1. Freedom and the Great American Soft Drink

    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    I want to approach institutional freedom and choice in America from a perspective that should be familiar to capitalists and business-people of all stripes: Brand Building.

    A brand is a symbol or representation of an idea. It is both a concept and a tacit promise. When I purchase a can of Coca-Cola and crack the aluminum tab, I drink the contents without fear that I might find something unexpected inside – such is the power of a brand. Such also, is the power of Health Canada, which ensures I won’t be drinking poison. But within regulation, Coca-Cola certainly has wiggle room to be inconsistent. Coke however, and most of the world's top brands, recognize the need for consistency in what they deliver. Consistency builds trust and inspires loyalty among purchasers. Whatever you may think of Apple, Starbucks and even McDonalds or Coke, you probably recognize why they go to great lengths to preserve the strength of their brand in this way.

    Doing so requires standardization. Doing so means vastly restricting the choice and freedom that employees, franchisers and even customers might enjoy. If you purchase a McDonald store, you cannot cook the food in cobb ovens, and oppositely, as a customer, you cannot order filet mignon. Choice is limited, but the return on consistency is vital for the McDonalds brand. But what of the American brand?

    When you send your child to school in the United States of America it should mean something. People on the international stage should recognize that your kid received an education in one of the most powerful nations in the world, and there should be a standard of quality that inspires trust and respect. Just as you should not have to worry that your new Mazda 3 doesn't have proper brake-pads on all wheels, the biotech company employing your child should not have to wonder whether their new hire received proper education in evolutionary science.

    Voucher-based healthcare, schools that can opt-out of teaching vital and relevant information, and wildly inconsistent abortion and marriage laws are not just a bad idea. They are a combined force that massively weakens the brand that is the United States of America.
    Here’s your Grande Latte. Oops it has some lemonade in it. Here’s your GED. Aw shoot. We forgot to teach you about contraception and safe sex. If people cannot count on America to provide them and their families with consistent healthcare and education, tourists will not want to visit, immigrants will not want to move in, and current residents will want to move elsewhere. When conservative republicans harken back to the ‘golden age’ of America, they are talking about a concept, and idea and a brand. A brand that is severely tarnished.

    I’m not trying to debate the fundamentals of freedom in society with this article. Ideas about which freedoms and what choices are important for people to thrive, succeed in, and love the society in which they live are beyond the scope of a 500 word rant.

    But question those that tell you that freedom and choice are always the bottom line. Think about that when you buy an iphone, and get an iphone that works just like everyone elses.

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