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How to Fix the Toilet Paper Shortage Next WeekCarl Milsted, Jr on May 7 21:12:40
Originally published April 1, 2020
The U.S. is morphing into Venezuela.
And no, I’m not writing about the multi trillion dollar bailout, the authoritarian quarantine measures, or our President’s jaw boning the private sector. Many of these measures are warranted in a time of emergency. There will be a price to be paid, but so be it.
No, I’m writing about the shortage of paper goods. This is unpleasant, unsanitary and utterly stupid.
We could fix the problem in short order.
But you are not going to like the solution. Your knee will jerk. Your spleen will squirm. Your sense of rightness will be deeply offended.
We need to tolerate some price gouging.
The Paper is Out There
The paper products we need have already been produced. They are collecting dust in closets all around the country.
The paper is in the closets of the hoarders who correctly anticipated a shortage.
The paper is in the janitorial closets of the schools, stadiums, and restaurants which were forced to close.
LET THEM SELL THEIR SURPLUS!
Yes, this means rewarding the hoarders. Deal with it, or doo doo without.
Compared to myriad other corruptions in our society, this is some seriously low grade naughtiness.
Your government does worse on an hourly basis. Does that mean anarchy is preferable to government?
Let’s have some open air paper goods markets tomorrow.
In Store Prices Need to Rise as Well
If gray market paper goods cost way more than what’s in the local Food Lion, then someone is going to arbitrage. We don’t want that. We want merchandise to be available on the shelves so people make a minimum number of trips to the store. Lives are at stake.
Double the price.
Maybe even triple the price.
The shelves will have product. People will buy just what they need.
There is a danger to merchants. Those squirming spleens cranking out the red bile might cost some big corporations some serious good will.
There is a solution: those annoying discount cards you have to present to get the sale prices. Jack up the regular price for toilet paper to gouging levels, but offer non emergency prices for those with the discount card.
Limit the number per customer at the sale price.
Stores are already rationing, but that rationing is not enforceable! Without requiring the discount card, people can get more than one rationed item by checking out more than once at different lines, or going to multiple stores, etc.
I hate those customer discount cards, but I admit that they could be useful in today’s emergency.
Yes, This is Important
Shortages can last a long time. When the government fought against Evil Oil Millionaires Making Evil Profits, the United States went through years of gasoline shortages.
When the U.S. price controls were lifted, the shortages disappeared, and soon oil prices dropped.
We can have a brief spike in prices and a quick end to shortages. Or we can drag this out.
If we listen to our spleens, we can have plenty of other shortages as well. The Fed is firing up the printing presses to spread the pain of the current crisis. The bill for such generosity is likely to be future inflation. If we fight that inflation with price controls, it’s going to be a sh***y decade.
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