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Stupid is, as stupid does – The downside of a free-market economy

Published in the Toronto Sun

19 March 2020

Re: “A warning to not be irresponsible hoarders” (Jerry Agar, Toronto Sun, 17 March): While I agree with what Jerry says, especially the idea of price gouging, the other side of the coin is that this is simply the good and bad of a free-market economy. People are free to list items like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, or any other item for sale, for any price they want to set, and consumers are free to tell those vendors to shove it up their ass! Problem solved.

Anything available for sale is really only worth what people are willing to pay. Of course, most people will pay almost anything when they are desperate, but as we have seen with the case of Matt and Noah Colvin trying to sell their 17, 700 bottles of hand sanitizer for up to $70 per bottle, even desperate people have a limit. Right now, the Colvins have 17, 700 bottles of worthless merchandize.

It might be a good time to offer them a dollar per large bottle and 50 cents for a small.

As for the economic relief packages that the governments are proposing:  wouldn’t it be nice if we had the revenue that our energy sector would have generated if we had a federal government who support responsible resource development.  Perhaps when we are over this crisis, we will finally see pipelines built and a boom in our energy sector; protesters be damned.

(The market is skewed right now because of the demand. But you’re correct, there is only so far people are willing to go. And let’s face it, some people are just jerks)


The original article that inspired this column:

“A warning to not be irresponsible hoarders,” Jerry Agar, Toronto Sun, 17 March 2020

Hoarders and gougers are the opposite ends of the supply and demand curve of a crisis.

Right from the beginning, some people speculated in things like hand sanitizer. Some of them may have made a lot of money.

Twitter has been alive with attacks on and outings of those trying to profit off the crisis and panic.

Public officials in Canada and the United States threatened legal action against gougers.

New York Public Radio wrote on March 13, “N.Y. Lawmakers Push New Bill To Combat Price Gouging As COVID-19 Spreads.”

As early as March 6 the B.C. government was, according to that province’s Tri-City News, “ready to use emergency powers to curb price-gouging.”

A CBC headline March 14 read, “Kijiji bans listings for toilet paper, surgical masks amid COVID-19 price-gouging.”

As other sites such as eBay and Amazon did the same, some of the speculators – the gougers – seem to have lost the bet.

The NY Times reports on Matt and Noah Colvin: “While millions of people across the country search in vain for hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Colvin is sitting on 17,700 bottles of the stuff with little idea where to sell them.”

Few people will feel any sympathy, but let’s not gloss over an important part of what the Times wrote – “while millions of people across the country search in vain for hand sanitizer.” The Colvins have involuntarily gone from gougers to hoarders.

And while the wrath of the public, and therefore the politicians, is focused on people like the Colvins, a huge number of our fellow citizens are the hoarders. They are the ones who cause the short supply that drives the price and panic.

Did you go to the grocery store, brave the crowds and take four of something when you could have gotten by with one or maybe two?

If you did, you are a hoarder.

The gouger doesn’t care what his action does to people across the country. He cares only about himself.

The hoarder doesn’t care about the person behind him in line who needs goods for his or her family. He only cares about himself.

To be fair to hoarders, the federal government started it. On Feb. 27th Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said, “There’s no magic to this… it’s really about first of all making sure you have enough supplies.”

So people went out and got a lot more than they needed, with no heed to people behind them in line.

Saturday the Ontario government addressed the over-buying: “Please practice normal grocery buying habits and rest assured that our grocery production and supply chain will continue to provide Ontarians with the food we enjoy each and every day.”

“Rest assured, we have plenty of food that will continue to reach grocery stores on a regular basis,” the statement said.

Premier Ford reiterated the position in his Monday press conference.

In a time of crisis – and this is one – we have to work together as best we can.

Some things will go up in price as there is a strain on supply, and higher prices will force some people to share. That is a part of what prices do, from an economics perspective

That is not to excuse out and out profiteers, but it is a warning to us all to not be irresponsible hoarders.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/stupid-is-as-stupid-does-the-downside-of-a-free-market-economy/

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