Price discrimination

Walter E. Williams

6/16/2004 12:00:00 AM - Walter E. Williams

 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.

 Here's my question to you. Once Banzhaf ends up getting ladies' night outlawed in the other 40 states, do you think he'll be finished? I wouldn't bet the rent money on it. The reasoning Banzhaf uses in attacking nightclub practice of charging ladies cheaper prices is also applicable to: airlines charging children and tourists cheaper prices than adults and businessmen, businesses and other entities charging seniors cheaper prices than younger people, and theaters charging cheaper matinee prices than evening prices.

 If Banzhaf succeeds in outlawing price discrimination in these areas, I wouldn't be surprised he moved on to bring a class-action suit on behalf of fat, old, ugly men against beautiful women.

 You say, "Williams, that's preposterous!"

 Think again; tyrants have an endless agenda. The cigarette Nazis said they didn't care about what people did to their own lungs; they only cared about the health effects on others -- secondhand smoke. I said that's a smoke screen to conceal their true agenda. In California, there's a movement to outlaw smoking on beaches, many outdoor stadiums have banned smoking, and there have been attempts to ban smoking on streets and parks. I'd like to see the health study pointing to the deaths and injuries stemming from secondhand smoke outdoors.

 The bottom line here isn't ladies' night or smoking. It's how we Americans are allowing tyrants to attack our liberties. If we allow them to continue, once we wake up we won't have enough freedom to stop them from turning us into a nation of serfs.