Letter: ‘Gouging’ not necessarily bad

Maybe we can learn something from Sandy’s aftermath that escapes us when dealing with our own storms. The gas shortages and long gas lines are the result of anti-gouging laws. These laws are short-sighted and counterproductive. They increase the severity of the storm aftermath and extend its length.

If the price of gas was allowed to seek the market level, consumers would conserve more and producers would deliver more; lines would shorten and normality would return quickly. A guy sitting in Alabama with a semi trailer full of gas might decide to drive that truck up to New Jersey if gas were selling for $9 a gallon. But if the price in New Jersey is the same as in Birmingham, why make the effort?

Before our next storm, we need to abolish gouging laws in Louisiana. Instead of going on the radio with ominous warnings to “price gougers,” the attorney general would remind the world that there are no such laws in Louisiana. The governor would announce that a storm is coming, that prices will be going up on various things in Louisiana, and we invite the rest of the country to come gouge us. In fact, the more gougers that show up, the less they will be able to gouge and the faster prices (and life) will return to normal.

The radio coverage would encourage people to call in and report how much they paid for the things they need and thus help communicate to those coming to gouge us which things are in most critical demand.

So instead of handcuffing the invisible hand to some self-aggrandizing bureaucrat’s desk just when we need it most, we should give it maximum freedom and watch in amazement at how quickly things recover.

John Foster

engineer

Baton Rouge