Vail weighs balloon ban in wake of store's grand-opening gaffe
March 26, 2009 —
“He stole my balloons!”
-The Joker, after Batman steals his balloons. (Batman, 1989)
Batman, please come to Vail! We have a balloon problem. Or at least we appear to, ever since a new business in Vail recently dared fly balloons to celebrate its grand opening.
The owner, ignorant of Vail’s omnipotent sign and business promotion restrictions, was reprimanded by code enforcement officers apparently twice in one day for these most egregious balloon-related violations.
As a result, Vail is now discussing banning the use of balloons. Vail’s zoning board discussed the topic this week; the conversation struck me as just a fundamentally silly topic.
I also am a libertarian who believes in individual and personal property rights. But beyond that, I felt alarmed by the willingness of the town and some commissioners to consider banning balloons.
It seemed a direct, real-life testament in my mind of how with just a little peer pressure, citizens will easily reject respect for liberty and social freedoms.
Big brother knows best, apparently. As the discussion about balloons went along at the zoning board, I thought that we might look to Saudi Arabia as an example to find a mechanism for the enforcement of the new balloon ban, if it is imposed.
Saudi Arabia has a behavioral manipulation division called the Department for the Protection of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (DPVPV). These are the guys who arrest women for driving or for congregating with men they are not related to.
I was thinking that when the balloon ban is imposed, a division like that might help the Town of Vail enforce the balloon ban!
What seemed particularly disappointing as well was a subsequent zoning discussion about the use of signs in business’s windows that followed the discussion about balloons.
Again, the discussion was fundamentally about liberty and social freedoms, and again, proposals to regulate the use of signs and graphics in windows abounded.
No one has a more vested interest in the success of a business than that business’s owner. Vail doesn’t seem to understand that, and instead seems to feel that it cares more about the business, and knows more about how to successfully run the business, than the owner does.
In my opinion, businesses ought to be able to brainstorm, innovate, and try many different strategies to be successful. Ultimately, consumers are the only proper judge of those strategies’ effectiveness, and consumers will reward or punish the businesses by voting with their wallets.
In Vail this is apparently not how the economy should work. Instead, the government ought to have a heavy hand in influencing the type of innovation and brainstorming a business is allowed to consider. Never mind that the government is unqualified to be the arbiter of what business strategies are acceptable or not.
I understand the argument in favor of banning balloons and regulating posters in windows: we need to work together to maintain a dignified and upscale atmosphere in Vail, and posters and balloons are contrary to that atmosphere. I disagree.
First of all, it’s up to consumers, and not up to Vail, whether “dignified” and “upscale” businesses will succeed in Vail. “If you build it” does not necessarily imply that “they will come.”
Secondly, and I suppose most importantly, Vail needs to start taking itself a lot less seriously. One of the zoning board members asked “are we seriously discussing this?” during the discussion about banning balloons. He definitely had a point.
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