Price Gouging

I recently found myself with a very sick dog; he had been throwing up for 24 hours and looked about ready to expire.  I called our veterinarian  the next morning to get an appointment.  Although he has a very busy schedule, I was told that he had an emergency appointment open, but it would cost an extra $80 to take it.  Because I was so worried about my dog’s condition, I gladly paid the extra money to get a timely appointment.  I am certainly glad that I did because it turned out he had an intestinal blockage and required emergency surgery to save him

Some people might call this price gouging.  Price gouging is when an item is in short supply, often due to an emergency condition, and the vendor jacks up the price to make an extra profit.  In this case the item in short supply was a same day appointment with the veterinarian.  However, I realized that without the extra cost for the emergency appointment, that appointment would not have been available

Libertarians defend “price gouging” because we understand that it discourages hoarding and thus enables people who really need an item to be able to get it.  With normal pricing people will buy up extra quantities of whatever may be in short supply and anyone late to the store leaves empty handed.  We saw this last March when the coronavirus panic hit; store shelves were quickly depleted of toilet paper and other paper products.  If merchants had been able to substantially increase the price of these products, people would have been more restrained in their buying and there would have been more to go around for other people.  Furthermore, it is only right to allow merchants to price their products as they wish - the products are their property after all

This story has a happy ending for me.  My dog survived the surgery to remove his blockage and is well on the road to recovery