At the beginning of the book “Justice,” Michael Sandel describes the notion of price gouging and explains its relationship with the term “virtue” (3-10).
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According to the information from the book, price gouging may be described as a vendor policy that presupposes inflating prices of the products or services they demand, which suddenly increases as a result of some unfortunate event (Sandel’s example is a hurricane in Florida). According to the book, this process can be explained by the mechanics of the supply and demand, and some economists even attempted to describe the process as a beneficial one (one that attracts vendors and, therefore, facilitates the rectification of the problem).
Still, it is obvious that this phenomenon is completely unacceptable from the point of view of virtue. If one summarizes the information from the book, the virtue can be defined as a somewhat vague idealistic image of the “good” of the correct way of living. It is the opposite of vice that is equally vague. The vagueness is one of the reasons for people to avoid using virtue as a basis for the law.
Additionally, virtue can potentially restrain freedom of choice. Nowadays, we respect one’s individual opinion and allow one to choose his or her own “correct” way of living for as long as it does not restrict the freedom of the others. That is why the notion of virtue is not typically used, in-laws.
However, in extreme cases, this rule can be broken. Such is the situation with price gouging. Increasing the price according to the demand is not a sin; however, exploiting people’s weaknesses and making use of their miserable position to satisfy one’s greed is not taken lightly by the society. The excessive greed of the Florida vendors has caused a very violent reaction, and it is not surprising that lawsuits followed. The reaction appears to be caused by the people’s disapproval of the excessive greed that the society regards as an “evil” thing, a vice.
This disapproval seems to be caused by the fact that greed appears to make people indifferent towards other people’s troubles, which, in this case, resulted in the increased sufferings and misery of innocent people. The virtue, on the other hand, demands taking care of the least strong ones and being compassionate to another’s grief. Therefore, price gouging and virtue are hardly compatible, especially in extreme cases.
Price gouging is caused by an extreme vice that endangers the well-being of a number of society members. As a result, for example, in Florida, it is legally punished. Also, it should be pointed out that the law is incapable of destroying vice. In fact, it shies away from the concept of virtue as well. Still, extreme cases (like the one described by the book) cause a violent public reaction and can be regulated by the law.
Sandel, Michael. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to do? New York, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. Print.