≡ Menu

Pandering isn't free

Missouri’s Governor Matt Blunt (who has national aspirations) found himself chastised by the Wall Street Journal for acting against "gougers."  Here is his twisted attempt (from a letter to the editor (rr)) to maintain his reputation as a free market kind of guy:

Your Sept. 7 editorial "In Praise of Price Gouging"
seems to imply that I yielded to "populist furies" by requesting state
and federal investigations into alleged price gouging by the petroleum
industry in the wake of recent gas price increases. I believe my
actions have been both responsible and appropriate.

Some politicians have taken the easy road on gas
prices by calling imprudently for the institution of price caps. I am
not among this group.

No, he’s in a different group—the group that wants to use arbitrary legal measures to implicitly  cap prices in unpredictable undefinable ways.

I have consistently opposed such measures,
believing that market forces should be allowed to set the price.

Except for those times when he doesn’t believe market forces should set the price and instead, the state of Missouri should try and make it something else.

I have directed the attorney general to enforce Missouri’s price
gouging law in the event that illegal behavior is substantiated, it
should be noted that our law is less restrictive than the one defined
in your editorial in that it does not authorize a price control.


On rare occasions, inquiries into the propriety of
corporate behavior are necessary and, in my judgment, the current
circumstances in our state merit additional scrutiny.

What a great sentence that is.  Scrutiny is all he’s asking for, even in extraordinary times like these.  What’s wrong with scrutiny?

Missouri, for
example, is one of only three states in the country not located on the
East Coast to realize price increases of 50 cents or more since Aug.
30. In addition, our state realized price increases of as much as 40
cents in only 48 hours time. But even if no wrongdoing has occurred,
Missourians deserve a full, fair, and official accounting by their
government of this anomaly in gas price increases.

Anomaly?  I wonder how much time the staff spent in carefully choosing that word.

If wrongdoing has
occurred, however, those responsible should be punished under the law.
Neither of these ideas is contrary to the tenets of free market
capitalism, which I would argue cannot exist in a healthy and robust
state over the long-term without limited government oversight.

True.  Good thing it’s only limited.  Here comes the best part:

I support profiting, deplore profiteering, and believe
that the job of sorting out the difference falls to government in
certain limited circumstances, of which this may be one.

Well sure, profiteering is totally different from profiting!  Profiteering sounds like some sort of piracy.  Profiting is just part of any old free market system.  But sorting out the differences has to be done in limited circumstances, of course, maybe.  Or probably.  Or could be.  I’m sure this letter will win the Journal’s editorial board over and make them realize that Blunt is indeed a good guy who would stand tall in defense of free markets.  I think he would have been better off leaving the letter unwritten.


Next post:

Previous post: