How to stop the toilet paper panic

Thanks to Big Data, it would be easier to stop the toilet paper panic in its tracks.

Step 1: Announce that anyone holding more than, say, 50 rolls (per person in a household) must hand in the excess to a charity, and notify the government that they have done so.

Step 2: A week later, order supermarkets to hand over the data they collect on purchases, and raid people with large stocks that have not been surrendered. Confiscate the lot, and leave them with an ample supply of newspaper.

Is this a serious option, in view of the associated invasion of privacy? Given the kinds of restrictions on anti-social behavior that are going to be needed, I think it would be the right kind of signal to send. And, if we are scared about the potential misuse of this kind of data, this would prompt some proper restrictions once the emergency is over.

61 thoughts on “How to stop the toilet paper panic

  1. I suspect J.Q.’s point is entirely scatological. It just won’t roll no matter how you toil it. It’s not the way to stop the runs because people are still worrying unnecessarily about a dire rear. here’s a song about the whole (t)issue.

  2. This is a little authoritarian John

    I’m a bit shocked.

    It could be intimated that such things could be done if the situation couldn’t resolved – though it will be.

    One could invite a week of local problem solving, indicate that one would be harsher on people doing this after this announcement than before and there are plenty of intermediate steps that could be taken.

  3. Just price each role at 25AuD for a week. Panic buying will cease. Gradually reduce price until equilibrium is reached.

  4. Maybe “work for the dole” toilet roll inspectors in plague masks could go door-to-door (or toilet-to-toilet) to perform roll counts. Let’s keep this low tech.

  5. It might work, given the limited number of people still using cash. But it would also very probably cause cash to be the next target for hoarding. There’s an interesting experiment to be done on whether cash is better at spreading the infection than electronic payment. It comes down to touching the keypad vs touching the money, and I’m not even willing to guess about which is worse. I do see a surprising number of people swiping by grabbing the pad before touching their card to it.

    May be coincidence but I got my first ever $100 notes from an ATM the other day. I was quite surprised, normally those things are happy to dole out $1000 in $50 or $20 notes, so getting a smaller amount in $100’s made me wonder whether there’s been a rush on cash as well.

  6. I much prefer Andrew’s solution. Just charge a market-clearing price so that, over each day, the market clears. Once people understand that they can secure supplies the panic will subside and the price will fall back to its equilibrium. There isn’t a supply problem with the toilet paper but panic.

  7. “But it would also very probably cause cash to be the next target for hoarding.”

    Next!?

  8. How much of the shortage of stock on shelves—for many items, not just toilet paper—is a result of massive bulk-buying, as highlighted by the media and the focus of the opening post, and how much is simply the result of a lot of people accumulating two weeks’ worth of provisions as recommended by many experts and some governments?

    A Woolworths representative on 7.30 tonight said that in the past week they have effectively been asked to supply a population of 50 million rather than 24.5 million. This could easily result from half the population calmly making sensible preparations. In my own shopping expeditions, I’ve seen plenty of low stock levels and precisely zero panicked shoppers.

    The arguments that are being used by politicians and supermarket spokespeople in an attempt to quell the surge in demand are beyond idiotic. Nobody thinks that the issue is a supply problem in the short term. Apart from the self-fulfilling “bank run” element of the problem, people are concerned about being ready to self-isolate or quarantine, how safe it will be to be out when the virus becomes widespread, and what sort of disruptions may occur if many people are infected.

    Suspending home delivery services was a particularly stupid move. How many people were thinking that they would rely on these services if they had to self-isolate or quarantine, only to realise that these services probably won’t be reliable when there is mass demand for them?

    If politicians were transparent about the expected scale and timing of the epidemic, and their strategies for the coming months, the demand surge could be managed. People could be given a realistic timeframe in which to make preparations. Instead, we are treated like fools, and in the case of Brendan Murphy, directly referred to as “stupid”.

    At any rate, the demand surge has engendered a supply response. Market signals work, even if our leaders do not.

