Good morning, fans of unbridled, amoral capitalism! Boy do we have a treat for you. In an interview with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a CNBC host posed an extremely interesting question about businesses who price gouge in times of crisis—that is, over-charge for the necessities people need to stay alive, knowing that their marks have no other choice but to fork over the cash. The crime is punishable in Texas by a $20,000 fine, or $250,000 if your victim is 65 or older.
The question: What if price gouging is actually totally cool?
Here’s the quote:
“Clearly all of us would be agreed that it’s a moral issue to try and over-sell necessities at a time of crisis. Is it, and should it be, a legal issue as well? Surely it’s up to the seller to sell their product at the price they wish, even if morally, clearly, at this time they shouldn’t be over-charging for necessities.”
In essence, when you reduce this question to its most absurd form, the host is asking whether laws should exist. Right? Because if we can’t take moral principles—”murder is bad,” for example—and translate that into our legal code, then what the hell are laws even for?
Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, though—what he’s really advocating, maybe, is that capitalism should be exempt from any law that traffics in morality. That would be far more consistent with mainstream media’s slavish devotion to the ruling class.
Paxton, a Repubican, had a good answer: “Clearly the Texas legislature thought differently, because they put the penalties in place…clearly they didn’t want necessities to be jacked up in price.”
Amazingly, another host then chimed in wondering whether laws against price gouging might cut off the supply chain by reducing incentives. I guess we’ll go to any lengths to defend a company who wants to charge $99 for a case of water.
Our national discourse? Sucks.