09 November 2010

Trash Collection and Happy Meal Toys--Libertarian Mythology

Man the world is muddled more than ever it seems. Folks with absolutely zero ability to follow arguments through to logical conclusions or even simply following them through to realize the consequences inherent in certain choices are standing up and yelling FREEDOM and LIBERTY and Small Government and CHOICE (except where morality is concerned, their version)...

So this back and forth over trash has become a kind of Petri dish of the inanities of our modern thinking (or lack thereof)--it seems to me it has become emblematic of the fact that it's impossible to govern on ideology and even very difficult to do so via a philosophy (even though the masters now proclaim pragmatism our most "democratic" of such).

Here's a link to a post
on the site wherein the argument originated that links to all the other posts and weighs in also. I will say that the points raised in this particular post make sense to me.

However, I was prompted to write this post due to this paragraph in the linked blog post:

But where we differ is that I would argue that this “right” is not unfettered. And you can see what I mean if you think, as I do, that the question of whether you can buy a happy meal (which has next to no impact on anyone but yourself and or your kid) is different from the question of whether or not you can let your garbage rot on the street that fronts my house as well as yours.

I will disagree with this particular example and claim that there is the very same principle at work in this trash collection/free market debate and the Happy Meal regulation that has happened in San Fran and Santa Clara County.

Communities come together and decide via the action of voting (via elected representatives)--choosing a trash collection service or banning a happy meal toy. And guess what, choosing a Happy Meal does indeed impact your neighbors...you've heard of obesity, right? You've heard of diabetes, right? You've heard complaints about healthcare costs, right? I would argue that your decision about Happy Meals has a lot more impact on us all than your choice of trash collection.

And guess what...here is where I will again call bullshit on "free markets" and choice: it must be painfully clear to most that all of our entertainments in this life revolve around consumption. And all of our corporations spend more money persuading you to purchase their products than they do producing them. A Happy Meal Toy is an assault on choice--an assault on freedom. A Happy Meal Toy is the true emblem of inability to make sense of "freedom" and "property" and "choice". Markets lie to you and the action in California is the community realizing there is a consequence in that lie and they have the right and duty to defend themselves and their citizens against it the only way they have a chance...via regulation, not individual "responsibility".


  1. In response to Happy Meals, my only comment is this: why do we need a law/ban to come together and make a good decision? I need to do some more research on the ban, and haven't had time to read the linked LA Times article. The problem with it is that it was the collective decision of a community that probably didn't purchase many of them in the first place, so the only real benefit of making it a legal situation is, frankly, national press coverage, trying to make this ban "viral" in other communities.

    But the ban doesn't achieve its purpose if the education about nutrition, obesity, diabetes does not follow. We are constantly inundated with worse and worse food. Who in the world needs a burger "pizza" from Burger King, or whoever came up with that crap product?

  2. Well, hmmm...while I have to agree that folks "should" be able to make decisions that benefit them personally beyond the "ease" and/or "comfort" of fatty foods I'll have to ask you to state your principled objection clearly.

    We currently have laws that ban cigarette smoking in public places--community places--one assumes due to the very clear damage done by smoking to both the smoker and others in the vicinity, as well as the damage caused by the heavy metals that smoking leaves behind for decades in furniture and carpeting etc.--and one might argue that speed limits are intrusive in this same way.

    I guess what I'm saying is, when do you believe that laws are protecting our citizens and when they are doing something else.

    You are requiring the population to learn about nutrition AGAINST all the information available in the marketplace that claims there are health benefits in things where there are none.

    How do we make decisions like this--"who" do we listen to? Why agree or disagree with these positions?

  3. Yes, I've been appalled at marketing campaigns to make junk/convenience foods suddenly healthy. All of a sudden all cereals, crackers, chips contain whole grains. It's a miracle, everything is healthy!