  9. On the “strong government” aspect, see my earlier comment on Taiwan’s adding travel data to every citizen’s electronic health record.

    Salus reipublicae suprema lex. The Romans revived *human sacrifice* after Cannae, and they didn’t even really believe in it. The point was the message to both Hannibal and wavering allies that they would stop at nothing to win.

  10. Or vendors could just raise prices? I mean surge pricing works for Uber and there is an effectively near infinite supply of toilet paper.

    You can give concessional prices to those with concession/seniors cards etc.

  11. I don’t agree with HC’s price rationing solution because the actual income and wealth distribution does not sufficiently approximate the theoretical condition for price rationing to make any sense. However, if the Fed Government would increase the emergency assistance from $750 to $7500 for welfare recipients and extent this payment to all workers who earn less than, say HC, then it would make sense to start crunching some numbers. Incidentally, the term ‘income support’ (instead of welfare) would then also acquire meaning. That is, it could be taken literally.

    Quantity rationing is, IMHO, the preferred option for all essential items, given the income support at present. Of course one can have lengthy discussions (chats rather) whether toilet paper is essential (newspaper prices are quite high too for someone on $40 per day). Similarly is pasta or rice or both essential, given that potatoes and bread are still available. But what about hand sanitizers? This is an unambiguously essential product at present, given the public advice by the relevant authorities (and it is common sense too). It is essential for everybody who wishes to comply with the advice. But hand sanitizers are as hard to find as hens’ teeth (at least within a radius of 10km of where I live on the North Shore in Sydney).

    Toilet paper and hand sanitizers are long-lived products and they can be stored easily in garages or in self-store facilities. I wonder how an ‘equilibrium price’ would be defined if the phenomenon of empty shelves is not ‘panic buying’ by a large number of people, who anticipate 2 or more weeks in quarintain, but rather an entrepreneurial activity, conceived by people who know about price rationing?

    Assuming it is at least in part an entrepreneurial activity (to get the dynamics going) then one may consider punishments – ie JQ’s proposal. ‘Boiling in oil’ would be a game theoretic consideration that is familiar in economics. However, this model does not take the institutional framework into account. In short, lawyers and law makers may have something to say on this too. I am not a lawyer. I have no idea whether governments would have the power to implement JQ’s proposal.

    So, what else could be done to achieve quantity rationing? The local small suburban IAG store keeps toilet paper behind the counter. People have to ask for it. Only one pack is issued, assuming there is supply. The price is higher than the ‘normal’ supermarket price but not in the range of commodity usury, IMHO. This method would not work for the larger stores.

    There are plenty of historical examples of how quantity rationing is implemented. All of these quantity rationing mechanism that are familiar to me have one thing in common. Money is replaced by a recording mechanism on which the allowance is written; say a coupon. Is there anything that prevents Councils to send toilet paper coupons and hand sanitizer coupons to the households in their local government area (instead of glossy brochures)? The Premier of NSW has said that there are local toilet paper manufacturers in Australia (one on the western outskirts of Sydney and one in SA). Is there anything that prevents the State governments to negotiate prices and quantities with the producers and the supermarkets, with quantities being compatible with the coupons issued by Councils? I am sure there are some details to be worked out, but this seems to me to be a feasible approach. If there are entrepreneurs in the system (which at present is a hypothesis), then they will learn a lesson anyway in the undisturbed privacy of their store rooms. My personal expectation is that it would dampen ‘panic buying’ quickly.

  12. You could use the skin dye system that’s used to track voting in some countries. Every time someone buys a pack they get a dab of dye on their hand (optional: applied with a paintball gun). If they have a dab they can’t buy. That stops people just driving round buying one pack from every outlet that has them (we want to discourage that, as well as the bus trips to raid supermarkets). The paintball approach would also be a useful response to the bus trips.

