After a natural disaster, anyone affected will soon notice a shortage of many of the life’s necessities. Shortages in food, medicine, shelter, transportation, water, and ice are all common problems that people face after natural disasters, especially once the demand goes up which leads to higher prices. This creates a problem for many families after natural disasters occur.

Although there are several resources that are needed after natural disasters, we will focus on ice. Ice is needed to refrigerate not only food, but also it is especially needed to refrigerate medicine such as insulin and several antibiotics. These medicines are needed by several people to live and they will suffer without the ability to keep their medicine cooled.

How can the consumption of ice be rationed so everyone who needs ice can get it? Giving it away for free is the solution. Before you disregard my seemingly dumb statement, let me explain with an example. Imagine walking to a candy stand where they are selling candy, assuming you enjoy eating candy for 10 cents each you grab a few to snack on. The next day you walk by the same stand and the price has been reduced to 1 cent per candy, so you think it is a great deal and probably end up buying 100 for just a dollar. The third day you walk by the same stand once again, but this time there is a crowd around the stand and once you break through the crowd you notice that the candy today is free. If your actions are same as all the people who were tested in this same real-life scenario, you will likely just grab 2 or 3 so that everyone else who is around the stand can also enjoy a starburst. Once the price is removed from the candy, customers disregard getting a good deal. The customers look around at all the other people trying to get the same thing they are trying to get and, they take only what they need, resulting in a more even distribution of candy.

Currently, ice costs money after a natural disaster, making it hard for everyone to get the ice they need since people hoard it, but if the ice is free, people will only get what is needed they will no longer think, “Oh this is a great deal, I’ll take all I can get. The people getting ice will now have the other people, who also need ice in their mind, when deciding how much ice they need, and they will not take very much and there will be more ice to go around.

Hayden Murry is a student in Joe McGarrity’s Senior Seminar class at the University of Central Arkansas. Joe McGarrity, a professor of economics at UCA and a regular columnist, has vetted the article. You can reach Professor McGarrity at joem@uca.edu.