Monday, May 09, 2005

In Defense of McDonalds

We live in good times. We live in a time where we can condemn obesity. Before the industrial revolution, society had to worry about starvation on an almost forgotten level of misery. When we compare starvation and obesity side by side, parents would rather have “fat kids” than skinny ones with bloated stomachs. Starvation is the bigger killer, and we have to thank the commercialization of foods for turning the tide on abject poverty.

Again, our poor suffer the most when the government stands in the way of progress for the fast food industry. In Detroit, the local mayor proposed a 2 percent fast food tax. Is it to fight obesity? No, it is to balance the city’s budget. Instead of cutting unnecessary spending, the local government tries to collect more on the backs – or stomachs – of its citizens.

I remember one letter to editor where the author complained that he could not afford to take his children out to eat. Such actions like Detroit’s 2% fast food tax cause such heartfelt experiences. But with the introduction of another McDonalds, we can expect the prices of their products to come down. This is assuming that demand remains constant while supply goes up. The chance of a reduction in prices is worth it because it gives the author of that letter the opportunity to enjoy life with his children.

Fortunately, McDonalds does more than just feed the poor. Their investment in American Samoa adds to the level of funding brought in by federal grants and the canneries. Their actions also encourage others to follow suit. Surely, McDonalds would not be here today if Krystal Burgers, A&A Pizza and others did not pioneer the fast food industry in Tutuila. Therefore, over the long run, we can expect an increase in local employment.

The debate seems to center around “location,” and this makes it clear why we need to privatize public parks. If we believe that there is no such thing as a free lunch, then funding for the maintenance of property held in public interest is a dilemma. If you are faithfully religious, then this dilemma arises out of the sixth commandment, “Thou shall not steal.” Since not everyone cares to use Utulei Beach, taxes, whether progressive or regressive, to fund the public park is a form of theft.

If Utulei had failed as a private enterprise that charged people for usage, then it is logical to assume that people want something else that they are willingly to pay for. That something could be McDonalds, Shoe Tree, or any other enterprise taking its chances in the market. Progress in this manner is most efficient, fair and moral, and we should support it.

Lastly, there are those who feel that this progress destroys our culture and our islands. To that I say, “Our islands and our people are not a museum for your enjoyment.” We are a real people with real needs and real desires. Progress plays to the needs and desires of the people. Progress brings change, and adapting to change is what the fa’asamoa is really about.

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