  13. Luke Elford’s response above is the most insightful in my opinion. The majority of people are acting to ensure some level of stocks to enable up to a fortnight’s self-isolation at a stretch. My wife pointed out to me that since people have greatly reduced eating out (restaurants) and possibly reduced getting takeaway food, there is a greater need for home cooking. People who don’t usually home cook a lot are now stocking up for that process. These issues above very likely explain the shelf-stripping of food items.

    Of course, there is no need to fight over and over-stock toilet paper. People doing that were being foolish. Getting into a public scrum and spittle-flying argument over a product is precisely what not to do when a contact-spread and droplet-borne aerosol pathogen is spreading about.

    Scott Morrison’s talking-down-to-the-people lecture about hoarding was and is the talk of an elitist. The common people are castigated for hoarding toilet paper. How dare they! When are the rich elites ever castigated by the government for hoarding money, wealth and more residences, properties, goods and products than one person ever needs? It’s the classic elitist double-standard.

    As I have pointed out before, anyone who watched the growth of this crisis knew it was coming from at least 1st February or even from mid-January. The wise thing then was to begin stocking up slowly by putting a few extra things in the shopping trolley on each trip. My wife and I grocery shop twice a week on average so this is what we did. Doing this actually helps the distribution system. It can be adjusted to re-stock while the work force is still at 100%. When the panic buying started, we stopped shopping altogether. We reduced the load on the system at the critical juncture and reduced our risk of exposure at the same time. It was a win-win for us and general society.

    Australians, other than recent immigrants, have no personal experience of shortages and civil disruption. This perhaps explains their lack of imaginative foresight in these matters. They are now receiving this education and life experience. Let us hope it augments our understanding of how to run a society and an economy not just in a time of bush-fire and corona-virus but in a global time of over-population, over-consumption, over-connectedness, over-exploitation of nature, limits to growth, overshoot. and possible collapse. What we do next is crucial. This is not business as usual. It can never be business as usual again. Our political economy needs to undergo radical change.

  14. I have avoided any video of our great leaders for a long time, except for the snippets that show up on Genuine Satire* shows. Once again it appears that I have missed nothing of any importance.

    The thing about “knew it was coming” is that before the pandemic any action looked like an overreaction, afterwards it looks insufficient.

    One of the things that did surprise me coming to Australia is just how often people grocery shop. Twice a week appears to be normal. Which means, among other things, that a lot of fruit and veges are sold ready-to-eat rather than “needs to ripen a bit”. Which not only means you *have* to shop for those twice a week, I’m sure it also boosts food waste as those things rot on the shelves if not sold quickly.

    * is there a tm-like symbol for “satirical media approved by the Australian government”?

  15. JQ +1 – “Let us hope it augments our understanding of how to run a society and an economy not just in a time of” – I am realising we could have had this planned for -but politics and short memories. I am culpable too.

    – Ikon – excellent choice of music. Kashmir up next.

    – Andrew “Just price each role at 25AuD for a week.”. And how much will will medical costs be for poor when not wiping or showering?

    – Hugo. Satire I assume… “inspectors in plague masks” and again, how do we get them – I bought last p2 mask at mitre 1 last week, and medical…

    Low tech – soapsuds women given official regognotion in brigade. Can’t find ref yet washer women kept on after even cooks and medical left behind (boom tish).

    Vickie Wendel The Soapsuds Brigade (Civil War Times Illustrated, Volume 38, Number 4)
    – https://www.amazon.com/Women-Civil-War-Her-Illustrated/dp/B000VO6EXW

    – Moz of Yarramulla “comes down to touching the keypad vs touching the money” – I withdrew a wad yesterday and spread it on paving in sun before storage. Our cash is plastic – less infectious?

    “(optional: applied with a paintball gun)” if they rejoined queue.

    “After an analysis of 22 different studies on coronavirus strains such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and the current COVID-19 published on the Journal of Hospital Infection, it is believed that these viruses remain infectious on contaminated objects such as credit cards, doorknobs, handrails, and the like at room temperature for as long as nine days.

