Is Price Gouging a Right?

When a large scale tragedy strikes an area (such as a hurricane, earthquake, etc), business owners may decide to raise the prices of the goods and services that they provide.  At times there may be a “legitimate” reason for the higher prices – such as an increase in costs.  Other times business owners may just see an opportunity to increase their margins and generate more profits.  Whether or not a business owner should raise their prices in a time of time of need is a question that varies based upon the circumstances.  The issue I wanted to address is whether force should be used to stop business owners from “price gouging” during these times of emergency.

I just recently finished reading The Long Winter – the 6th book in the Little House on the Prairie series – where this issue is addressed beautifully.   Due to a long winter of snow and storms, the people in the town of De Smet are at the point of starving.  Suddenly the shop owner in town has a large supply of wheat at his disposal and rather than selling it for the normal mark-up amount above costs, he decides to sell each bushel for over two times what he paid.

After Loftus, the store owner, states “That wheat’s mine and I’ve got a right to charge any prices I want to for it.”  Pa Ingalls responds:

“That’s so, Loftus, you have,”…”This is a free country and every man’s got a right to do as he pleases with his own property.”  He said to the crowd, “You know that’s a fact, boys”.

Pa Ingalls approached this situation with a much deeper understanding and respect of our God-given rights than those in the town who wanted to force the business owner to sell the wheat to them at a “reasonable” profit.  He realized that this wheat was the property of the business owner and so the business owner could sell it at any price he desired.  Using force to get the wheat from him at a lower price would have violated one of the fundamental tenants of America.

However, Pa decided to use persuasion to get the store owner to lower the price.  In addition to petitioning the humanitarian side of the business owner, Pa also goes on to state:

Don’t forget every one of us is free and independent, Loftus.  This winter won’t last forever and maybe you want us to go on doing business after it’s over…  You’ve got us down now.  That’s your business, as you say.  But your business depends on our good will.  You maybe don’t notice that now, but along next summer you’ll likely notice it.

Loftus decided to sell the wheat at cost, due to persuasion and not force.

When we see “price gouging” in the world, rather than petition government to punish the property owners for their “crime”, we should rather follow Pa Ingalls example of respecting our God-given right to property and use persuasion to attain lower prices.  If the property owner persists with the higher price, we can exercise our God-given right to take our business elsewhere in the future when more options are available to us once again.

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If’n There’s Any Worst Pest than Grasshoppers It Surely Is Politicians

We recently came across another great passage in The Long Winter from the Little House on the Prairie series.

The Ingalls had just run into an old friend, Mr. Edwards, who gave a great explanation of why he didn’t want to settle down by the Ingalls.

“I’m aiming to go far west in the spring,” he said.  “This here country, it’s too settled-up for me.  The politicians are a-swarming in already, and ma’am if’n there’s any worst pest than grasshoppers it surely is politicians.  Why, they’ll tax the lining out’n a man’s pockets to keep up these here county-seat towns!

So there you have it from one of the greatest American classics – politicians are the worst pest on earth!

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Wisdom from the Little House

I’ve really enjoyed reading the Little House on the Prairie series with my family as it teaches many great principles that my wife and I are seeking to instill within our family.  The following passage, which we recently read, comes from the 6th book in the series called The Long Winter.

“Because,” said Pa, “we’re not animals.  We’re humans, and, like it says in the Declaration of Independence, God created us free.  That means we got to take care of ourselves.”

Laura said faintly, “I thought God takes care of us.”

“He does,” Paid said, “so far as we do what’s right.  And He gives us a conscience and brains to know what’s right.  But He leaves it to us to do as we please.  That’s the difference between us and everything else in creation.”

This presented a perfect opportunity for the family to discuss the divine gift of agency and how it fits into the plan of salvation.   Pa was right, we do have our agency.  In addition to our consciences, Heavenly Father has also given us parents, prophets, and the scriptures to teach us right and wrong.  Then it is up to us to decide whether we will choose the right and receive the blessings that accompany good decisions.

