telephone will not work
• An ample supply of batteries to power these and other items
• A full tank of propane and charcoal if you have a charcoal grill
• Non-perishable food items
• Formula and diapers, if you have young children in the home
I recommend buying a 55-gallon drum and keeping it in your garage or someplace where you can keep the temperature mostly controlled and out of direct sunlight. Add about 1/8 cup of bleach (chlorine bleach, not scented or bleach substitutes) to the water to keep it sanitized. This is a safe dose to drink when needed, but I recommend removing the lid and letting it evaporate or air out for about an hour. If you have smaller storage containers, use about one tablespoon of bleach per gallon. You can also fill your empty milk jugs with water, but keep in mind those are very thin and can be easily punctured. Also, try to store your water in PETE plastic bottles as opposed to the HDPE (usually not clear). If you’re a soda drinker, refill those bottles as well with tap water. You can also fill up Ziploc bags (don’t get the cheap ones) and freeze them for an emergency. Don’t fill them up all the way to ensure space for expansion. Having some beverage powders also makes it more tolerable over long periods so you aren’t just drinking tasteless water.
As for food, we stock up on dehydrated fruits and vegetables as well as dry milk throughout the year. We also have a bunch of cans of wheat, sugar, and beans. Ramen and dry noodles are easy and inexpensive items to include in your food storage. If power is out for an extended period, obviously you want to eat your refrigerated foods first, but keep the door open as little as possible. Most big box stores like Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Home Depot have the 5-gallon sealable buckets that you can put your food storage in. Dried foods are generally good for years before they spoil or need to be replaced.
Something that wasn’t included in the AG list of things to have on hand are portable rechargers for your phones.
While it’s on the pricier side of chargers, I recommend the Omnicharge for your emergency kit. I was lucky enough to have bought mine at about 60% off the list price when it was nothing more than a crowd-sourced idea. I love this thing. It charges my laptop once and my phones…I don’t know how many times because I’ve never needed to charge a phone more than three times and it had plenty of power left. It can charge multiple devices at a time and if you have a USB splitter can charge a virtually unlimited number of devices. I use the OmniCharge 20. Like I said, it’s going to set you back about $250, but it does and costs the same for one family as purchasing a bunch of individual chargers for each person.
If phone service is down, I recommend having a few Baofeng radios on hand as well. We use these at our rallies, in the militia, and at III%er or Oath Keeper events. They are good for long distances and can also keep you informed on what is going on by tuning to specific channels. They are rechargeable and can be recharged through a USB. Most vehicles have chargers and it probably doesn’t hurt to get a DC converter for your vehicle to charge items that don’t use a USB.
By being prepared, you will have not to rely on government and you will not be caught off guard by high prices in an emergency. Remember, you either support the free market and capitalism or you don’t.