An interesting blog post from one of my favorite bloggers:
While I understand Professor Mankiw’s argument about the market, I think what Leno is really saying is: These tickets are supposed to go to the people who would pay $800 to see his show, but simply do not have $800. While there are probably Leno fans who can and would pay $800 (or more) to see him, and there are certainly people who would rather have $800 than see him, Leno is targeting the select group who would pay $800 but can’t.
Therefore, this isn’t so much about creating an altruistic image for Leno as it is about rewarding his most loyal poor fans.
This isn’t particularly altruistic either. It is somewhat similar to a drug dealer giving a free injection/cigarette/whatever to someone who is broke, presumably in hopes of getting them hooked so they’ll come back when they get money. Leno knows that the people who would pay $800 to watch him will still be there for the soaking at future events. As he himself puts it: “You’re out of your mind to pay $800 to see me.”