Thursday, June 17, 2004

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 would predict he has a lot of money. In effect, that fat, old, ugly, cigar-smoking man tells 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 by saying that it costs twice as much to fly an adult from New York to Los Angeles. Airlines also charge business travelers more than tourists. Again, they can’t justify the difference by saying it costs more to fly businessmen than tourists. What should be done about this kind of discrimination?

Amtrak charges lower fares to senior citizens than younger people, and it’s not because it costs less to haul older 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 Mr. Banzhaf’s agenda is outlawing 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 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 try to convince Mr. Banzhaf price discrimination is a benign, standard and routine pricing technique. It is even practiced by his legal profession. Professor Banzhaf’s true agenda is tyrannical control of our lives.

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

If Mr. 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 smokescreen 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 would like to see the health study citing deaths and injuries from secondhand smoke outdoors.

The bottom line here isn’t ladies’ night or smoking. It’s how we Americans allow 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.

Walter E. Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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