Monthly Archives: December 2005

McDonald’s on Mars

Commenter Wally expresses concern over the development of space:

Besides, who wants to go to McDonald’s Restaurant on Mars?

I do.

Not because I find the food appealing, but because of what the fact of a McDonald’s on Mars would say about the planet’s level of development. Shipping in from a distribution center on Earth all the mystery meat, synthetic cheese, pickles, onions, buns, soft-drink syrup, shoestring potatoes, condiments, service items, and other consumable products a franchised fast-food restaurant would require would be prohibitively expensive, at least by the modes of transportation available in the near term, so the existence of a simple McDonald’s on Mars would imply a whole range of other complex economic activities:

  • the ranching (or decanting) of various types of meat;
  • agriculture capable of supplying oil seeds, wheat, cucumbers, onions, sugarcane/corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and assorted spices;
  • silviculture providing pulp stock for paper goods;
  • processing facilities for the meat and other raw agricultural goods;
  • secondary processing facilities, such as bakeries for the buns, plants for conversion of sugar or corn syrup into soft-drink concentrate, other plants producing ketchup, mustard, pickles, etc.;
  • transportation for moving the raw materials and processed items (not to mention the consumers);
  • a local construction industry capable of building a structure to house the restaurant, and a supply of building materials;
  • a local manufacturing industry with the ability to produce the various pieces of specialized machinery and fittings required to turn the aforementioned consumables into final product and deliver them to customers — freezers, refrigerators, fry vats, grills, microwave ovens, soft-drink dispensers, cash registers, communications systems, preparation tables, sinks, water heaters, icemakers, customer furnishings, etc.;
  • the constituent items (gears, motors, electromechanical elements, control devices, refrigerants, sheet metal, advanced plastics) that go into the production of such equipment;
  • the miscellaneous secondary items involved in the running of the primary business, such as cleaning equipment and supplies;
  • items taken for granted in a terrestrial McDonald’s: a supply of breathable air, potable water, and reliable electricity;
  • a reliable supply chain making all of the above available on short notice;
  • enough unskilled and surly teenagers to staff the restaurant;
  • all of the above available at a cost which still allows the restaurant to make a profit;
  • a trustworthy means of exchange (i.e.: money), and the financial infrastructure that goes with it;
  • applicable legal structures (contract law, property law, etc.) and appropriate enforcement institutions; and
  • enough customers to keep the restaurant profitable.

Not to mention the fact that a McDonald’s would be a pleasant alternative to a communal cafeteria that would be a more practical and efficient if drab means of providing meals. That is, the restaurant would indicate a level of development at which options for enjoyment are available, and people can concern themselves with quality of life (in this case the enjoyment of a simple pleasure) versus mere subsistence.

Who would go to a McDonald’s on Mars? I would — to celebrate the accomplishment that the existence of such a thing would symbolize.

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