Most people living in a capitalistic society are honest people trying to make an honest living. Business comes up with a business idea, for example, a website like Uptown Pokies that host online poker games, online slot machines, and online roulette. In a capitalistic society, assuming there is no scamming going on, the consumer is making the free choice to either purchase or not purchase the services that Uptown pokies in providing.
But where does one draw the line between capitalism and evilness during a worldwide pandemic?
Buying 18,000 containers of hand sanitizer in a three-state radius
In Tennessee, two brothers hoard nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. “We brought out the whole entire stock of sanitizer in Chattanooga, TN, and parts of Kentucky with the goal of selling the hand sanitizer that normally sells for $5.00 a bottle at a markup of between $8 and $70 each.”
That is price gouging. Some states specifically have laws against price gouging during an emergency.
Common examples include price increases of basic necessities after hurricanes or other natural disasters. Or as the US says, during civil emergencies, which the Coronavirus is.
In Florida, this is a criminal offense. Florida’s “State of Emergency Law” is an example. Price gouging may be charged when a supplier of essential goods or services sharply raises the prices asked in anticipation of or during a civil emergency, or when it cancels or dishonors contracts in order to take advantage of an increase in price related to such an emergency. The model case is a retailer that increases the price of existing stocks of milk and bread when a hurricane is imminent.
As of January 2019, 34 states have laws against price gouging.
Selling squirts of hand sanitizer to classmates
In the UK, a teen got a 1-day out of school suspension because he was selling squirts of hand sanitizer to classmates who did not bring their own.
I would not classify this as price gouging or evil, but capitalism. If I buy my child a container of hand sanitizer, why should my child be required to share that hand sanitizer with the whole class? On the other hand, should I be teaching my child to not help a friend in need? And if the school thinks that all children should be given hand sanitizer free of charge, why is the school not providing the hand sanitizer.
Is this really any different than a student selling another student a pencil or pen instead of just giving it to them?
Selling Coronavirus survival packs
A person decides to create a coronavirus quarantine survival pack. In the survival pack, they include hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes, but they include other things as well. Maybe in the grandparent’s pack, they include finger puppets, so grandma can socialize with the grandkids by doing story-time through a video conference. The preschool pack includes finger paints and other art supplies. The kid’s pack includes playing cards, board games, and general school workbooks.
The end selling price for these packs is double the cost of the individual items. Is this price gouging or is this capitalism?
In my view, this is capitalism, because the end consumer can buy the individual items. But by selling a premade pack, the seller is providing a service (something extra). There is also a difference in numbers. Buy 500 hand sanitizers from a wholesale seller (bulk seller) with the intention of reselling them in gift packs is a lot different than buying up the whole stock in a 1000 mile radius from every local store you can find them in.
Capitalism is based on the concept of supply and demand, and somebody coming up with an idea and putting in the effort to make that idea into something profitable. But when your business idea is based solely on hurting another person for your own benefit, then that it is not capitalism. That is being evil.
Interesting related article: “What is Capitalism?”