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Response to Atticus (Original post)

Wed May 18, 2022, 03:20 PM

2. Well, to be fair they had loses in 2020. Here's what Paul Krugman says about gouging and inflation:


"Now, what about price-gouging? Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats have been arguing that some companies are taking advantage of an inflationary economy to increase markups, making inflation worse. Many economists disagree, which is a defensible position. But the vitriolic nature of their attacks ó talking about gouging is like prescribing ivermectin or injecting bleach ó is weirdly over the top, and should provoke some self-reflection

"Consider three positions.
1. Gouging is the main cause of inflation
2. Gouging could be a contributory factor
3. Gouging cannot possibly be a cause of inflation, and anyone saying otherwise is ignorant and dangerous

"Position #1 is clearly wrong ó but I donít know any prominent figure who holds it. On the other hand, position #3 is also dubious economics. Gouging is probably a small factor, but it could be *a* factor. Why the vitriol?

"How can gouging cause inflation? Even if corps have monopoly power, werenít they already exploiting it to the max, so that it caused high but not *rising* prices? Well, letís get wonky and learn from labor economics. Many economists who study the evolution of wages ó for example the Great Compression of the 1940s, which lasted for decades ó end up invoking the role of ďnormsĒ. But how can these matter in the face of supply and demand. One answer is that when a wage (or price) setter has market power, small deviations from the profit-maximizing price have only second-order effects on profits

"This in turn implies that seemingly small considerations ó like fear of customer or political backlash ó can inhibit firms from charging or paying what the traffic will bear. E.g., firms donít cut wages in recessions bc they worry about morale. And firms sometimes hesitate to raise prices, at least visibly ó hence the phenomenon of shrinkflation, where you make stuff smaller rather than hike prices.

"But there will be less backlash if lots of other prices are also going up, so itís not at all crazy to suggest that some corps are feeling freer than usual to exploit their market power, adding to inflation. How big a factor is this? We have no idea. But the venom with which some economists and commentators are rejecting the very possibility is puzzling and disturbing. It would be one thing if Dems were doing a Hugo Chavez, and demanding that the Fed roll the presses while we use price controls to suppress inflation. But they arenít; heck, they arenít even doing a Richard Nixon.

"Even the Warren bill, while it would require large firms to offer explanations for price hikes, is far short of a true price control measure. If you think that would be too intrusive, OK. But the anti-anti-price gouging rhetoric Iím hearing is bizarrely over the top. With everything else going on, why get so worked up about this issue? Something isnít right here . . . . . . .

Guess it's time to bash Paul Krugman too.

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