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Published: Friday, 12/30/2005

Price-gouging is not illegal or unfair

Price gouging - the offer to sell at prices higher than buyers would like - is neither illegal nor unfair. Our right to hold and dispose of our property makes it impossible for "price gouging" to be a crime.

If we've had the foresight or luck to acquire what has become scarce, most of us would expect to benefit from the higher price we can obtain. If a good we frequently buy has become scarce, most of us are willing to compete for the scarce good by offering or accepting a higher price.

Because the offers to sell and to buy are voluntary and restrained by competition, most would agree that the "price mechanism" is fair - especially when we realize that the alternative is coercion and violation of property rights by government.

Lisa Madigan, the populist attorney general of Illinois, has found price gouging at the pump. You would think that, having found no law against it, she would have explained the non-existence of the crime to a public in need of principled leadership.

But the politician won and the attorney general lost. Rather than educate she chose to inflame. Rather than prosecute or sue, she used the power of her position (and the taxpayers' money) to harass her nominated gougers by offering not to sue if a targeted citizen (voluntarily) contributes to a charity of her choice.

Another version of this sad tale is playing out in Toledo. Politicians everywhere seem easily tempted to exceed their legitimate powers in pursuit of personal and political advantage. The best politicians (they're rare and history will treat them kindly) are not concerned with a career or re-election.

Peter S. Miller

Marin Drive

As a Republican I do not always agree with present administrative policy. However, I do not understand those who oppose the Patriot Act and the surveillance policy in place. We have not had a repeat of 9/11 and I believe it is because of these policies that we have been kept relatively safe. The Constitution was established many years ago when no one envisioned what might occur today. You can't have it both ways and, in fact, if you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of ? If you think these intrusions are interfering with your privacy rights, then try to think how you would handle another catastrophe without them.

Peter Kern

Ottawa Lake, Mich.

Writers and political commentators consistently refer to President Bush as our "commander in chief." This is flat wrong. He is not our commander in chief. He is commander in chief of our armed forces, a distinction carefully written into our Constitution. Please do not allow this practice to go unchallenged. Make words and references as truthful and accurate as possible.

God willing we do not wake up some day and find that we do have a commander in chief over us all because we were not alert.

Kenneth S. Pauken


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