Los mercados libres - me encanta!

Americans continue to debate the importance of embracing English as a unifying language. But what about an embrace of free market principles?

A controversy erupted in Bogota, New Jersey this week in response to a McDonald's advertisingLink campaign featuring Spanish billboards, as discussed by Brian Aberback in The Record:
Mayor Steve Lonegan said the McDonald's billboard on River Road near Elm Avenue and the railroad overpass is offensive because it sends the message that Spanish speakers and immigrants do not need to learn how to speak English.

"English is the language that binds us as a community and as a country," Lonegan said Thursday. "This billboard says, 'You Hispanics can't learn English, so we're going to put up this sign.' It's really sending the wrong message" ... Lonegan said he is not racist and would demand that the billboard be removed if it was in Italian, German or any language other than English.
"Demand that the billboard be removed?" That is definitely not the position of a free market advocate. It certainly does not reflect Republican ideology, which is largely supportive of laissez-faire policies and limited government intervention in markets. I am surprised that Mayor Lonegan, who heads the NJ chapter of Americans for Prosperity, an organization "committed to educating citizens about economic policy", did not make the following analysis:

McDonald's, a profit making corporation providing jobs to over 100,000 Americans and possessing a market capitalization of over $41 Billion, acts first and foremost with the interests of its shareholders in mind. Recognizing that Bogota has a 21% Hispanic population, McDonald's obviously determined that a Spanish advertising campaign would drive up business.

Therefore, the logical course of action for a free market advocate who feels that the business decisions made by McDonald's do not suit his personal sensibilities would be to organize a grassroots effort to buy up McDonald's stock (which is freely traded to the tune of 5.6 million shares per day on average) and seize control of the corporation's Board of Directors, thereby gaining the ability to control advertising strategy.

To his credit, Mayor Lonegan has proposed another option: arranging a boycott of the nearest McDonald's restaurant, to show the corporation that its advertising campaign had negative financial results. A well-managed company like McDonald's would respond swiftly to curtail losses. The Star Ledger reports (7/8 addendum):
"If they don't want to take that billboard down," Lonegan added, "I don't want to buy their products and maybe other Americans like me should share that thought. We should boycott McDonald's."
This is the beauty of free markets. It tells us: don't just complain, DO something about it.

Steve, it's nice to be on the evening news, but you've gone overboard on this one. Maybe we can discuss it over a pizz...I mean, "an open-faced tomato and cheese pie".


Commissioner Jose "Alex" Ybarra said...

George I agree...

Lonegan once again proves he is anti-American in his stance against multi-culturalism, free speech, free market and toleration, all earmarks of what makes America great.

His shortsighted views and his constant barrage of inflamatory remarks makes him nothing short of a racist.

Alex Ybarra

PS: Donde estan mis papitas? (Where are my Fries?)

Anonymous said...

the question of language and nation is a big question, allover the world, here in france it is the same thing..in your opinion should there be limits to immigrants or minorities liberty in talking and using their languages? and the most important question what make a nation?

George Ajjan said...


Bienvenue chez Georges. I am glad to see you writing from France, it will help educate some of the people who will come to this blog in response to my posting and criticism of some right-wing ideology. Some of these individuals despise France and consider it one of America's greatest enemies.

I do not support any restrictions of the freedom of any person to communicate in any language they wish, so long as they do not yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theatre. I certainly do not believe that government should have veto power over advertisements!

However, I do not support the government translating voting ballots or documents into multiple languages. In America, English is a common unifying language just as in France, French is a common unifying language. People should be encouraged to learn and required to demonstrate proficiency as a prerequisite to citizenship and the right to vote.

If anyone noticed, I have configured my website to translate each post into French, Spanish, and Arabic with the click of a button. So technology is such a huge help to immigrants in this process.

If I moved to Portugal, I would learn Portuguese. But if I chose not to, I would not expect Portuguese society to cater to me. Instead, I would use the technology available to me to automatically translate Portuguese government documents into English, so that I would be able to cope in a foreign environment without being a burden. This is something to embrace, not fear.

Anonymous said...

When will you configure your website to translate posts into Chinese, specifically Cantonese? Jo tau.

George Ajjan said...


set encoding to Chinese simplified.

Latin Lingo said...

George -- great points about free markets.

As I've written, the broader sentiment Lonegan communicates, in my opinion, is that Hispanics are either to lazy or unwilling to learn English.

Hispanic immigration today very much parallels European immigration in the early 1900s. Those that came through Ellis Island initially settled in ethnic communities where they spoke thier native language and were able to be with family and fellow countrymen. It took some time for the first generation to learn English, and they largely settled into blue collar jobs. It was thier children that better assimilated into the U.S. culture and, of course, language.

