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by John Stossel

I just got new glasses -- without going to an optometrist. 

It's another innovation made possible by the internet. 

Going to an optometrist can be a pain. You have to leave work, get to an optometrist's office, sit in a waiting room and then pay an average of $95 (in my town). But I got a prescription for just $50 -- without leaving my computer. 

This is possible thanks to a company called Opternative ("optometry alternative"). The company claims its online test is just as good as an in-person eye exam. 

I was skeptical. It's over the internet! How can a computer replicate what optometrists do in their offices with impressive-looking machines? 

"This is the beauty of technology," answered Dick Carpenter, director of strategic research for the libertarian law firm the Institute for Justice. 

Carpenter researched Opternative's test and concludes that it is just as good as an in-person exam. "Sometimes better, some research has indicated." 

Here's how it works: First, you answer some medical questions. 

Then, while holding your cellphone, you follow prompts on the phone while looking at your computer screen, selecting which lines look sharper, or which numbers you see. 

One day later, they send you a prescription. Mine exactly matched the prescription I got from my ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who charges much more. 

Fast, cheap, and easy.  

So naturally, optometrists want this alternative banned. "This is really foolhardy and really dangerous," said former American Optometric Association president Andrea Thau on "Good Morning America." 

She wouldn't do an interview with me. Nor would anyone else from her Association -- despite our sending them emails for a month. 

I assume they knew I'd mock them for trying to ban the competition. Which they are trying to do. They wrote the FDA that the at-home test "should be taken off the market." 

What they're really saying is that patients should not have the right to make any choices in their own vision care. 

The optometrists are bottleneckers. "Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit" is the title of Dick Carpenter's new book. He studies how established professionals use government to limit competition. 

Cosmetologists get laws passed that force hair-braiders to spend $5,000 on useless courses and tests. Restaurants limit food trucks. Established florists ban newcomers.     Optometrists want to ban Opternative's test.

Bottleneckers like them have clout in legislatures because their lobbyists give politicians money. They persuaded 13 states to draft bills that would ban at-home tests. 

In South Carolina, then-Governor Nikki Haley vetoed the ban, correctly calling it anti-competitive. But the legislators were beholden to the optometrists' lobby; they overrode her veto. 

The optometrists say that a home test is too risky because no doctor is there to look for diseases. I confronted Opternative's spokesman about that. He said the test's questionnaire filters out sick people by asking questions like: "Any health conditions? ... pregnancy, nursing, diabetes ... Any medication that affects your vision? ... Sertraline, Amitriptyline...?" 

Obviously, a questionnaire is not as good as a doctor. But it does screen out some people. Opternative rejected me the first time I tried. I then lied about my age to test their service. 

I don't recommend lying on medical forms. But a cheap internet prescription is not much of a threat to public health. Barbers claim an unlicensed barber might give you a bad haircut or cut you. 

Florists say an unlicensed flower arranger might spoil your wedding. 

The optometrists at least have a better argument: The at-home eye test might miss a disease. 

But I say we consumers should get to choose what risks we take. 

I choose to go to an ophthalmologist because I can afford it, and at my age, I want a glaucoma test. 

But many young people don't want to spend that money. And many people just don't have time. That's probably why lots of Americans never go to any eye doctor, ever. Opternative at least gives them an alternative -- a way to get a prescription without going to a doctor. 

It's good to have a choice. 

John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2017 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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by John Stossel

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is upset about "price gouging" during hurricane Harvey. Some stores raised prices to $99 for a case of bottled water -- $5 for a gallon of gas. "These are things you can't do in Texas," he says. "There are significant penalties if you price gouge in a crisis like this."

There sure are: $20,000 per "gouge" -- $200,000 if the "victim" is a senior citizen.

Texas, a state that I thought understood capitalism, punishes people who practice it.

Prices should rise during emergencies. Price changes save lives. That's because prices aren't just money -- they are information.

Price changes tell suppliers what their customers want most, maybe chainsaws more than blankets, water more than flashlights.
 
"Quit your witch hunt," economist Don Boudreaux wrote Paxton. "Government intervention is often justified as a means of correcting 'market failure.' But by enforcing prohibitions on 'price gouging' your office causes market failure."

Boudreaux is right.

Suppose a disaster devastates your town, and your local store is not allowed to raise the price of bottled water. People rush to buy all the water they can get. The store sells out. Only the first customers get what they need.

The storeowner has no incentive to risk life and limb restocking his store. He wants to get to safety, too. So he closes his store.

But if the owner can charge $99 for a case of water, you will buy less water, and other customers get what they need. More importantly, entrepreneurs have an incentive to move heaven and earth to bring water to the disaster area. They soon do, and the price drops again.

That's economics -- supply and demand. It works pretty well.

Politicians often try to outlaw that. When Uber appeared and used "surge pricing" during busy times, my dumb mayor tried to ban Uber. The ban didn't stick, fortunately. Seeing people pay higher prices inspires more Uber drivers to leave home to offer people rides, and it causes customers to try other alternatives at busy times. When prices float, there are no shortages.

