How changing prices signal buyers and sellers in a free market economy

Here’s a lesson in capitalism from the New York Times. (H/T ECM)


The oil industry has been on a hot streak this year, thanks to a series of major discoveries that have rekindled a sense of excitement across the petroleum sector, despite falling prices and a tough economy.

These discoveries, spanning five continents, are the result of hefty investments that began earlier in the decade when oil prices rose, and of new technologies that allow explorers to drill at greater depths and break tougher rocks.

“That’s the wonderful thing about price signals in a free market — it puts people in a better position to take more exploration risk,” said James T. Hackett, chairman and chief executive of Anadarko Petroleum.

And what do we learn from this? Do oil prices go up because of greed? No.

When supply is low or uncertain, but demand is high, then prices must rise. Rising oil prices signal consumers to curtail their consumption, and they signal producers to invest more and take more risks to find more oil.

The government must not interfere to set prices lower when prices rise due to a shortage. Lower prices means that producers will not invest or take risks in order to find more oil for consumers. We have to let producers have their profits in order to for them to invest and take risks to find more oil. And when more oil is found, the price of oil will go down naturally, without the government having to get involved. The more government gets involved, the more opportunity there is for corruption.


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