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October 1996
Volume 14, Number 10

Pizza Discrimination
Thomas DiLorenzo

Pizza deliverers have been robbed, assaulted, and killed. To protect their employees, and hold down liability losses, pizza chains like Domino's won't deliver pizzas in the highest crime areas. The company has cleverly developed computer software that allows its franchises to "flag" addresses that are unsafe. Some are noted as green (deliver), others as yellow (curbside only), and still others as red (no way).

Such an expression of concern for employee safety, one would think, would earn Domino's one of Labor Secretary Robert Reich's "corporate responsibility" awards. No such justice. Domino's safety practices have infuriated the political left and given rise to a new civil-rights crusade--against "pizza redlining."

You see, some of the most dangerous areas of major cities--the ones Domino's tries to avoid--just happen to be government housing projects occupied predominantly by blacks on welfare. But doesn't Domino's deliver to blacks living elsewhere? Of course. Pizza delivery is about profits, not racial consciousness. But that's not enough to satisfy the crusaders.

The initial shot in this new war for new civil rights came when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors decided to impose egalitarian delivery rules. They made it illegal for Domino's, or any other pizza company, to refrain from delivering to areas where the company believes its employees' lives would be in danger. For example, last year, Samuel Reyes, a 22-year-old Domino's employee, was gunned down on his way back from a delivery.

The new law is being promoted as "the basis of a civil suit" by aggrieved pizza consumers, who apparently believe they have a Constitutional right to pizza delivery, and may be the cutting edge of a new national policy regarding what the political left calls "service redlining."

The deep irony is this new law threatens to impose a kind of forced labor on companies like Domino's. This may have been banned by the 13th amendment: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude...shall exist within the United States." But it's a de rigeur when it comes to civil rights.

Of course, Domino's did not become an industry leader by refusing to sell its pizzas to blacks. Delivery to a given address may not result in violent death. But only God can know for sure. The rest of us must use imperfect information, while the profit motive gives an incentive to make that information as accurate as possible.

The issue here is not "racism," but safety, private property, and freedom of association. In Baltimore, even the police won't enter some government housing projects for fear of being shot. But don't expect the city council to pass a law prohibiting "redlining" by government employees. Government has certain privileges.

"Universal service" is the latest euphemism for socialism, as Murray Rothbard pointed out in his devastating 1993 analysis of the Clinton medical plan. Thus, any "inequities," however trivial, are decried as an affront to justice, with the "solution" being an ever-expanding welfare state, which now even includes universal pizza service.

But as Rothbard also pointed out, the only way to achieve "universal access" to anything is not through government, but by allowing more people to earn dollars which they can then spend in a peaceful setting of economic exchange.

This can only be achieved by restoring the free market and private property, through massive deregulation, tax cutting, and abolition of the welfare state. Until then, retaining some right not to associate will be crucial to preserving such services as pizza delivery.

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Thomas DiLorenzo teaches Economics at Loyola College and is an adjunct scholar with the Mises Institute

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