All of us who consider ourselves religious and/or moral have to admit that greed, and therefore gouging, is not good.
This view is less popular, though, since the greed-is-good 1980s, when movie character Gordon Gecko and the Reagan administration maintained that greed is good. Yet it is still one of the seven deadly sins, the wrong thing to do.
And it's not only wrong morally; it's wrong economically. It hinders rather than helps capitalism flourish.
This is because for an economic system to function effectively, for the law of supply and demand to work, prices need to be no higher than necessary. There has to be a tight enough fit for supply and demand reciprocity to function efficiently.
So when some sector unilaterally and artificially jacks up prices just because they can in the economic moment, they can create a bubble where it seems anything goes, the sky's the limit.
It is, but only in the short term. Some people gather most of the wealth, and money is not widely invested. The bubble then inevitably pops.
If the bubble is huge as it was in 2007, our whole economic system can come crashing down. That's the price of living in the illusion that greed is good and that profit per se is the goal.
Instead, in a functioning capitalist system, profit is a byproduct of producing something of value or utility that is widely purchased in the marketplace. This process is the only way to maintain a stable, growing economy.
The profit shortcut, without sufficient production, is the way to a bubble that can't be sustained.
Minot, of course, knows the effects of gouging, especially in the housing market. At least in this market area, we are trending toward 2007 Wall Street, where profit pursuit ran wild and led to the market crash we have yet to fully recover from.
You'd think we could do better morally (and economically) with our oil boom than folks did in the 1890s Alaska gold rush, where shovels sold for $50.
Curiously, that amount in today's money is $1350, about what it costs now to rent a mid-range three bedroom apartment in the Magic City.
So I suppose you could say we are doing better morally, because for the same amount, an Alaskan gold miner got a shovel and a Minot family gets an apartment.
But, of course, the family has to pay the amount every month, and they can't sell the apartment as the miner could the shovel.
Let's just call it a wash. It seems people are people, in any time and place, 2012 Minot or 1896 Klondike. We tend to charge what we can get away with, even though we know it is the wrong thing to do, morally and economically.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)