Jason McBride was arrested for selling gasoline at too high of a price during the shortages that followed Katrina, under an Alabama anti-price-gouging law. What was the legal price he violated? Well, the law doesn't actually set a price maximum, it just makes you liable to be arrested if a random government bureaucrat feels like your price is too high. Mr. McBride followed up with more information on his original story to Christopher Westley at the Mises Blog:
I recently heard from Jason McBride, who was the subject of my last Mises.org
article, "The Right to Set Your Own
Price". McBride, a gas station owner from Aliceville, Alabama, was arrested
for violating Alabama's "anti-gouging" law on the day that Hurricane Katrina
slammed into the Gulf Coast.
Jason told me that there was more to the story than what had been reported in
the newspapers. He said that the price he charged for a gallon of gas that day
was actually $3.49 (not the $3.69 that was reported) and that he purchased that
gas that very day for $3.29 a gallon. He said that this information was provided
to the district attorney during his investigation.
But there's more. Jason told me that he sold gas for only three hours at the
$3.49 price until he received a call of complaint from the D.A.'s office. His
response was to shut down his pumps until the the State of Alabama contacted him
with a "correct price." His pumps were shut down for 18 hours until the
state told him he could sell gasoline for $3.09 a gallon. This happened in the
midst of a crisis when consumer demand for gasoline increased dramatically.
Despite his bending over backwards to comply with the law, and despite zero
evidence of malicious intent, the district attorney's office still arrested him.
His picture was on the front page of a state newspaper the next day (while, he
pointed out, a report on a murder was relegated to page 6).
During these same hours that Mr. McBride was shut down by the state, my COO was actually in southern Alabama, desperately driving all over creation looking for anyone who had gas, trying to get any supply he could at any price to prevent him from running out of gas entirely in an unfamiliar state.
Mr. McBride went to jail solely to allow some DA or elected official to get 24 hours of populist media coverage to tell the world that they were "doing something" about high gas prices.