Walter E. Williams
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 Suppose you saw a fat, old, ugly, cigar-smoking man married to a beautiful young lady, what prediction would you make about the man's income? If you're like most, you'd predict that this guy has a lot of money. In effect, that fat, old, ugly, cigar-smoking man is telling the woman, "I can't compete for your hand on the basis of a guy like Williams, so I'm going to offset my handicaps by offering you a higher price." In the name of fairness, should that kind of discrimination be banned -- namely beautiful women treating ugly old men differently from handsome young men?

 Airlines typically charge half fare for children, and surely, they can't justify that practice by saying that it costs twice as much to fly an adult from New York to Los Angeles. Airlines also charge business travelers higher prices than those charged tourists. Again, they can't justify the price difference by saying it costs more to fly businessmen than it costs to fly tourists. What should be done about this kind of discrimination?

 Amtrak charges lower fares to senior citizens than it charges younger people, and it's not because it costs less to haul older people than younger people. Amtrak is not alone with this kind of age discrimination; it's rife. Theaters do it; drugstores do it; some supermarkets do it; and some taxicab companies do it. There are numerous instances where people are charged different prices based upon some physical or behavioral characteristic.

 Should price discrimination be outlawed? Yes, according to the reasoning of George Washington University law professor John F. Banzhaf. He's the lawyer who led the attack on tobacco companies and fast-food chains, saying they were responsible respectively for tobacco-related diseases and obesity.

 A recent addition to Banzhaf's agenda is to outlaw ladies' night, saying, "Different prices for men and women constitute illegal gender-based discrimination, and perpetrators can be sued not only for monetary damages but in many cases also for attorney fees and punitive damages." He boasts that ladies' nights have been ruled illegal in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania and recently New Jersey.

 It's fruitless to attempt to convince Banzhaf that price discrimination is a benign, standard and routine pricing technique. It's even practiced by his legal profession. Professor Banzhaf's true agenda is tyrannical control of our lives.

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Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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