By Patrick McAuliffe
This might be old news, but if I get the chance to use laundry detergent as an argument for limited government, you can be sure I’m jumping on it. I’ll also try to avoid using any sort of “turning the Tide” pun in the course of my writing. However, I think you’d agree that “cleaning up government overregulation” is perfectly fine. Alright, I’ll get to it.
Tide pods, the Forbidden Snack (™) of memesters everywhere, started off the year 2018 in a rather unexpected way. While on maybe five or six layers of irony, people took to the Internet in January to partake in the Tide Pod Challenge, where they would try to eat the detergent-filled pods in increasingly creative ways. My personal favorite is the pizza adorned with Tide pods as if they were gummy-shaped pepperonis. Even though they were doing it for the meme, these brave souls quickly discovered that eating laundry detergent is an absolutely terrible idea. Failing to adhere to the warnings already on the bags and buckets of Tide pods, stupid people on the Internet chose the irony of eating something that is clearly not meant for human consumption over a good chuckle along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be wild if Tide pods were edible? Haha yeah that’d be crazy.”
Tide has responded to people pulling this shit in the most laissez-faire way possible. Twitter blew up with people @ing Tide with their safety concerns, and Tide reiterated all of the warnings on their packaging in addition to general common sense. There was also no nationwide recall of Tide pods. This was left to individual retailers, most of which still kept the pods on the shelves. The Walmarts and Target in the greater Binghamton area didn’t even go as far as other stores that put their Tide pod bags in sealed plastic containers to be unlocked by the cashiers upon purchase.
Just like all victimless crimes, the consumption of Tide pods couldn’t go unaddressed by lawmakers. My home paper in Rochester, the Democrat and Chronicle (unfortunate first name), reported on February 6th about a bill proposed in the New York State Assembly that would try to make Tide pods safer for household use. Reason magazine reported on this bill a day later. Two New York City Democratic representatives, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Senator Brad Hoylman, wrote to Tide’s parent company Proctor and Gamble on February 5th imploring them to try and increase the safety of their own product before lawmakers had to step in. The measures they offered both in the letter and a press conference on the 6th include changing the color to be “unattractive to children,” wrapping each pod in individual bite-resistant packaging, and putting warning labels on both the outer packaging and each pod’s individualized packet.
Proctor and Gamble, the only rational actor caught between the idiots eating their pods and the idiots forcing them to make their pods “safer,” responded to each criticism like any sane person would. Tide already offers a variation on their pods that are plain in color called Tide Free and Gentle. In the worst case, people could just use regular bottled or powdered detergent like they have been doing for years. The color or shape doesn’t seem to matter, because according to the National Capital Poison Center, more children under 6 died from ingesting batteries – not candy-shaped or colorful – than laundry pods between 2012 and 2016. The colors used in the pods are Tide’s choice to make, and for people that can’t know not to snack on them, parents and child-safe locks exist to provide that impediment to feasting on detergent.
The second proposal is to add another layer between the bag or bucket that stores the pods and the pods themselves, in the form of another non-permeable, bite-resistant wrapping. Not only is this not certain to reduce the number of incidents in the eyes of P & G, but another layer of plastic may have negative environmental aspects. More plastic in the landfills to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist perfectly sums up how well government intervention of this sort can work.
The final major proposal that the NYC Dems want implemented is the placement of warning labels on the outside of the laundry pod packaging about the dangers of consuming detergent. The problem with this proposal is that it already exists. The Tide pod buckets and bags already have warnings that take up about ¼ of the front of the label; you can see them every time you walk by their display in Walmart. Herein lies the root of the problem with government intervention of this kind.
Politicians that advocate for these types of controls can’t wrap their heads around the fact that people are wild cards. Almost all people are rationally self-interested, and nothing is farthest from that than eating the soap meant for washing clothes. People can be warned about the dangers until they are blue and orange in the face, but the fact remains that it’s just as easy to choose to disregard those warnings. I’m not saying that just because we as humans have this radical freedom to choose to partake in the Forbidden Snack (™) or not, that the choices are morally equal. The choice should be treated like every moral decision: governed by one’s internal moral law and not by force or coercion on the part of the government. When a rational adult munches on a pod because of their free choice, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Lawmakers should stop treating rational people like children because of the minority of stupid people that act like children.