Thursday, May 04, 2006

This dog is giving me gas 

Today's e-missive from the Kennedy campaign proclaims another vote to prevent gas gouging. Andy, who seems a little miffed (and I suspect I'm part of his miffiness), wants some education on what we think of this. I would bear in mind two points.

First, we have to remember that "price gouging" is a perjorative that has no operational meaning. To see this, consider a Reuters story offered in this brilliant post from Frank Stephenson.

The first dog on the auction block was a blond Pekingese male, 5 to 10 years old, hunky by Pekingese standards: mashed face, hair like a thatched hut. He sold for $100.

After that, prices soared as if dogs were gasoline and the auction was run by Exxon. The second breed on the block, a female Maltese � which the auctioneer announced "is obviously in need of a bath"� sold for $240.

That's the way it went Saturday morning at the dog auction in the parking lot of the Bartow County Animal Shelter near Cartersville.

More than 250 people showed up hoping to buy pedigree dogs � Chihauhaus, Maltese, Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, Pekingese and dachshunds � for rock-bottom prices. Instead, they got a dose of dog-price inflation, spurred by animal
rescue groups trying to save the canines from breeders.

The animal rescue groups vowed to buy the dogs, get them medical treatment, have them neutered and find them homes.

Guy Bilyeu, 46, executive director of Chattanooga-based Humane Educational Society, showed up with a group of supporters and $16,000. He bought more than 60 dogs.

Patricia Duncan, 27, was among the people lamenting the dog inflation. She said she used to work for Culberson's Hillview Kennels.

"It's ridiculous," she said. "These rescue people are outbidding everybody. They just bought a Maltese that has no teeth for $800."

By driving up the price, of course, the humane society has reduced the stock of breeding dogs, which of course will raise the price of purebred puppies. This is an outrage! These people are price gouging!! There should be hearings! Someone call Sen. Schumer!!

(Any similarities between the humane society and, say, China are purely coincidental.)

Of course not everything done by Rep. Kennedy here is foolish. Andy wonders about the supply response, and certainly anything that reduces the cost of adding refining capacity would make things better. But just not very quickly, and they're very expensive, and usually not profitable even without regulation.

If you want to see the rubber really hit the road, Congressman, how about voting to remove the $.54 tariff on Brazilian ethanol? Might cost you a few votes from corn farmers (and a few contributions from Archer-Daniels), but that stuff comes online a lot faster than expanding refining capacity.