Is the prospect of handing out sweets under threat of being tricked this Halloween sending a shiver down your spine? Edmund Wright, a philosopher with an interest in play and narrative, emailed us to share his concern that trick-or-treat is, in effect, a school for tiny extortionists. Here's what he wrote:
It provides a splendid run-in for anyone wanting to set up a protection racket when he grows up, or even to begin life as a blackmailer. It has been imported from America, no doubt as a result of Spielberg's 'E.T.', and the eagerness of firms to work in their advertisements parasitically on any children's fad.
And in a little monologue we recorded this afternoon, he enlarges upon his concerns:
Well, is Wright right? Or is he a later-day Scrooge crying humbug to the spirit Halloween fun? There are certainly a few sympathetic people.
And if you are reading this after Halloween, how was trick-or-treat for you? Did you feel extorted or were you happy to pass around the toffee? Are you a parent shuddering at the thought of law-suits and dental bills? Your thoughts welcome.
UPDATE: Hmmm my own experiences last night included pavements covered with smashed eggs and fireworks lobbed like mortars in the general direction of the bus-stop. So I'm in exactly the right frame of mind to read this modest proposal: an economist at the American Enterprise institute argues, having surveyed a basket of sweetie bags and found most of the content inedible, that the economic cost of Trick-or-Treat is 1.5 billion dollars (that's roughly the amount the author estimates is wasted in disgusting candy usually given away at Halloween). The solution the author identifies is to give money not sweets. Now I may be no economist, but I think there may be significant counterparty risk associated with that scheme - more eggs and fireworks anyone?
UPDATE II: The Police Inspector Blog takes a different view in an entertaining post:
As a Constable, I used to enjoy responding to these calls by broadcasting the descriptions given over the radio channel. “The informant says the offenders are about 5 ft tall, dressed in a white sheet with chains, one has a bolt through his neck and huge stitches on his forehead and the other has fangs and blood dripping from his chin, over”.
In his view the desire to ban trick-or-treating is another example of society making childhood a crime.