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  • A hurricane hits your town and the power is out. Your child is diabetic, and you need

  • power to keep her insulin refrigerated. You're desperate, but perhaps you're in luck. I

  • have an electrical generator that I'm willing to sell you, and you have the $800 that generators

  • like mine typically cost. The only problem is I don't want to sell it to you for $800—I

  • want $1,300. Now, as it turns out, my offer would be illegal in the majority of U.S. states,

  • about 34 of which have statutes that prohibit price gouging. That practice is usually defined

  • as raising prices on certain kinds of goods to an unfair or excessively high level during

  • an emergency. So there's really no question about what the law would do to me if I made

  • an offer like this to you.

  • But even if the law is clear, the moral status of price gouging is not. Is price gouging

  • always immoral? And whether it is or not, should it be illegal? Let's look at the

  • question of morality first. Is asking $1,300 for the generator morally wrong? Of course,

  • you'd rather buy it from me for $800, but there are three reasons why my charging a

  • higher price isn't obviously wrong. First, remember, you don't have to buy it from

  • me for $1,300. If that's more than you think the generator is worth, you're free to walk

  • on by. If you do decide to pay, it's because you believe you're getting more value out

  • of the generator than you do from the $1,300 you gave up for it. In other words, you're

  • coming away from the deal with more than you gave up. The second: ask yourself what would

  • happen if I did charge only $800 for the generator. Remember, you aren't the only person who

  • needs electric power in this situation. If the price was lower, would the generator still

  • have been there when you tried to buy it, or would someone else have snatched it up

  • before you ever had a chance?

  • This leads directly to the third point, which is that high prices do more than just line

  • seller's pockets. They also affect how buyers and sellers behave. For buyers, high prices

  • reduce demand and encourage conservation. They lead buyers to ask themselves whether

  • they really need that generator or hotel room or whether they can do without. And by doing

  • so, they allow at least some of those resources to be conserved for other people who might

  • need them more and therefore are willing to pay more. And for sellers, high prices encourage

  • people to bring more goods to where they're needed. If generators can be bought in an

  • area not affected by the hurricane for $800 and resold later for $1,300, that creates

  • a profit incentive for people to bring generators from where they're less needed to where

  • they're more needed to get them to where they'll do more good for people who need

  • them most.

  • All of this leads to a surprising conclusion. Even someone who can't afford to pay $1,300

  • for a generator benefits from a system in which sellers are allowed to charge that price.

  • That's because the profit motive the debt system creates encourages competition, which

  • increases supply and ultimately drives down prices to a more affordable level for everyone.

  • Now, it's true that when price gouging is legal, some people won't be able to afford

  • the higher prices that result. But ask yourself, what alternative institutions would do better?

  • When price gouging is prohibited, goods usually go to whoever shows up first. If you care

  • about distributive justice, is that really a better system?

  • I think there are good reasons to doubt that price gouging is immoral. But suppose you're

  • not convinced. Suppose you think price gouging is exploitative and wrong. Should it be illegal?

  • The answer, even if we assume that price gouging is immoral is almost certainly that it should

  • not be illegal. If price gouging is wrong, it's because it hurts people in vulnerable

  • situations. But then, the last thing you want to do is hurt those vulnerable people even

  • more. Remember, the only reason price gouging occurs is because a disaster causes demand

  • for certain goods to go up or supply to go down with the result that there isn't enough

  • stuff to go around.

  • Antigouging laws don't do anything to address this underlying shortage. In fact, they make

  • it worse by destroying incentives for conservation and increased supply. So even if you think

  • that price gouging is morally wrong and that merchants should refuse to engage in it, making

  • it illegal doesn't make sense. It hurts the very people who need our help most.

A hurricane hits your town and the power is out. Your child is diabetic, and you need

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価格強奪は非道徳的か?違法であるべきか? (Is Price Gouging Immoral? Should It Be Illegal?)

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    VoiceTube に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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