    “That said, the WHO warns that paper cash could carry the highly-infectious bacteria for several days just as much as other common surfaces, thus reminding everyone to use contactless payments if possible, to halt the spread of the disease.”
    https://www.ecomparemo.com/info/covid-19-spread-contaminated-cash-says-who/

    – hc & Andrew “the market clears” – which even I understand, but not before it has failed for lots of humans.
     – good book to read – Economics in 2 Lessons. 

    – Svante – next next & next!

    – Luke Elfford “In my own shopping expeditions, I’ve seen plenty of low stock levels “.

    I have NOT seen a toilet roll in either woolies or coles here central west nsw for a month. Bummer.

    And Aldi is having a hard time getting staff due to abuse. They don’t even want to come to work. 

    Yesterday person with 6 x3L milk told “put them back or leave with nothing”.

    Local plumbing shop – I’ll plug them as I was impressed Reece – has instigated 1 person at a time inside rule.

    Moolarben mine – still allowing crib – lunch room – gatherings.

    – James W – thanks…
    “John Locke uses it as the epigraph in the form Salus populi suprema lex in his Second Treatise on Government and refers to it as a fundamental rule for government”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salus_populi_suprema_lex_esto

    Ah… joke? 

    – Ernestine Gross – as always compared to me – thanks, I’m learning.

    + 1 ” I don’t agree with HC’s price rationing solution because the actual income and wealth distribution does not sufficiently approximate the theoretical condition for price rationing to make any sense. ”

    ***
    Bio Bidet Luxury Class bidet Toilet Seat Comparison Chart
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    ***

    “Out of toilet paper? Incapable of cleaning your butt without it? Got a well-stocked woodworking shop? Make your own from wood pulp! Quilted Northern’s funny advert for “artisanal” toilet paper was satire in 2016, but now suggests a quality method for keeping your rear end America-clean during the coronapocalypse.”
    https://boingboing.net/2020/03/15/how-to-keep-your-anus-thorough.html

  16. Twice a week grocery shopping is indeed normal in Australia because;

    (a) There are no old-fashioned milkmen, greengrocers, fruiterers, fishmongers and butchers delivering door to door as we had in the old days, when I was a kid. It was “progress” apparently to phase out all those things. Now, we are re-introducing grocery deliveries as if it is a new idea. LOL.

    (b) The quality of “fresh” food in the duopoly supermarkets is atrocious. If you don’t cook or eat it on the day you bought it or the day after it begins to wilt or rot as the case may be. It is scandalous how high-priced and low quality Australian food is in the major supermarkets. The consumer is being ripped off by the food and supermarket corporations. I avoid the duopolies as much as I can and shop at smaller, cheaper supermarkets, specialty greengrocers and wholesalers. The quality is better. I won’t mention names, it would sound like a plug.

    I buy my beef in bulk packs directly from a farming couple who butcher it themselves. It is less expensive and of far better quality than supermarket meat. The major supermarkets should prosecuted for the amount of water in their meat. I am sure they are injecting water and red dyes into almost all their meat. The amount of water that come out of their meat when you cook it means you are paying inflated meat prices for meats which are 10% to 15% injected water, in my opinion. It’s criminal deception and profiteering.

  17. “If you don’t cook or eat it on the day you bought it or the day after it begins to wilt or rot as the case may be.”

    Yesterday arvo the GP complained of their all being tired out by the rush already… at local Aldi and Woolworths stores after I saw all frozen veg and fish lines gone. The mess in the freezers and displaced shelving looked like a riot had occurred earlier. Aldi has numerous unexpected “temporary unavailable” product notices on shelves indicating they are having more problems in general resupply than Woolworths. No metho anywhere… how will a tissue moistened with turps go at a pinch in disrupting smocorona’s virus lipid layer? Once upon a time people used to douse themselves in kero and even take a sip or two for almost every ailment… and survived.