Since Texas' attorney general doesn't seem to understand that, Boudreaux tries to educate him:

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By Walter E. William

Earlier this month, The New York Times ran an article titled "U.S. Rights Unit Shifts to Study Antiwhite Bias" on its front page. The article says that President Donald Trump's Justice Department's civil rights division is going to investigate and sue universities whose affirmative action admissions policies discriminate against white applicants. This is an out-and-out lie. The truth is that the U.S. departments of Justice and Education plan to investigate racial bias in admissions at Harvard and other elite institutions where Asian-Americans are held to far higher standards than other applicants. This type of practice was used during the first half of the 20th century to limit the number of Jews at Harvard and other Ivy League schools.

Drs. Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford documented discrimination against Asians in their 2009 award-winning book, "No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life." Their research demonstrated that, when controlling for other variables, Asian students faced considerable odds against their admission. To be admitted to elite colleges, Asians needed SAT scores 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 points higher than blacks. An Asian applicant with an SAT score of 1500 (out of a possible 1600 on the old SAT) had the same chance of being admitted as a white student with a 1360 score, a Latino with a 1230 and a black student with a 1050 score. Another way of looking at it is that among applicants who had the highest SAT scores (within the 1400-1600 range), 77 percent of blacks were admitted, 48 percent of Hispanics, 40 percent of whites and only 30 percent of Asians.

The case of Austin Jia is typical of what happens to Asian students. In 2015, Jia graduated from high school and had a nearly perfect score of 2340 out of 2400 possible points on the new SAT. His GPA was 4.42, and he had taken 11 Advanced Placement courses in high school. He had been on his school's debate team, been the tennis team's captain and played the violin in the all-state orchestra. His applications for admission were rejected at Harvard, Princeton and Columbia universities, as well as at the University of Pennsylvania. Jia said that his rejection was particularly disturbing when certain classmates who had lower scores but were not Asian-American like him were admitted to those Ivy League schools.

California universities present an interesting case. At one time, they also discriminated against Asians in admissions, but now it's a different story. As of 2008, Asians made up 40 percent of the students enrolled at UCLA and 43 percent at the University of California, Berkeley. Last school year, 42 percent of students at Caltech were Asian. You might ask what accounts for the high numbers. It turns out that in 1996, Proposition 209 (also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative) was approved by California voters. The measure amended the state constitution to prohibit state governmental institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in the areas of public employment, public contracting and public education.

The experience of California, where racially discriminatory admissions policy has been reduced, suggests that if Ivy League universities were prohibited from using race as a factor in admissions, the Asian-American admissions rate would rise while the percentages of white, black and Hispanic students would fall. Diversity-crazed college administrators would throw a hissy fit. By the way, diversity-crazed administrators are willing accomplices in the nearly total lack of racial diversity on their basketball teams. It's not unusual to watch games in which there's not a single white, Hispanic or Asian player.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says, "The idea of discriminating against Asians in order to make room for other minorities doesn't seem right as a matter of principle." Dershowitz is absolutely right, but he goes astray when he argues that investigating discrimination against whites raises a different set of questions. He says, "Generically, whites have not been the subject of historic discrimination." Dershowitz's vision fails to see people as humans, because what human is deserving of racial discrimination?

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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Walter E. Williams

Google fired software engineer James Damore for writing a 10-page memo critical of the company's diversity policy. The memo violated the company's code of conduct by "advancing harmful gender stereotypes" by suggesting that biological factors were part of the cause for the male/female gap in the tech industry. 

I shall make the case that Google's actions were totally justified. Other than differences in certain physical attributes such as genitalia, capacity to give birth and the presence of functional mammary glands, males and females are identical in every other respect. Any remaining male/female differences are a direct result of oppression, discrimination and victimization by the larger society. To examine just one aspect of female victimization, let's examine the majors of female college students compared to their male counterparts. 

According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, there are significant sex differences in college majors. For example, though women and men are equally represented in the population at large, women make up only 17 percent of engineering degrees conferred compared to 83 percent conferred to men. How can such a gross disparity be explained? I recommend an investigation to discover whether colleges are steering women away from higher-paying fields such as engineering and into lower-paying fields such as education and social sciences. Seventy-seven percent of education majors are women and so are 64 percent of social sciences majors.

One wonders how such a disparity among equals can exist. I have personally visited George Mason Univeristy's Volgenau School of Engineering. There are no signs forbidding women from becoming an engineering major. But just because there are no visible prohibitions doesn't mean there is no evil plot against women. A number of years ago, I took a tour of UC Berkeley College of Engineering. Not only did I observe a paucity of women but also, because of the racial appearances of the students in some of the classes, I could have easily been in Asia. Colleges have the power to ensure that there are just as many female as male engineering majors. They can mandate that fewer female freshmen major in social sciences and education and instead major in engineering. To balance this all out they can disallow large numbers of men from majoring in engineering and instead force them to major in education or the social sciences.

