Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Free Toy Inside!

I have a particularly obvious thing to crank about today, and thankfully it's pretty short: San Francisco recently voted to ban toys in kid's meals at fast food joints.*

There's a lot of things wrong with this. First off, it's the parent's responsibility to make sure that Happy Meals are not a synonym for dinner. No amount of legislation barring the actual abolition of fast food joints will do this--and given the current climate in the intelligentsia, we may get there yet. Secondly, why are they infringing on the rights of both 1) corporations who want to effectively advertise their wares with premiums and 2) adults who want to make the choice for where they eat, not their kids? If there are adults out there who can't push back against the pressure of having their kid collect the fourth Scott Pilgrim glass, then they shouldn't be granted a parenting license.**

As it stands, any responsible parent won't be swayed by this new law--if nothing else, it simply makes a rare trip to the fast food joint less enjoyable. Irresponsible parents who let their kids shovel garbage into their mouths probably have toys near the bottom of the list of reasons why they eat too much junk. This leaves only those marginal parents who normally wouldn't take their kids to Micky D's but decided to because of some giveaway, something I can't imagine being a statistically significant number. Is this a problem that really needed to be addressed?

Alas, I fear this will be the trend. The mayor of Pittsburgh recently suggested taxing sugared drinks, ostensibly to help combat child obesity but mostly to prop up various financial mismanagement problems within the city. Other municipalities, such as New York City, have also taken up the cause. I am wary of these things--while on the face of it I don't mind the propagation of information, such as nutrition info (though I could it does much good and the costs are probably a bit too high for the overall benefits), I'm not a fan of outright banning of specific cooking methods or ingredients. This seems to be straight-up dietary fascism, and I say that fully aware of the alarmism of that phrase.

A few years ago the Economist, upon the Chirac government caving in to basically making no reforms at all to their employment laws, stated something to the effect that France had chosen to not join the future of Europe, but to relegate themselves to a third-rate power indebted to states more willing to embrace and overcome challenges. I am starting to feel this way about many of the cities in southern California. The Golden State has often been an early adopter to many social and political reforms, but I think they've mired themselves into pushing away anyone and anything willing to be innovative.


*Yes, I know, they actually just posted specific guidelines as to what meals could have toys, so many of the Happy Meals and similar items will be fine. It's the principle of the thing.
**What? You don't need to have a license to be a parent? That is...a shame.

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