Altruism vs. Empathy

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

In a column for the San Antonio Express-News, Christopher Baecker takes a moment to remind the anti- "price gouging" crowd of the humanity they seem to have forgotten they have in common with the "gougers":

Image courtesy of Pixabay.
Now imagine it's your favorite food, and you had the foresight to stock up in anticipation of such a shortage. But instead of consuming it, you rely on selling it to make a living. It's the same principle on the supply side as it is on the demand side: It has become a more-scarce resource or good.

That's the dilemma that vendors of water, gasoline, batteries and the like face when a hurricane such as Harvey is heading their way. They don't know when their next shipments are coming, or if they're coming. They don't even know if their place of business will still be standing after landfall.

Keep this in mind when demagogues start screaming about price gouging. These vendors are humans just like us, humans with strong enough nerve to risk a lot to supply us with everything we want and need. And now, just like the rest of us, they're facing what is hopefully just a temporary disruption of an important part of their life. They don't raise prices to cheat consumers but rather to defend their livelihood. [bold added]
But politicians and bullies with video cameras are more than happy to use the morality of altruism to distract us from this humanity. It is astounding how fast other human beings are viewed as evil or means-to-an-end when the essence of one's moral calculus comes down to the brain-dead idea that one person owes another simply by virtue of having something he doesn't, regardless of all context.

-- CAV

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