Although Damore's memo was seen by Google as "advancing harmful gender stereotypes," at least he didn't make any suggestion of male/female IQ differences. Doing so would have led not only to his firing but being ordered to leave the state of California. A number of studies show that male IQ has greater variance than female IQ. In other words, female IQs show less variance and cluster toward the middle. Males IQs have more variance and therefore occupy the extreme high and low ends on the intelligence scale. That boils down to the fact that there are more male than female geniuses. But on the down side there are more male than female morons. Since men run the IQ tests and probably rig it against women, the claim that there are more male geniuses could be bogus.

Kay S. Hymowitz's City Journal (summer 2011) article, "Why the Gender Gap Won't Go Away. Ever," shows that female doctors earn only 64 percent of what male doctors earn. But it turns out that only 16 percent of surgeons are women, whereas 50 percent of pediatricians are women. Even though surgeons have put in many more years of education and training than pediatricians and earn higher pay, should their salaries be equalized? Alternatively, medical schools might force more female medical students to become surgeons and force male students to become pediatricians to promote wage equality.

You say, "Are you serious, Williams? Or are you making light of the Google firing of James Damore?" My vision is that Damore has the right to say whatever he wishes about the company's racist and sexist diversity policy, and Google has the right to fire him for saying it.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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by John Stossel

Why aren't there more women criminals?! Men in jail outnumber women by a ratio of 14-to-1. We male stutterers outnumber women, too.

This isn't fair! We need more affirmative action! These disparities must be caused by sex discrimination because everyone knows there are no real differences between genders.

After all, Google fired engineer James Damore for daring to suggest that there is a biological reason men dominate tech leadership.

Google's CEO said: "To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive."

Then the media lied about what Damore wrote.

The Washington Post: "women may be genetically unsuited" for tech jobs.

CNN: "women are not biologically fit."

But Damore never said that.

New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post and even Forbes called his memo "anti-diversity." The Atlantic worsened it to an "anti-diversity screed."

But it wasn't "anti-diversity." "I value diversity," Damore wrote, saying he is "not denying that sexism exists."

It certainly wasn't a "screed." It was a thoughtful argument suggesting that "not all differences are socially constructed ... (M)en and women biologically differ."

Can't have that.

The enlightened media quickly explained, "Differences between men and women are slim to none" (CNBC) and "major books have debunked the idea of important brain differences" (Recode).

Wow. "Major books"!

This is absurd. Of course, there are big differences!

I didn't always understand that. My Princeton professors taught me that differences are caused by sexism. Boys are encouraged to achieve, girls to nurture. If we socialize equally, they said, just as many girls will want to go to monster truck rallies and become CEOs. Boys will nurture and more will take up ballet.

Some of it happened. Men did become more nurturing. More women became CEOs.

But no amount of government force and corporate "diversity, integrity, governance" programs will equalize the numbers.

Plenty of science shows that men and women are just programmed differently. Google banning talk  about that is appalling. (Though owners can do as they like with their companies.)

When I was at ABC News, I did a TV special titled "Boys and Girls Are Different."

On the show, the Kinsey Institute's former director explained that right after birth, males and females behave differently: "Males startle more ... (G)ive a little puff of air on their abdomen, they (are) much more likely to startle." And females move their lips more than males.

Infant girls usually sit up without support before boys; boys crawl away from their caretakers sooner. This happens before parents, or society, have much influence.

Even male baby monkeys like playing with trucks more than female monkeys do.

When I reported that, I got a taste of the Damore treatment.

A "20/20" correspondent confronted my TV producer in the ladies room, asking, "How could you have worked on that disgusting show?"

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem said gender differences shouldn't even be researched. She told me it's "anti-American, crazy thinking."

"Aren't women, in general, better nurturers?" I asked.

"No," answered Steinem. "Next question."

At the time, fire departments had just dropped strength tests to help female applicants. One critic of the change complained that instead of being carried out during a fire, now she would be dragged downstairs, her head hitting each stair. Steinem responded, "It's better to drag them out ... (L)ess smoke down there."

This is nuts.

It was also nuts more recently when tennis commentator John McEnroe was attacked for saying that if Serena Williams played with men she'd be ranked "like 700."

Why is this even controversial?

Men and women are simply different, and we should acknowledge that difference.

Yes, America was extremely sexist just 50 years ago. It was taboo for women to smoke, wear pants in public or to go a bar alone. A woman couldn't get a credit card without a husband's or father's signature. Really.

Today, though, company heads are less likely to be female not simply because of sexism but because women are less crazy than men -- less likely to be career-obsessed or to take stupid risks for money. That's also a reason there are fewer women in jail. Is that a bad thing?

Women live longer, have more friends, create better work-life balances.

Social engineers may dream of a society where genders are exactly equal. But it's not going to happen. Companies and governments trying to force it will just make life worse.

John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2017 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM