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Price Gouging During a Natural Disaster

Thirteen states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — have enacted laws to combat what is seen as price gouging in the wake of natural disasters. Price gouging is legally defined as charging 10 to 25 percent more for something than you charged for it during the month before an emergency. Sellers convicted of price gouging face prison terms and fines.

Price gouging in the wake of natural disasters is often seen as evil exploitation by sellers to rip off desperate customers. Let’s hold off on that conclusion until after you give thought to some very important questions. First let’s see what we can agree upon.

When a natural disaster occurs or is anticipated, supply conditions change. There is going to be less of what people want and need. Under such conditions, what actions are consistent with the public good? My answer is that people should voluntarily

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Author
Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams is an American economist, commentator, and academic. He is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, as well as a syndicated columnist and author known for his libertarian conservative views. His writings frequently appear on Townhall.com, WND, Jewish World Review, and hundreds of newspapers throughout the United States.
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