We free marketeers have a problem here

This is something of a facepalm moment:

When he vented his frustration about holiday prices shooting up during the school half-term break, Paul Cookson struck a chord with other parents. His rant to 250 Facebook friends quickly went viral as outraged parents shared his post about rip-off prices 143,000 times. Now the issue may even be debated in Parliament after more than 100,000 signed an online petition calling for the Government to curb prices.

Err, yes, access to the fixed supply of something may well be more expensive when more people want to gain access. It's that supply and demand thing in action. There are alternatives of course: it could be that the favoured children of party apparatchiki gain access. There have certainly been times and places where that was the allocation method. There could be queueing, there have been times and places where that has been used too. But of all the different methods that have been tried rationaing of something like this by price has ended up being the best one.

That isn't to say that rationing by price is always the best method: I'd not be happy with justice being so allocated for one. But the chance to sit in the chlorinated water someone else's baby has just passed through? Sure, ration by price.

But as we can see there appear to be at least 100,000 of our fellow citizens who don't agree. I am reminded of Bertoldt Brecht's point about the first East German elections: perhaps we should try to elect another people who do get this market economy idea.

It also reminds me of something I saw the first year after food price rationing ended in Russia. Eggs are painted for Easter, there as here, and one old grandmother couldn't understand why they became more expensive just before Easter. "Why are they more expensive just when everyone wants them?" If you don't get the basic answer to that one then the operations of a market economy are always going to mystify you. She had an excuse: she'd lived her entire life under a system that was not a market economy. Quite what the excuse of those 100,00 Brits is I'm not sure. They'd all understand instincitively why pay goes up on Christmas Day. Because that's the day that absolutely everyone wants to have off. That they can't make the leap to why holidays might be more expensive in holiday time mystifies me.