It is essentially the same with Hispanic immigration. Although I must point out that because technology and communications allows us to stay more in touch with our homelands we "acculturate" more than we assimilate.

From a marketing perspective, it makes all the sense in the world that McDonald's would want to target the Spanish-dominant population in thier native language. That is called smart business, and if I was a share holder I would be happy that they are tapping into another channel. As a Latino, I don't see this as a way McDonald's is keeping "the Brown man down," so why should he?

Daniel Beckelman said...

Lonegan is a bit off the mark here. His town is 21% Latino, so it makes sense for McDonalds to market to this group. I also think there is no problem here since the advertisement is clear to both Spanish and English speakers.

I think the Mayor should spend more time leading Americans for Prosperity in the good work they are doing and less on dividing people culturally. In this time of misplaced Democratic priorities on the state level, Republicans should be inviting, not excluding, Latino voters to their ranks.

Fares said...


sorry to be off topic, you might be interested in reading these 2 news posts on my blogs

Syrians are victims of the regime
Arab Blogs get Some media exposure

Fares said...


God Help Lebanon and Syria, US need to intervene to cool things down

My emotional take on the events in Lebanon

sorry kind of long, read 3rd section if you want quick.
only people with hearts and brains can read, no need for hyprocrites.
Appreciate your feedback.

Anonymous said...

Lonegan supposedly made an appearance on Neil Cavuto's show on FNC Wednesday evening to discuss this matter. Anyone happen to catch it?

George Ajjan said...

Lonegan no doubt has a keen eye for publicity-generating actions, but unlike his protest of the anti-Christmas school district in winter 2004, this action has a liability with his Republican base.

Attacking a corporation like McDonalds, and showing himself to be pro-government intervention in markets, were not smart moves.

Also, his action will be largely interpreted as anti-Hispanic, which is going to hurt him at the polls next year in the general election, assuming he survives a possible primary (Alan Marcus and co. may still be gunning for him). Also, a lot of Schundlerites still have axes to grind against Lonegan.

George Ajjan said...

some feedback by email:

I found the McDonalds article interesting. It's just a reality now that businesses just want to make money no matter what it takes. in this case, making it easy for Hispanics to relate to Spanish driven ads, which in itself is not a terrible thing. But the real question or issue is, are companies under any ethical obligation to follow any direction set forth by country/government or the English speaking dominated population?

my response:

this is not an ethical issue. There is nothing ethical about describing a cold coffee in english or spanish.

McDonalds has the right, as a corporation, to do whatever the heck they please and if it offends the "ethics" of society so much, then the market would show that because people would boycott and sales would slip, or people would dump their shares.

Government should butt out, bottom line.

George Ajjan said...

more feedback by email:

I think that the "Golden Arches" are enough to tell any nationality where to go to get indigestion and fat. HAHA I feel strongly that all signs should
be in English. It's actually less costly for companies to make one sign rather than two. The french canadian business people say how expensive and how it cuts into their profits by printing things twice. There are so many
nationalities in America why pick Spanish. Someone might sue McDonalds and say why not Hungarian or Arabic or Indian or German or.... do I need to go on? It's best to stick to one language. I have no problem people speaking all kinds of language but we should have one common language, English. Heck
most people can't speak that correctly could you immagine two languages?

my response:

In Quebec the laws mandate that product labels must be in English as well as French. But that could relate to a safety issue.

First and foremost, businesses should be free in our market capitalist system. Therefore, the only people that have any recourse to complain about McDonald's advertising decision are the shareholders.

The government should not have a say over adverstising. That is completely contrary to American capitalism, in my opinion.

George Ajjan said...

one more thing, this weekend I stopped (proudly) to eat at McDonald's in Passaic, NJ, where probably 75% of the consumer base is Hispanic. On Main Avenue, I saw almost the identical McDonald's ad as the one that got Lonegan all huffy in Bogota, but it was in English. Next to it was a Spanish-only ad for a realtor.

I love this place.

Anonymous said...


I think the spanish speakers of NJ ought to lobby to retreve the right of Bogota, NJ to use such a nice traditional Spanish place name while such a dolt remains as Mayor.

LBS 1990

Anonymous said...

There was another piece in today's paper (7/24/06) regarding this matter.

I'm curious what 8th Congressional District GOP candidate Jose Sandoval thinks about Lonegan's hostility toward free-market economic policies, as well as Lonegan's charge that McDonald's is catering purely to illegal Hispanic immigrants in North Jersey.

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