I live in Florida and am preparing for Hurricane Irma. Since I am on the east coast and to the north, we expect the equivalent of a strong tropical storm or a low-grade hurricane.
As of now, it looks as though the west coast of Florida is going to get hit the hardest. I have family that live on the west coast, and some of them have evacuated to my house.
On this Saturday night, about a day before the storm is to hit, we went out. I made a stop at the grocery store to get a few last-minute things. The grocery store had given notice that it would close at 6:00 PM, and it would not reopen until the hurricane passes.
After a short trip to the store, we went to a barbecue restaurant and had a delicious meal that was very filling. There were only a couple of servers for the whole restaurant, but they were working hard to get food to the people who were there. I don’t expect many places to be open tomorrow (Sunday) right before the storm hits.
On Friday, I was able to fill up my car with gasoline. It was still a little over half full, but I wanted to top it off. The first station I went to was out of gas. The second station I went to had plenty at the time and there was no wait.
Supposedly, the governor lifted trucking restrictions in the state to enable plenty of fuel tankers to go in and out. Gas has been in high demand, as millions of people have evacuated. It makes you wonder why there are restrictions at all on truck deliveries.
Despite our world of government interference in virtually every aspect of our lives, people still manage to function. The elements of the free market that exist are still very powerful in the face of government interference.
The grocery store and restaurant did not have to stay open. They were trying to balance the needs of their employees with the needs of their customers. I was quite pleased with the service from both places. Just the fact that they were open about 24 hours before a hurricane was hitting was a great service to me and many others.
I have written before about price gouging laws and how they hurt people during critical times. Higher prices tamper demand and tend to bring in new supplies more quickly. The higher prices are a signal that there is a shortage that needs to be cured.
But despite the price gouging laws, businesses are still able to function to a high degree. Stores would get in new shipments of water. While the shelves were certainly empty in some spots, there was still plenty of food that did not require refrigeration.
The fuel situation is even more incredible. The fact that fuel tankers from all over were able to deliver fuel and mostly meet the high demand is wonderful. And with another hat tip to the free market, people were using apps on their smartphones to tell them which gas stations had gas available.
Free market economics is voluntary economics. It means that the market is free from coercion. It means that people function through voluntary association. In the free market, businesses can only profit in the long run by pleasing its customers. Whether this is through pure greed or through some sense of goodness, it doesn’t matter all that much, as long as consumer wants and needs are being met.
I have witnessed much goodwill during this time. There are also businesses that want to make a profit, which is fine. Many businesses have a longer-term vision of wanting to please customers now so that they will remember to come back in the future.
Whatever the motivations, the elements of the free market that exist make our lives what they are. We take for granted everything that voluntary associations provide for us. They sometimes are more evident during times of turmoil.