Episode One: The Great Gouge

photo credit: <a href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertjosiah/2107172891/'>robertjosiah</a>

photo credit: robertjosiah

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When nature does its worst, it can bring out the worst in human nature as well. We've all heard stories about price gouging after man-made or natural disasters. Maybe you've been left shaking your head wondering how anyone could seek to make a profit from another person's pain.

 

After the Quebec Ice Storm, the price for propane went through the roof. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, gougers sold ice, generators and water at hugely inflated prices. Lawmakers have done their best to do away with this kind of profiteering, but it still shows up anywhere emotions run high, the need is great, and supplies are limited.

In Episode One of The Invisible Hand, we'll see gouging at work everywhere from a Canadian hockey arena, to a busy agricultural market in Mali (with thanks to Bruce Whitehouse who gathered our market sounds). We'll even introduce you to a man who was arrested for trying to sell generators at twice their normal price after a storm that left thousands of people homeless.

And then we'll show you how to see gouging the way economists like Mike Munger see gouging -- as a force that gets much needed goods where they need to go, when they need to get there fastest.