In What World Does This Make Any Sense?


-Hannah Mead, MCPP Intern, 2008

OK, this is just mind-blowing. Florida’s 2005 Senate Bill 572 (link pdf) states:

Upon a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor, in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents, any person who offers goods and services for sale to the public during the duration of the emergency and who does not possess an occupational license under s. 205.032 or s. 205.042 commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

Now, I haven’t bothered to look up s. 205.032, etc, but those really don’t matter. If everyone is exempt from the restriction then the bill is meaningless and only a ploy to make Floridians think their government is doing “something” about prices and shortages in emergency situations. If, however, the bill accomplishes anything at all, it is the most absurd piece of legislation ever. In what world does it make sense to ban the exchange of goods in an emergency when people are most in need of the most basic necessities? Maybe I’m just too blond, but I can’t wrap my mind around this.

It’s simple economics, folks. Higher demand means higher prices which mean higher supply — and in an emergency, that higher supply should be everyone’s primary concern. Now, the legislature no doubt hopes that government and private charitable assistance will be sufficient. But if they are, no one would buy goods at “gouging” prices anyway; the real concern is what if that supply isn’t enough to meet the people’s needs?

The law doesn’t even ban price gouging — it bans all sales. It doesn’t just disallow prices from rising to incentivize companies to divert shipments of water, plywood, etc to the affected area; rather, it prevents anyone from stocking stores at all. Where are the government and charitable organizations supposed to acquire the stuff they’ll give away? Huh?

Keeping in mind that the primary goal during an emergency should be keeping everyone alive and safe and helping them restore their lives to normal as soon as possible, what’s worse: a company charging whatever people are willing to pay for ice cubes, or the government removing the option of buying ice cubes altogether?

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