When the Treasury auctions government bonds (more than $100 billion per week these days), its goal is to obtain the highest possible prices (pay the lowest interest rate): that’s why a seller holds an auction. But private individuals are forbidden to hold auctions of goods deemed important in an emergency; they are forbidden to charge what the market will bear. Sanctimonious officials defend it and the populace often applauds. In the sort of announcement that has become familiar in the...