I notice that Charlie Crist has opened a hotline again (1-866-9-NO-SCAM), to report price gougers. I assume these must be people who put up their prices of consumer goods and services at the approach of a hurricane (Dennis is looming) and he has State legislation to allow him to prosecute. Of last year, he says "Our office initiated 58 formal investigations and filed 13 price gouging lawsuits against hotels, generator businesses, tree removal companies and other businesses. We have recovered more than $500,000 in restitution for Florida consumers through 23 settlements."

Firstly, then, why does he have a law like that? It doesn't sound at all capitalist that he should be allowed one. Is there no free market in the US?

Secondly, if he has it, why does he invoke it so ineffectively? The numbers of instances of the practice must be monumental, and 13 suits a year seems a pathetic response.

A final puzzle: he also says "We know there will always be those who try to prey on the misfortune of others. A new price gouging law will help, creating criminal penalties for anyone who tries to sell goods or services to the public during an emergency without having an
occupational license." - what does that have to do with price gouging at all?

I think perhaps I'm missing something central to this whole concept.