If you believe that it is a good thing to pass laws that prevent sellers of water or ice or generators from raising their prices after a natural disaster, are you willing to pass a similar law that prevents roofers, carpenters, cleaners, electricians, and plumbers from asking for a higher hourly wage in that situation? We know that after natural disasters people in these professions command higher wages.
If not, what’s different about the cases? Doesn’t the prospect of higher wages for such work attract more individuals to the stricken area, speeding the process of recovery (which explains why the Hispanic population of New Orleans and other places hit by Katrina is higher than it used to be)? Are we better off paying less but waiting much longer to have homes and businesses repaired? If not, isn’t this a reason to oppose anti-gouging laws on firms?
If you can’t look working class immigrant carpenters in the eye and tell them they cannot take advantage of higher pay for their valuable skills, on what grounds is it okay to tell small business owners that they cannot take advantage of higher prices for their more valuable goods?
There is no logical difference between markets for labor and markets for goods and services. If we think it’s okay for sellers of labor to profit from a disaster, and we understand the positive unintended consequences of doing so, then I cannot see what the argument is for not allowing sellers of goods and services to do the same.