They really do. Consider L. Chester Carter, who raised the prices of his ice and gasoline after Hurricane Isabel, only ten cents more a gallon for gasoline. He also took on the added burdens of running generators, bringing in ice, and cooking for emergency workers. He nonetheless claims to have experienced a public outrage against his pricing behavior, here is the full story.
His description of what happened is perhaps more to the point:
“What I did was what the state and federal governments couldn’t do: Stay open and deliver services to the general public,”
Here are links to my earlier postings on price-gouging. We now hear that more than 40 price-gouging complaints were levied in Virginia, after this year’s storms. Virginia officials are considering writing the state’s first anti-gouging law, comparable to a law already on the books in Florida.
No doubt, this is voter-driven. This example, if nothing else, should tip us off about what kind of economic policy you can get in a democracy.
Addendum: Kevin Brancato discusses other anti-gouging laws.