Sunday, November 18, 2007

Vested Interest. Self-Interest.-- Why Things Happen, or Don't Happen.

Vested interest. Self-interest. This, I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, had an opportunity to travel the world, seems to often be why things happen, or don’t happen, no matter what the nation or its economic or political system.
A government sets up an office, starts a program, and it might turn out to be meaningless, indeed dangerous, but a vested interest is created and it’s hard to end what has been set up. A company sells a product, and it might be poisonous—tobacco, for example—but what a battle to counter corporate self-interest.
Here on Long Island, New York a while back, there was a clear—and laughable and sad—example of this dynamic. It had to do with balloons. Yes, balloons.
Suffolk County Legislator Lynne Nowick received a letter from some elementary school students about helium-filled balloons falling into waterways and being mistaken for jellyfish by sea animals who ingested the balloons and died. They noted that Connecticut, because of this problem, banned mass balloon releases and they suggested the same sort of thing be done on Long Island.
So Nowick got to work, did research, and found what started off as helium-filled balloons represented the most common form of floating garbage within 200 miles from shore and, indeed, regularly kill marine life, especially turtles.
She introduced a bill to in Suffolk to prohibit mass balloon releases. A legislative no-brainer, you’d figure.
But along came something called the Balloon Council. This is a national coalition based on New Jersey of manufacturers, distributors and retailers of balloons.
Go to the group’s website:—and you can find out all you ever wanted to know about balloons. Balloon history. How balloons are made, and so forth.
Also, the Balloon Council has made it its business of trying to defeat what it considers anti-balloon legislation—laws like the one in Connecticut and a dozen states restricting or banning balloon releases. And it went after the Long Island balloon bill.
But the politicians here resisted the Balloon Council and enacted the Nowick bill which prohibits the release of more than 25 balloons filled with helium or containing other lighter-than air gasses.
The release of such balloons, says the bill, has a deleterious effect on the environment when they inevitably deflate and fall in the ocean or the Long Island Sound.
One vested interest was stood up to. There are many others.

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