Offered English essayist Joseph Addison, writing in the June 30, 1711, edition of the revered Spectator magazine:
“The worst kind of pedants among learned men are such as are naturally endowed with a very small share of common sense.”
“Pedants”? Those who, according to the dictionary definition, are “unimaginative or who unduly emphasize minutiae in the presentation or use of knowledge.”
Welcome to contemporary coronavirus America in which too many of our elected leaders — never schooled in fundamental economics and now suckered into the “progressive” promise of command economics – are common sense-bereft.
A classic example of this malady can be found in neighboring West Virginia, New York and in Texas. As Richard Sexton and Daniel Sumner, agricultural economics professors at the University of California, Davis, recently detailed, attorneys general in those states are suing an Ohio egg producer for “price gouging.”
Well, it seems that the closure and/or severe truncation of restaurant operations led to a run on eggs by private consumers. That demand outpaced supply which, naturally, led to higher prices. That is, until suppliers could increase their egg-laying flocks to meet the demand.
Simplified, the good professors explain what happened:
“That price jump reflected a limited supply of eggs suitable for retail stores and a sudden substitution of grocery purchases and home cooking in place of restaurant dining and commercial food services when governments shut down much of the economy. Americans typically spend nearly half of their food dollars on meals away from home. Consumers also rushed to stockpile eggs.”
But this trio of states, led by New York AG Letitia James, claims Hillandale Farms, just over an hour southwest of Pittsburgh, “exploited hardworking” families and “made millions by cheating our most vulnerable communities and our service members.”
Thus, the laws of supply and demand have been adjudicated to be illegal by the top legal officers of the Mountain State, the Empire State and the Lone Star State. Talk about government-fueled moronism.
And, the UC Davis professors continue, “Never mind that the relative price increases observed in New York, Texas and West Virginia were modest compared with the national average increase.
“The U.S. Agricultural Marketing Service reports that the average wholesale price of large white eggs rose from about 60 cents per dozen in January through early March (about the same price as last year) to more than $2.50 at the beginning of April, a fourfold increase.”
Sexton and Sumner also note this unintended consequence of the AGs’ “gouging” claim:
“If the state AGs had their way, sellers would have had to ration their supplies. Goods would have likely gone to the biggest and best customers—like Walmart and Kroger.
“The smaller stores that serve mostly low-income neighborhoods would get none. And without a monetary incentive for suppliers to increase the number of hens, those shelves would have stayed empty.”
The irony here? Government created the demand surge/shortage with its arbitrary and capricious restaurant closings/restrictions, many of the latter which remain in effect.
In a nutshell, that’s “progressivism” – hurting the most those they claim they are seeking to “protect” the most. Even a modicum of common sense would reveal that.
But then again, we are dealing with Addison’s “worst kind of pedants” – eggheads who can’t see the forest for the trees.
Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (firstname.lastname@example.org).