Politicians and Seven-Year-Olds

by Russ Roberts on March 17, 2005

in Inequality

I got a haircut yesterday.  When I got home, I asked my kids whether the haircutter should charge men and women the same prices.  My seven-year old immediately answered yes.  Why, I asked.  His answer: charging different prices would be unfair.  My two older children, ten and twelve, were wary.  They know a trick question when they hear one.  We turned to the question of what the likely consequences of a law that would require charging men and women the same prices.  My ten year old worried whether the stylist cutting a woman’s hair might do a poor job in order to save time.  My best guess is that it would mean the end of unisex hair salons.  Other possibilities include higher prices for men and fewer establishments generally because of the risk of punishment.

In Canada, a politician is trying to eliminate injustice, mandating equal prices for men and women for haircuts, drycleaning and so on.  Fortunately, he has a very perceptive wife or he might have missed the opportunity:

An Ontario politician is trying to change what he feels are unfairly
high prices paid by women for hairdressing, dry cleaning and clothing.

Lorenzo Berardinetti, a backbench MPP for the governing Liberal party,
has introduced a private members’ bill in the Ontario legislature that,
if passed, would mean men and women would pay more similar prices for
these types of goods and services.

He said he feels the current situation, which means women often pay far higher prices for things like hair cuts, is unfair.

”My wife brought it to my attention, and we noticed it when we went to
the dry cleaners and … when we went out to buy some clothing it made
a big difference as well.”

Incidentally, my no-frills unisex barbershop charges me $10 for a haircut that takes about ten minutes.  Women pay $18 and up depending on what they want.  Their cuts take 25-30 minutes.  I asked my haircutter if she thought women should pay the same prices as men.  Sure, she said.  If a woman wants a man’s haircut, I’ll give her one and charge $10.

This is an interesting option for Ms. Berardinetti.  She could start wearing men’s clothes and ask for a man’s haircut.  Her drycleaning bill would fall, too.

Mr. Berardinetti said he’s looked at other jurisdictions, such as in
California, which has already enacted a similar law in 1996. Another
state, Massachusetts, has the Public Accommodations Act, which ensures
fair gender-based pricing for hair and other cosmetology services.

Anyone out there seen any studies of the impact of these progressive measures?

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