Energy Crises notwithstanding, the price of gasoline always seems to go up in the summertime, dropping again after Labor Day, and while it's easy to point a finger at your favorite villain, it's probably not his fault — it's the law of supply and demand at work. It's the same rule that makes Christmas ornaments a lot cheaper in January and chocolates more affordable in the third week of February.

"Supply and demand" go together as least as well as, say, Abercrombie and Fitch. Economics 101 dictates that these two factors are kept in balance by what Adam Smith called the "invisible hand". If the supply is reduced, as happened in both our horribly-botched Energy Crises, the price rises, and people end up buying less of the product. As demand slackens, supply increases, and eventually the price drops. Fifth-graders can understand this with not a whole lot of explanation.

Not everyone has a grasp of this law, however. Certainly America's drug warriors continue to suffer from the delusion that they can eliminate the supply in the face of steady demand; their efforts at interdiction have only served to keep the prices high, which in turn invites more suppliers. Your average antiporn crusader has a similarly poor grip on reality.

And then there are the poor shlubs on eBay who believe that their cultural detritus is going to finance their retirements. Somebody this week put up a batch of Elvis 8-tracks for auction at a reserve price somewhere north of $35,000. (The item disappeared from the listings rapidly — before I could add a link to it, even.) Nobody, not even the most rabid 8-track fan, is likely to pay the price of a small house in the Midwest for a bunch of old tapes — not even Elvis, and if you don't believe me, you can ask him yourself the next time you see him at the Tastee-Freez.

The Vent

1 July 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill