Thank Free Markets (and Your Neighbors)


The last seven days showed what the free market can do to help prepare for a big storm. Gas stations and super markets worked overtime to make sure fuel and water were available before the storm arrived.

Fortunately, anti-price-gouging laws that encouraged hoarders to make runs on gas and water did not discourage suppliers from maintaining their stocks, despite added costs for additional employees. Note that even those stations that ran out of gas on Wednesday or Thursday last week were restocked the next day.

Every gas station and super market seemed to have additional staff to deal with the increased volume last week. Publix stores had pallets of water bottles up front with a dedicated associate loading customer shopping carts. Gas stations had extra employees outside directing traffic to handle the added volume. These companies, managed and staffed by our neighbors, deserve our thanks for doing extra work, knowing that they could not raise their prices.

Governor DeSantis should also be thanked for encouraging the preparations. He wisely found a good mix of encouraging private preparation with government precaution (stockpiling over 800K gallons of water and 1.8 million meals), knowing that the best way to distribute food, water, and fuel is to trust the system that does it on a daily basis. Fortunately, it appears we won’t have to test those preparations. The governor also inadvertently admitted that government is one of the obstacles to keeping stores stocked. He issued Executive Order 19-189 to “waive hours of service and truck weights for fuel trucks… so that fuel can be moved more quickly and efficiently.”

Sadly, some of our neighbors would rather vilify Publix for plastic bags rather than thanking them for keeping us fed and ready for potential disasters. It seems when you work for a special interest group (Greenpeace USA), you get paid to criticize other special interest groups and the firms they represent, regardless of any other good those firms may do. To paraphrase Bill Clinton: no plastics campaign ever fed a hungry child.

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So next time you’re at Publix, regardless of what type of bags you use, take the time to thank the associates and the store manager. Also give thanks for the free markets that make it all possible.

Photo credit: Scott Long (from August 2016)

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