This article was originally published on The Farrell File.
Dynamite Comics announced back in October of last year the redesign of a few of their female characters, one of the most prominent being Red Sonja. The redesigns would also come with brand new story arcs and new number one issues. Red Sonja #1 by Marguerite Bennett and Aneke hit the shelves this week featuring the new character design, but it also touched on some real world issues: price gouging in times of crisis and gentrification.
Those two real-world issues are subsequently outlawed in the land of Hyrkania, but it isn’t exactly what you are thinking. The laws making these practices illegal are being enacted by a king who has created an apparent utopia within Hyrkania. After reading the rules, Red Sonja even comments on the absurdity of the laws, saying, “I’m sure there’s a royal edict keeping cats from getting too far up trees.” Red Sonja is actually comparing outlawing price gouging in times of crisis and gentrification to the absurdity of a law banning cats from climbing too high in a tree.
This comparison is spot on because outlawing price gouging and gentrification is just as absurd. Let’s look at price gouging in crisis areas first. Individuals who have been affected by a natural disaster are in need of basic resources for survival; this usually involves gasoline, electricity, food, water, and shelter. This increased demand will increase prices. Andrew Mitchell of the Mises Institute explains, writing,
“… those who most urgently desire goods will be able to get them – they won’t just show up at stores and find nothing left for them. Those who less urgently desire these goods have a guide for rational economic calculation. Some will find the new prices make the consumption of the good less beneficial than foregoing it and purchasing some other, cheaper substitute.”
The higher prices for goods are also a signal to producers that it is now profitable to sell their goods in a disaster area, where it otherwise might not have been so. This will attract businesses to sell their goods in the crisis or disaster area. Eventually, the market, as it is wont to do, will correct itself as the supply begins to match the demand and businesses attempt to undercut each other. Thus, price gouging gets the goods to those who most need it.
In the reverse case, when price gouging is suppressed, what usually happens is individuals will buy more of the cheap goods than what they actually need. This leads to empty store shelves and many consumers going without the goods they need while businesses lose out on profit.
Let’s look at the second absurd law mentioned in Red Sonja: gentrification. Much like price gouging, it too has a bad rap. Most would believe that the gentrifier is a “malign exploiter, a bully someone who takes advantage of the weak and the poor,” as economist Walter Block notes. However, this bad rap is unwarranted. Gentrification uses the same logical process as one does on eBay or any other auction website, except in this case you aren’t bidding on the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27 or the latest Funko Pop! bobblehead. Instead, you are bidding on housing. Just like price gouging, it follows supply and demand. If the landlord wishes to substitute a tenant for a richer one when the original tenant’s lease has expired, he is free to do so. But the reverse is true as well; if the tenant wishes to depart from the complex, he is free to do so. In fact, the landlord has to take on significant risk in the case of a reduction in real estate prices. The tenant doesn’t have to bear this risk at all. He most likely benefits with a reduction in rent or may find the area no longer suitable to his needs. Gentrification isn’t evil. It is simply economics. Red Sonja is right to scoff at these absurd laws.
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