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Did Domino's exploit you by selling $30 pizzas on New Year’s Eve in Times Square?

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio began 2020, the year he intended to become president, by asserting that Domino’s Pizza “exploited” New Year’s Eve revelers in Times Square by selling pizzas for $30 apiece. But was the mayor’s hot take on the extra dough fresh?

In his first original tweet of the year, Mayor de Blasio referred to a New York Post story about this franchise’s 15-year-old tradition of delivering pizzas to the crowd. “Jacking up your prices on people trying to celebrate the holidays?” he wrote. “Classy, @dominos.”

“To the thousands who came to Times Square last night to ring in 2020, I’m sorry this corporate chain exploited you,” he continued. “[S]tick it to them by patronizing one of our fantastic LOCAL pizzerias.”

Jacking up your prices on people trying to celebrate the holidays? Classy, @dominos.

To the thousands who came to Times Square last night to ring in 2020, I’m sorry this corporate chain exploited you — stick it to them by patronizing one of our fantastic LOCAL pizzerias. pic.twitter.com/rO6I9oYIku

— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) January 1, 2020

One might object that New York City, which is currently gripped in an epidemic of anti-Semitic violence, has weightier problems to address. But given that Hizzoner chose to address this issue, is he right?

A host of people on Twitter pointed out the law of supply-and-demand: As demand for a finite product rises, its price rises to meet it. Hundreds of thousands of partiers, with no access to food or drinks, create a human wave of demand. Prices in crowds always rise, as customers outbid one another.

To simply dismiss Bill de Blasio’s tweet on the grounds of supply and demand would overlook all the other ways the mayor’s charges fall flat on the facts. Mayor de Blasio's attack is based on a number of hypocrisies richer than Domino's sauce.

1. The customers were grateful. Prices transmit a vital piece of information: the value consumers place on a product. Plenty of people would be happier with a hot pizza pie than with an extra $30 and an empty stomach. (Esau had a similar values dilemma when he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of pottage.) Profit is a form of gratitude for services rendered, as Domino’s satisfied customers told the Post. The delivery man “is our Santa,” said Amit Zanwar, a 31-year-old who came to the celebration with two friends and no food. Francisco Patalano, who visited from Fort Polk in Louisiana, said, “It was totally worth it.” Government may think it knows best, but free choices, made by free individuals, deliver the best results for everyone involved.

As de Blasio inveighs against evil corporations, those on the ground would be treated no better by the screaming-caps “LOCAL” pizzerias he extols.

2. The government created the extraordinary conditions that fed this demand. Someone who wishes to enter the wall of humanity that is Times Square on New Year’s Eve becomes subject to a number of regulations. As part of the necessary security measures to secure an inviting terrorist target, officials screen attendees and assign them to a pen. They can leave, but they cannot return. Attendees willingly lose access to nutrition, hydration, and restroom facilities. While this is sadly necessary in an age of terror, it stokes demand. Further, the government must close surrounding streets, so Domino’s delivery man Ratan Banik had to balance a stack of hot pizzas on his head as he walked into crowd, selling his wares. Does the mayor believe the restaurant deserves nothing for going above-and-beyond to feed customers on a holiday?

3. The critique is motivated by envy, not moral outrage. Moral integrity demands that all people be held to the same standard. Yet as de Blasio inveighs against evil corporations, those on the ground would be treated no better by the screaming-caps “LOCAL” pizzerias he extols. “[M]any city pizzerias charge $4 a slice — which works out to $32 for a pie — and that restaurants regularly raise their rates on New Year’s Eve,” the Post reports. That is, the “corporation” charged the same prices as its rivals. Demeaning one business while praising its competitors, who are engaged in identical practices, shows de Blasio is motivated by animus, not moral integrity.

4. Private consumers have the right to choose, or reject, the price. Domino’s cannot force people to purchase a product they do not want – unlike, e.g., health insurance companies under the original Affordable Care Act. Which brings us to the next item ….

5. Bill de Blasio understands – and advocates – raising fees based on demand. Mayor de Blasio has endorsed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s scheme of “congestion pricing” for traffic: Beginning next year, the government will charge cars $12 to $14, and trucks $25, to enter Manhattan’s business district – the very area in question. “Congestion” is another word for “increased demand,” and de Blasio is "jacking up your prices" by imposing a draconian daily fee on those who want access to the limited supply of public streets. “Physician, heal thyself.”

6. The government often gives the people an undesirable product. Government alone has the power of coercion. The NYC government not only extracts people’s wealth by force but spends it on a variety of programs many of those people do not want. (“Now do property taxes,” one Twitter user responded.) Bill de Blasio’s approval rating sits at a dismal 27 percent. Government, unlike the free market, compels people to pay, but the policies are increasingly drawn up by a remote bureaucracy staffed by technocrats with little incentive to please those paying the tab.

7. Franchises are “local pizzerias.” Mayor de Blasio’s attempt to stir up populist backlash against giant corporations fails, because he does not understand that every Domino’s franchise is locally owned by his constituents. Although the franchise model of business came under fire during the Obama administration, the present National Labor Relations Board understands distant corporations do not own local stores. Franchisees, including the owners of the Domino’s on 40th Street and 7th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, are hardworking entrepreneurs running their own business. And now, they must counter the intervention of the highest government official in their city.

Luckily for Domino’s, if this were a real crime, they could now be released without bail, to serve the public again and again.

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Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.