  18. Yes, I’m slightly annoyed that even the kangaroo from the supermarket is watered. But not so annoyed that I will travel to the nearest butcher that has actual chunks of dead roo (local butchers sell farmed camel and goat, no pests or wild animals). I do buy most of my F&V from the local greengrocers, but blueberries and mushrooms are rarely stocked by any of them. Until recently I was buying my rice from an organic local-ish rice grower but the drought has cleaned them out so while they’re not yet off the land they don’t have any rice to sell me. So I’m about to open my last 25kg sack of rice, and am trying to find a replacement supplier. Annoyingly stockists of 25kg bags seem to be wholesale-only and won’t deal with me. I might end up with Victorian biodynamic rice yet (supplier from when I lived in Melbourne).

    I grew up on/around farms so I’m used to getting most things in bulk, and I remember many kiwis being the same – supermarkets there stocked more larger sale units than I see here. You just don’t see 10kg jars of peanut butter or jam on the shelf here. Buying silly little bottle of detergents etc continues to annoy me, but luckily I can buy stuff like sodium hypochlorite crystals (dissolves *carefully* to make bleach)… turns out Chlorox sell a similar-looking product in the USA. I expect it’s much diluted, because dropping NaOCl into water can produce chlorine gas and that’s something I would expect US lawyers to be excited about. Mind you, they sell caustic soda in the supermarket (saponify your skin oils! A game anyone can play!)

  19. Savante, you’re better off with soap followed by sorbalene to re-oil your hands AFAIK. Most of those hydrocarbons are not great on your skin, the times when people played with them were also times when you were wrecked by 60 and dead by 70.

  20. From the OP – “…Big Data … Is this a serious option, in view of the associated invasion of privacy? Given the kinds of restrictions on anti-social behavior that are going to be needed, I think it would be the right kind of signal to send.”

    Is there any published empirical research basis for that thinking? (see below)

    I think cash is king when out shopping, and not only in Big Data volatile end times. It’s an empirical thing… as is wearing a hat pulled down et cetera.

    The case for economics — by the numbers
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200303140230.htm
    A multidecade study shows economics increasingly overlaps with other disciplines, and has become more empirical in nature
    Date:March 3, 2020 Source:Massachusetts Institute of Technology Summary:In recent years, criticism has been levelled at economics for being insular and unconcerned about real-world problems. But a new study finds that the field increasingly overlaps with the work of other disciplines, and, in a related development, has become more empirical and data-driven, while producing less work of pure theory.

  21. ” Mind you, they sell caustic soda in the supermarket (saponify your skin oils! A game anyone can play!)”

    Caustic soda is still used in the US for making bagels and pretzels – as a chemist friend once coined it “food grade poision” 🙂

  22. Moz, that gives me certain extra years compared to viral uncertainties… soap is easily carried, but in an urban location these days accessible flowing water is rather hard to find or its accessibility is often otherwise compromised. I wonder that a few tissues and small container of said hydrocarbon solvents may be a pocket survival aid when out and about over the next year at least when there’s no metho or fit-for-purpose commercial hand sanitizers available.

  23. “…least when there’s no metho or fit-for-purpose commercial hand sanitizers available.”

    you’re likely much better off fermenting your own alcohol than using Metho – it’s commonly denatured with methanol and that stuff is actually pretty unhealthy.

  24. The toilet paper hoarding is serious in what it says about us as a society but not serious in itself, because there are alternatives, and because it invites scatological jokes.

    If you want to talk about serious, there has been hoarding of over the counter asthma medication by people who aren’t asthmatics. This will actually kill people.

  25. Sack Morrison and install a national unity government under John Howard and Kevin Rudd. I know some people may think this idea is ridiculous but they might know how to manage the crisis, as demonstrated after Port Arthur massacre and during the GFC.

    Everyone else will try “flattening the curve” and talking garbage about hoarding toilet paper being un-Australian. Come on, semi-official simulations outline 52000 deaths in Sydney alone (1% of the population – see SMH). How is then possible that the Chinese managed to suppress the epidemics? Did they have less well educated modellers who were not aware of the objective impossibility of controlling the disease?

    Also in regards to what should be done – we need to know what “illiberal democracies” such as Poland are doing. People under quarantine are checked daily by the Police and can request food / medicine drops https://www.gov.pl/web/koronawirus/policja-wspiera-w-utrzymaniu-kwarantanny-w-polsce
    Obviously the country is in total lock-down already and nobody frets about a recession which might be sparked when schools are closed – they don’t want another Lombardy there. Panic buying seems to be under control after a flare-up last week.

  26. “Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said he believed the original panic buying of toilet paper and other items in Australia was sparked by a criminal syndicate.” – smh

    I thought the corona virus should not attack someone’s brain. Sack these people before they totally screw up the country and install a national unity government like during WW2.

  27. People who are supposed to be in quarantine can be tracked electronically, via their phones and facial recognition. This is what Singapore is doing. It’s time to put all that terrible-for-privacy technology to good use.

  28. Smith9 – “It’s time to put all that terrible-for-privacy technology to good use.”

    I object on principle to this, but would be hopeful that maybe after having unavoidably apprehended the ability and extent of what the bad guys have in place here behind the scene the wider public will vigorously object by way of the ballot box to the overreach and lack of transparency and regulation?

    Better such a turn up late than never, but will the bad guys expose themselves that far just to stop a minority of plebeian leaners’ deaths?

  29. While I have seen a much greater than usual shopping for groceries, I think it is unreasonable to call this hoarding, when in fact it is more a matter of preparation in the face of uncertainty.

    People are bummed out: we have had weeks of news articles and reports of the kind of trouble the Covid-19 has brought to other countries, so it should have been foreseeable that Aussies would want their bog rolls to cover their respective arses. The guvm’nt could have papered over this crack by introducing a ration/income credit card that banks could issue immediately (just like a bog standard VISA card), and by using it for purchase of rationed items—tracked against a Log, say—that the government guarantees payment of—sort out reimbursement much later on—and thus injects funds into the banks, keeping the wheels of liquidity on a roll. Leaving it to the free market to figure out is really feeding us Aussies a sh*t sandwich. Much of what has been said by guvm’nt so far is a tissue of lies and constipated reasoning.

    Seems to me that there is a market for portable toilets with bidets, bit like the portable shower trailers for homeless people; download the app, select “Number Two” and they deliver to your door!

    Amazing what you can do, with a mobile phone and loo.

  30. > soap is easily carried, but in an urban location these days accessible flowing water is rather hard to find

    As a cyclist I’m in the privileged position of being able to carry bottled water, and commonly carry a “key” for the vandal-resistant taps that are commonplace. Unless we get back into drought conditions that key might be more useful than any amount of bottled water. But since my trips also tend to be short and direct, and not involve much contact with the filthy proletariat I am washing when I get home and not eating when I’m not at home. I realise that’s not an option for everyone (if I have to go to my work office I pretty much have to use the train… watch me shower when I get to work, and change clothes as well. Not that my cow-orkers are any less filthy than the general public)

    Can you just buy the ingredients and make your own hand sanitiser? There are lots of instructions around – isopropyl alcohol and glycerine are both (currently) fairly readily available in bulk. You might also make new friends by having litre-sized bottles of that available

  31. “Can you just buy the ingredients and make your own hand sanitiser? There are lots of instructions around – isopropyl alcohol and glycerine are both (currently) fairly readily available in bulk. You might also make new friends by having litre-sized bottles of that available”

    This is what we did yesterday, but it took some searching to find a stock of isopropyl alcohol – it appears that many others had the same idea.

  32. Anyone else wondered how many trees much get cut down for the global human population to wipe our collective butts on during all this? Scary…

  33. Well, JQ, someone in power seems to be sympathetic with your type of treatment of hoarders. It is none other than Peter Dutton:

    https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/they-are-going-to-be-dealt-with-dutton-puts-hoarders-on-notice-20200319-p54bq6.html

    I, on the other hand, wait for test results of the hypothesis that entrepreneurial activity (profiteering in Mr Dutton’s words, according to the smh article) set off the so-called ‘panic buying’. That is, I await the findings by Peter Dutton et al.

  34. Tree consumption for toilet paper is minimal. We woodchip more native forests than we could possibly wipe our bums on, even if that was all we did.

    Ernestine: I suspect Dutton will find them whether they exist or not, he does it with “criminals” who need to be deported (viz, “associated with someone who is in a gang” is enough) and “intention to profit” is very much in the eye of the beholder.

  35. I would bet that the market clears on TP very quickly within weeks if not days. There is no supply constraint beyond some distribution bottle necks. People are already irrationally bearing an opportunity cost by spending too much on TP, alternative present consumption or future consumption. An appropriately high price signal may bring that into focus and they may decide to park their car in their garage again rather than store TP.
    They are also bearing a direct risk. Apparently their fear of the virus is so great that they willing to stand in close proximity to others whilst cueing/fighting for stuff they have no need for.

  36. Toilet paper is made partly from recycled paper. So if someone gives you a document in hard copy that makes you angry, and if you say to them “you can shove this up your arse”, if they put it in the recycling bin, they might.

  37. Moz in Oz, o.k. the outsourcing of the testing of a hypothesis to a politician isn’t a sound method in principal. But, prejudging the findings isn’t sound either. (All one needs is one clear cut case of ‘entrepreneurial activity’ – profiteering – including time and location and quantity to have sufficient information to then trace the timing and location of ‘panic buying’. Crucial information: did the panic buying start before or after the ‘entrepreneurial activity’?)

    Andrew, I am almost overwhelmed by your apparent belief in the significance of a cross diagram found in introductory economic textbooks and your apparent insistence that people are irrational if reality challenges the significance of the cross diagram.

    The bottleneck story is credible, IMO, if the TP shelves of one or two supermarkets in the vicinity of a person is empty for one or several days in one week. There are no strikes, there is no shortage of supply – as you assert. On what grounds do you assert that people are irrational if they try to buy a product that is not storable in consumption (a TP roll available for usage at location L at time T is a different commodity to a TP roll available for usage at location L at time T+t), given that these people have detected a pattern of unavailability over a period much longer than one week?

  38. Ernestine Gross rarely misses, congrats again, re targeted aid.

    I’ve watched with morbid curiosity at the clips of human behaviour in supermarkets. I’ve veered from laughter to smug cynicism to shame for the smiling. And I’ve made sure there are a couple spare loaves of bread etc in the freezer, after not being able to score bread for several days early in the week.

    I wonder how much of the various packages will be rorted off by the so called elites and to what extent there has been collusion between different components of the system and people running things.

    And I will continue to seek out the better informed sites as things unfold.

    If a show like the Drum is to be believed, or a site like the Guardian, there is going to be a lot of grief about over the next year unless they find treatments quickly, both as to the virus and the economy. Although there are reports that a number of labs are already coming with treatments as to the germ-side of the new circumstances.

    Maybe the human germs will prove the more resistant to decency, imagination and common sense.

  39. Now, to Nicholas Gruen’s conjecture that Prof. Quiggin is (again) revealing authoritarian tendencies.

    It would seem that rationing toilet tolls would be the next logical step in a society obsessed with surveillance, monitoring, data retention, data merchandising and theft, consent manufacture, persecution of whistleblowers, gaslighting and dumbing down.

    Controlling bowel activity would appear to be the final instalment of a Great Plan for disempowerment and micro power originating in the minds of thinkers and politicians in the years since HG Wells.

    One indeed flew over the Cuckoos Nest.

    Perhaps it would be God’s will, nowadays.

  40. Insomnia.

    speaking of atypical behaviours, guess who takes the cake.
    The Americans.
    That’s right.
    Are they stampeding the supermarkets? Are they jostling their fellow american to get at toilet paper or bread?
    No.
    They are queued up for miles to buy guns. Can you wipe yourself clean after the loo with an armalite?
    Can you eat a gun?

  41. “Step 1: Announce that anyone holding more than, say, 50 rolls (per person in a household) must hand in the excess to a charity,” – J.Q.

    The nearest charity which needs toilet paper (and soap) is probably your nearest state school. Some schools are reporting inability to source these items just as they are teaching kids increased hygiene awareness. Teachers are possibly being sacrificed in the push to keep schools open. How many teachers will catch corona-virus? How long will there be enough teachers left to keep schools open?

    There are reports (real or false?) that toilet paper is being sold online for $100 a packet. For that price they would want to be gilded. I guess they will be gilded after use but not with gold. Anyone who buys a packet of toilet paper at that price is a fool.

    What we are really seeing is that markets DO NOT WORK. Markets cannot be left to run society. A crisis puts this plain fact into very clear perspective. Other methods have to be resorted to in order to run society effectively in a crisis: methods like rationing for example.

    In fact, MARKETS DO NOT WORK EVER. The appearance that markets work in non-crisis times is largely an illusion or more properly a social construct. Markets, money and all their operations are constructed by law and regulation and backed by force. Behind the veil of markets, power politics and ideology determine prices far more than do actual market transactions.

    Chits of the numeraire (dollars) are merely permissions to consume or permissions to acquire. The allocation of these chits is controlled by power politics, domestically and internationally, and nothing else. It is important to understand that productivity does not explain income. Nor do supply and demand explain price. If these contentions are true, then the claims that markets give just rewards (an ethical claim) and that markets engender efficient allocation of resources (an ethical claim masquerading as an empirical claim) are both completely false claims. In this case, the entire justificatory and explanatory edifice of conventional economics crumbles.

    To understand why money cannot measure and compare disparate things it is worth reading:

    “The Aggregation Problem – Implications for Ecological Economics” – Blair Fix.

    Click to access Fix_aggregation_problem.pdf

    Also check;

    “No, Productivity Does Not Explain Income” – Blair Fix.

    If money cannot measure and compare disparate things in any objective fashion then price does not measure “value” and “value” (a notoriously slippery concept) does not explain price. If money cannot measure and compare disparate things in any objective fashion then its operations via markets cannot lead in any way to “efficient allocation” no matter which definition of that concept is used. Sure, constructed markets (they are all constructed) can facilitate allocations pure and simple. But let us drop the fallacy that markets lead to just or efficient allocations. Let us also drop the fallacy that there are no other ways to facilitate allocation. Let us entertain the idea that there may be better ways, especially in a democratic and scientifically advanced society, to facilitate just allocation and efficient and sustainable use of resources.

  42. As Keynes didn’t say “Markets can be irrational longer than you can be in Sorbent”.

  43. I agree with Andrew, hc and Anthony Park that a temporary rise in the price of toilet paper would probably work. The shops would be worried about bad PR and accusations of profiteering, but they could promise to sell the toilet paper at a lowered price when the situation returns to normal. They could lower prices by only a small amount, to prevent another rush on the shops, and maintain the lower prices for a long time.

  44. How about the bus loads of city people who are descending on country towns and stripping the supermarkets, like locusts?

    Straya.

  45. I assume this post isn’t meant to be taken seriously, or you are completely bereft of bog roll because of the panic buying and are deadly serious.

    Maybe the store should open the packs and sell single rolls for $1 each, one per person. If that all disappears, then $2 a roll with all proceeds going to bushfire relief.

  46. From the Guardian

    > One customer [at a pharmacy] was asked to consider other children as he tried to bulk buy children’s painkillers. He replied: “Fuck the other kids.”

    Straya.

  47. Where’s a 2 meter tall, built-like-a-rugby-forward pharmacist when you need one? That customer should have been sold one pack and told to leave immediately. I pity his kids, no doubt they are over-medicated to deal with the stress of having an abusive father.

  48. Ronald > all proceeds going to bushfire relief.

    Covid relief?

    I still struggle not to call it corvid-19, because somehow I have a mental image of a natty black and white bird saying “Corvid. James Corvid. Double-0 19”. Maybe it’s just me.

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