Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bans for Fast Food Toys

Today I was reading one of the blogs on the Economist website. I ran across several articles that I felt like I wanted to comment on. For this post, I will be talking about a post by M.S. that talks about the fast food happy meal toy ban in San Francisco (http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/11/happy_meals_ban). There are several things about this blog post that I think needs to be addressed.
First, M.S. begins the post by acting like the post is designed to address the slippery slope argument and its use with unhealthy food. However, the post only spends a paragraph on the subject, and I will address the slippery slope argument and its relevance to this type of paternalism in a later blog post.
In the beginning of the article M.S. first brings up his thought that paternalism in this case is good, because the people involved are children. The problem is, no one is making the argument that children should not be treated like children. The issue is, who should be engaged in the paternalistic behavior? The parents, government, or a combination of the two.
Second, M.S. spends the second half of the blog post basically making the statement that people should not eat fast food, and the people are being manipulated by fast food companies to get their children to eat fast food. Finally, he ends by saying that it is perfectly reasonable for a demographic government to impose these bans as long as it is working in the interest of the general public and is done with the support of the majority. This is what I found most interesting and is ultimately is crux of his argument for why it is ok for these types of paternalistic laws to exist. However, this is ultimately what bothers me the most. Instead of deciding not to give his children fast food and dealing with the resulting behavior, he feels that he is justified in preventing everyone else from doing the same, as long as a majority of people agree with him.
However, my concern is with the minority. What about the minority of people that want their children to have toys when they go out and eat fast food. This fails to address the question: when is it wrong for the majority to impose its will on the entire population? I would be willing to bet that the justification that he used for the ban on toys would not convince him that it is ok to ban gay marriages, or teach creationism in schools, if that is what the majority of the population supports.