I find it astonishing the extent to which people continue to resist the basic way that the price system allocates goods — even in America! The idea that prices should move up or down, in order to balance supply and demand, is something that remains unintuitive, and morally repellent, to most people. There is a lovely example of this in the recent fuss over Uber’s surge pricing scheme. Anyone interested in the “sociology of market behaviour” should find this and this fascinating reading. Basically, Uber’s prices go up or down in real time, depending on how many people want rides and how many drivers are on the road. It’s a nice example of a firm using technology to create something like the perfect market of Economics 101 fame. And one would think that consumers would prefer high prices to shortages (i.e. queueing, long wait times, etc.) yet people hate it.
I guess what I find surprising is that, after over 200 years of economists trying to explain why it should be so, and people more-or-less accepting that explanation, there remains this incredibly recalcitrant moral intuition. Don’t get me wrong — the market isn’t going anywhere, and I think Uber’s price system makes perfect sense. I guess the puzzling (philosophical) question is how the market could be the dominant economic institution in our lives, and yet our moral intuitions could fail to adjust (over generations!) to its central organizing principle.