Share this article

print logo

Another Voice: We don’t need a federal law limiting ticket ‘bots’

By Tom Mullen

Paul McCartney scheduled a visit to Buffalo for the first time in his legendary career. I am a lifelong fan who had mouse poised at the precise moment tickets went on sale. I did not get a ticket. “Scalper bots” had apparently bought them faster than virtually anyone else could click on a seat. I was disappointed.

But I’m even more disappointed to hear there is support for a federal law prohibiting these kinds of programs. Under the guise of protecting the environment (but really just more crony capitalist scams), we already have the federal government telling us what light bulbs we may use and how much water our toilets are allowed to flush. We don’t need a law telling us how to buy and sell tickets to a rock concert.

The first and foremost reason is principle. Concert tickets are private property. They belong to the promoters of the concert, who have a right to sell 100 percent of them to customers using purchasing software. They also have a right to develop software to prevent bots from buying their tickets. The government’s role in exchanges of property is to ensure these property rights are secure, not to violate them as this bill proposes to do for the convenience of those who seem to believe someone owes them a concert ticket.

As is always the case, upholding private property rights will also yield the best results. The so-called “scalper” is vilified much as the “speculator” in stocks and bonds, but both make their respective markets function more efficiently for consumers. Scalpers buy up tickets to events, taking the risk they will be able to sell them at a profit later. This helps ensure the event will sell out and makes it much more likely similar events will be available to consumers in the future.

The scalpers are only able to sell the tickets they bought at a price others are willing to pay. The venue sells them in an initial offering well below the market price. We know this because people pay the scalpers more. In the crapshoot that ensues, one has to take the first seat(s) available before thousands of other customers buy them first. The scalpers make the seat of one’s choice available at the true market price.

At some point before or just after the concert starts, one may very well find tickets available below face value, as scalpers try to unload their remaining inventory. I doubt they’d get any credit for selling tickets below face value to a poor person who otherwise couldn’t afford them.

Private property is the bedrock of civilized society. Its security is the reason civil societies are formed, according to our founding principles. Yet it is constantly under attack by those who find it inconvenient. But violating private property rights for a supposed “right” to buy concert tickets is a new low.

Tom Mullen, of Royalton, is the author of “A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.”