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The Planners of War Rarely Face the Suffering

Last night I read some very profound thoughts from President Monson regarding warfare -

The planners of war rarely face the suffering that the people do.  It’s when whole families and entire cities face suffering that we see the real horror.  We ought to be grateful for peace every day of our lives, but we ought to be vigilant to prevent the types of warfare, the aggressive behavior, the dominance of one military force over another that we have witnessed in the past (To The Rescue – page 103).

Let us not forget that all individuals on earth are children of our Heavenly Father.  The horrors that come from aggressive war and seeking to dominate other countries by military force are just as much a tragedy for families in the middle east as they are for families here in the United States.   Let us continually pray for peace and do all we can to remove from power those who would be planners of aggressive wars.

Posted in Thoughts from my bookstand | 4 Comments

Encircled in the Arms of His Love

Recently my oldest son was having a really hard time falling asleep.  One night, after his 3rd or 4th trip to the “bathroom”, I sat down with him on the couch in the living room and read 2 Nephi 1:15 to him where Lehi states “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of [the Lord's] love.”  We then talked about how the Lord knows my son individually, is watching out for him, and that my son can literally feel the encircling arms of the Lord through the Holy Ghost.  He went to bed and feel right to sleep after that.

How often do I forget the power of the Book of Mormon?  How much better off would I be if I used it more to resolve the issues that plague me – whether in my family, at my jobs, in my church callings, etc?

Lastly, I need to always remember that no matter what struggles I’m dealing with – “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.”

Posted in Book of Mormon | 3 Comments

Trust in the Lord

There were lay-offs at my company last week – the 3rd round in the 2 1/2 years that I have worked there.  Though I was fortunate enough not to be directly impacted by this company action, I knew many others who lost their job.  I was shocked when I received a meeting invite titled “Important Announcement” as I had no clue it was coming.  Many of the people who lost their job had top credentials and had performed great work for the company.

As pondered over all this during my drive home that day, the thought that came into my mind was “trust in the Lord in all things”.

For those who struggle during these tough economic times even though they have diligently sought to financially support their families, the Lord must have something great in store for you once certain lessons are learned.   Don’t lose hope!

For those of us who are fortunate enough to still have a job that pays the bills, we must avoid the temptation of pride in thinking that we must be better than others.  For that would be putting  “trust in the arm of flesh” (our own) rather than trusting “in [the Lord] forever” (2 Nephi 4:34).  But rather we should humbly thank the Lord for His continual sustenance and blessings. 

Important note to congress and the president:  None of you are He in whom we should trust nor He who continually sustains our lives(despite what you may think).  So extending unemployment benefits or any other government welfare program is NOT what will “fix” the economy.  Instead, we need to follow the Lord’s pattern for assisting the unfortunate which is done through consecration and true charitable service where individuals voluntarily give of their own selves in order to alleviate the suffering of others.   Only then can we truly make the world a better place.

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The Enemy Within

I made a New Year’s Resolution to finally read Les Miserables in 2011.  It has been on my bookshelf for years now – I’m going to finally conquer it this year. :)

On page 27, I already encounter an idea that has really caused me to think.  This is when Bishop Myriel just returned from a visit to the mountains that those around him had tried to talk him out of going on due to the dangerous criminal activity in the area.  Upon returning he wrote:

Have no  hear of robbers or murderers.  They are external dangers, petty dangers.  We should fear ourselves.   Prejudices are the real robbers.; vices the real murderers.  The great dangers are within us.  Why worry about about threatens our heads or our purses?  Let us think instead of what threatens our souls.

How many of us (me included) spend more time worrying about others, gossiping about friends and ward members, etc rather than focusing on fixing our own lives in order to attain our own salvation?  How much better would the world be if rather than spending our efforts to petition government to regulate the behavior of others we find offensive, we spent that time focusing on regulating our own thoughts, words, and deeds?  Yes, there is a proper role of government – and it is justifiable before the Lord to engage a government to protect our God-given rights from robbers and murderers.  But, to truly change the world for the better – we would do best to change ourselves.

Posted in Les Miserables | 3 Comments