The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Friday, September 02, 2005

Good Enough

Megan McArdle has an excellent pragmatic post, In praise of price gouging. She concludes:
Prices of everything rise after a disaster, and a good thing too, since that encourages people and material to flood into the damaged area, where they're needed most. When well-meaning politicians impose "anti-gouging" laws, they slow the flow of resources to repair the damage.
So let's all do our part by grinning and bearing higher oil prices, and remembering to be nice to our friendly neighbourhood price gougers. But you don't need to thank them; after all, they're just doing their job.
I would amend this slightly, noting that praise of gouging is not the same as praise of gougers. The beauty of the market-driven system is that it enables good results, which as Mrs. McArdle shows are driven by price gouging, to flow from selfish motives.

How easy it is, too, for evil outcomes to arise from the best of motives. A central part of the conservative mindset is an intuitive recognition of how weak is the moral coupling between intentions and results, rejecting the progressive idea that good intentions can somehow place the results above suspicion. But Mrs. McArdle is close to making the reverse error, assuming that good results reflect well on the intention and character of their agents -- the price gougers.