There’s a natural tendency to be revolted by people profiteering during disasters.
Tom Ritchford
21

Tom, I think it is helpful to think of “free association” when I say “the market” in the title of that piece. I can elaborate if you want.

You say,

Don’t you understand that the amazing thing about them — or Dieppe, or many other examples — was precisely because people took time and effort and even risk for free?

Yes, I understand this:

“The boat drivers did this for free … because they wanted to help people in need. … These boat drivers are heroes.

You:

There’s a natural tendency to be revolted by people profiteering during disasters.

I agree. There are clearly circumstances where asking for money is revolting. One can imagine a moral spectrum of circumstances where a service provider is asking for money, ranging from asking for money in disasters (immoral) to day-to-day selling of cups of coffee (moral), and everything in between. Combine that thought with the idea that not everything that is immoral should be illegal. Here’s this point from the essay:

It’s hard to know exactly where the boundary lies between morally charging a fee and immorally charging a fee. For example, how many blocks would someone have to be from the site of the bombing to make it acceptable for a taxi picking them up to charge a fare? As one’s location moves farther from the explosion, the situation is less urgent. At some distance, it’s just a regular taxi ride. My presumption is for moral social norms and stigma to determine these boundaries rather than state laws.

Here’s a similar but different point—not in the essay you read—about defining boundaries:

Take Chelsea as the example. After the explosion, is there anywhere in Manhattan where you’d allow Uber to operate? Is there anywhere in Manhattan where you’d allow someone to get into a car with a good samaritan offering a ride? Presumably, you’d say yes to both. My point is that, I think, we are trying to define boundaries where these actions become counterproductive under the circumstances. I don’t think there is much point in trying to do this.

To sum up these two passages, authorities will define some “danger zone” boundaries, a zone that cars can’t enter. My contention is that, whether drivers charge money for the rides happening outside those boundaries, should not be the concern of the law. Laws are blunt instruments; I think civil society can sort out what counts as acceptable behavior in this situation.

You want,

well-organized emergency services, and in the last resort, a civil defense network, formal or informal, which could draw on a large part of the adult public

Sounds good to me. And to the extent these systems come up short, some people may want to get into cars—their own, good samaritan’s cars, Ubers, taxis.

I’ve already said that there is likely to be some area where no cars are permitted. We can’t assume that cars freely operating outside this area will flood the streets and create an “even worse catastrophe.” Maybe. Maybe the exactly right number of cars will be present and the balance between people moved and congestion is perfect. Maybe some people will have to walk dozens of blocks or wait hours in a line because Uber isn’t allowed to run.

I perceive you as one of those “free market trumps all”

I don’t see any reason to say “you are of [political type X].” And I would try to avoid thinking that way when having political conversations. Generally speaking, I would focus on the particular questions relevant to the problem at hand. Although I do think that differences in fundamental assumptions can make conversations pointless, I don’t think this is one.

I’m not sure what are disagreement is. What is the extent of the ban/regulations you want to place on people freely associating with the drivers of automobiles?

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