Consider that the next time you hear a politician complaining about “price gouging” during a crisis, a dopey complaint for which both Left and Right have a weakness. Price gouging is treated as moral abomination and, at times, as a legal offense. You know what price-gouging is? A public service. Prices are how we ration scarce goods, and the pain associated with paying unusually high prices is how we learn not to put off laying in supplies until after the disaster has already happened. The guy with supplies to sell has, either through luck or foresight, managed to put himself in possession of what you need — and you did not. You don’t have to thank him, but you do have to pay his price. The profit he makes encourages him to keep planning for the future. If that hurts — it should. Maybe you’ll learn to do better next time. But the alternative to paying the higher prices isn’t paying a lower price — it is having no gasoline or water or toilet paper at all, at any price. You can try to regulate away that reality; ask the Venezuelans how that’s going for them.

Real material and social progress is rarely made up out of glorious and dramatic crusades, though we are called to crusade from time to time: Hitler ain’t gonna whup his self. Real progress is a hundred million entrepreneurs, researchers, product-development guys, and their competitors all scheming day and night to make your phone incrementally better, year in and year out. It’s also university scholars doing basic science research and FEMA desk-monkeys studying maps of the bayou network in Houston, staffers at congressional subcommittees doing the necessary grunt-work of good government that even C-SPAN won’t cover. The hard work of good government and good citizenship is gloriously boring.