Video: Three flushes for American capitalism!

Relax — this video is safe for work.  It might not be safe for lunch, though, so be warned.  Reason TV takes a look at the Big Apple’s big public-toilet problem, and casts it into a lesson in how free enterprise solves more problems than the “collective action” Barack Obama hailed in his inaugural speech last month.  When everyone owns a facility in theory, no one’s responsible for it in practice — which is why New Yorkers use someone else’s privy whenever they have the chance:

The greatest city in the world – New York, New York – is home to 8 million souls, a magnet for 52 million tourists a year, and legendary for the grossest public toilets this side of a Turkish prison. That makes sense, since nobody really owns public toilets, leading to the ultimate tragedy of the commons.

There’s a reason the Big Apple shopping blog Racked recently recommended a list of the 16 best in store bathrooms for New Yorkers on the go. Can you imagine a similar list of johns maintained by Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s tidy team? …

So forget Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and Times Square. What makes New York great are all those private spaces that businessmen leave open for the public to trample, whether that means misusing the books at Barnes and Noble, surfing the internet at the Apple Store, or working all day at a Brooklyn coffee shop while nursing a single $2 cup of joe. …

So let’s give three flushes for American capitalism! If it weren’t for all these great private bathrooms you can just walk in and use, we’d all be carrying around our own toilet paper rolls, hand soap, and wax-paper rim covers.

At least Mayor Bloomberg is all over that transfat problem, and keeping people from endangering their lives with Big Gulps.  He’s too busy meddling in those private choices to actually take care of the public privies in his provenance.  It’s easier to be a big nanny than to clean up your own mess, after all, especially when government has no competition to keep it focused and efficient.