The Ethics Of Halloween

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Caleb McMillan via the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada,

Every Halloween people are engaging in free-market anarchism whether they like it or not. To the economist, it’s clear that the child values receiving candy, even if it means dressing up in a funny or scary costume and going door-to-door, sometimes for hours, saying “trick or treat”. It’s clear that for the adults, joining in for the festive evening is valued more-so than the monetary value of the candy, or else they wouldn’t be giving it away. And some don’t. Some people, adults and children alike, shy away from Halloween night neither tricking nor treating nor allowing their homes to be used as candy repositories. Those partaking in the activity simply go about their business, ignoring the houses with the lights off. Halloween isn’t like most other market activities where exchanges can be marked in monetary value. Yet an exchange is taking place, and no aggression is required for participation or non-participation.

To the free-market anarchist, Halloween is a perfect example of a non-coercive display of voluntary goodwill. Critics of anarchism typically showcase the Hobbesian idea that without a coercive monopoly, people would rob, rape and kill one another. Yet, what is Halloween if not free-market anarchism? There is no central bureaucracy dictating what kids should dress up as, where they should go or at what time and for how long. Likewise, there are no bureaucrats telling adults what types of candy they should offer (“the Davidson’s are giving away Kit-Kats, so the Gibbons’ should offer M&Ms”).

Every Halloween any person giving away candy is an entrepreneur; the individual must decide how much candy to stock up on and how much to give away to each child. These decisions may be influenced by past experiences and future uncertainties. A neighbourhood with fewer children may warrant fewer candies, or a larger supply of individual candy units to each child. It can even be explained by marginal utility: If the supply of candy at the Davidson’s house is fixed at x, then the marginal utility of each candy unit will rise as more kids arrive and the supply dwindles. Likewise, if fewer children are visiting, the utility of each candy unit will fall, allowing the Davidson’s to give two or more units of candy away to just one child. This, of course, assumes the Davidson’s don’t want the candy for themselves. Fewer children and a large stock of candy may rest higher on their value scales than vanquishing their supply of Halloween candy by the end of night.

Halloween mirrors the principles inherent in free-market anarchism through its spontaneity. There is no fixed time when to start or stop, but clearly there are limits to when one can or can’t trick or treat. There are no candy cops, testing candy or pre-approving adults who are giving away candy. There are no licences or regulations involved with Halloween. And yet, despite some fear-mongering, the candy given away by strangers to be consumed by children is poison-free.

A dedicated Hobbesian will denounce a stateless society as unrealistic and at odds with human nature. Yet what is more unrealistic than children dressing up in costumes, visiting stranger’s doorsteps, getting free candy, and then consuming that candy without it being laced with poison. Not to mention that the ritual happens every year, without any central authority forcing it on people, without any detailed plan on who will supply candy, what types of candy, how much per household, how many kids per street at a certain time, etc, etc.

It’s clear to me that Halloween is nothing short than free-market anarchism at its best. Here is a spontaneous order of people partaking in a festive holiday without any expectation of monetary gain. Not that wealth is something to be shunned, I’m merely just pointing out that money doesn’t always buy happiness. With that said, I ask again: what is Halloween if not free-market anarchism at its best?

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AU5K's picture

By clicking on the article, I thought I was promised a bigger picture.  <sigh>

nonclaim's picture

yeah, the trick was unethical... where's the treat?!


Atlas_shrugging's picture

I’m always struck by kids who get a lot of candy and think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking kids out there.

Zer0head's picture

For years the house has gone dark on this night as I stood at the window peering through the blinds until the last begger left the area.


This year Ms. Head said Zer0, lets turn the lights on and do it, you're trying to get some stuff thru town council, what harm could it do spending $15 on some mini mars bars.


So at 5pm I went in search of treats but all I could find was $2 candy bars at the local 711 equiv so I bought a shit load of them.


15 kids showed up  so now I got $80 worth of  Snickers, ButterFinger, Milky Way and 3 Musketeers bars etc. stuffed in my brief case as ms. Zer0 would throw me out the back door if she knew I spent more than a hundred bucks to try and buy favor with the neighbors.

Never fcking again

smlbizman's picture

if i want to read articles ill get a playboy......

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

FOFOA.  Meeting.  Doctor.  165 lbs.  Sword & Scream!  Ceviche.  What does it all mean?  AN AWESOME Halloween!

willwork4food's picture

Have not spent a dime...i don't know whats wrong. I dress up in a nice deep dark rain coat w/nothing on to greet them and for some reason they just scream and go away.

Must be a modern Halloween version.

prains's picture


stealing candy from kids has no relation to paying taxes, if this was the case me putting a bullet in your skull has no relation to murder

Matt's picture

How is rebalancing the amount of candies the children got, so they each had more similar amounts, not the same as taxing one person and giving the other person a subsidy?

donsluck's picture

Absolutely, let's end all oil patch tax breaks and simply let poor kids starve.

akak's picture


Non sequitur much?

Kiwi Pete's picture

It would have been more realistic if they'd taken the candy out of the kids bags with almost none and given it to the kids who already had more than enough.

SafelyGraze's picture

her name is "Candy", by the way

or "Candi" .. with a heart over the i

CPL's picture


Google images--> search "slutty nurse halloween"--> ???--> profit.

Ms. Erable's picture

I junked you because I can never unsee that.

Ms. Erable's picture

Nope, not gonna fall for it again. Better luck next thread, you farging icehole!

CPL's picture

Best place to file internet complaints can be found as a PDF on this page.

creonnoir's picture

A fellow Canuck business associate showed that to me, so very very wrong...

SafelyGraze's picture

I'm never very sure what kinds of candy, and in what quantity, to give.

federal regulations would be very helpful by providing uniformity and establishing norms for this annual event. 

likewise for gifts exchanged at christmas.

the public should be required to conduct its halloween and christmas related activities at government sites such as social security offices, so that Officials could monitor, regulate, and record these gifts.

actually, I just give out toothpaste and tell kids to "be sure to floss" and "listen to your teachers" and "eat your vegetables"

akak's picture

And the children, of course, are obligated by law to declare the net value of their Halloween candy collections on their annual 1040 income tax form, under "miscellaneous income in kind".

willwork4food's picture

REallY. Can we take this off our TAxes??

Freewheelin Franklin's picture

All of the children in each community should have to place all of the candy that they received into a pile. That pile can then be equally distributed to all of the children.


Unwashed's picture

The model is Irina Voronina.

She was Playboy Playmate of the month for January 2001.

Hwr twitter page:

Ms. Voronina can also be found on LifeClip, a new photo-sharing app for iPhone/Ipad:

Unwashed's picture

All Right, here's a youtube slide show featuring Irina Voronina

You guys might enjoy it. sorta Banzai-esque, but without his panache:

Cathartes Aura's picture

lots of treats being offered for ZH kids tonight. . .

Buck Johnson's picture

No kidding, I was hoping for a big pic also.

Offthebeach's picture

1. Where is AnAmerican?

2. You didn't eat that.

ziggy59's picture

How much for the Trick?

kaiserhoff's picture

Have you ever noticed that, given any excuse, half the chicks will dress like hookers?

SilverRhino's picture

For which I say thank God or whoever or whatever is bringing out their inner slut.

Angus McHugepenis's picture

I hope that's not a complaint?

Dre4dwolf's picture

The best days used to be when 1~2$ would actually buy you something, I remember going around and collecting bags of coins + candy.... went home usually ended up with like 50$ in quarters.


Now that 50$ wouldn't even get you anything nice, + no one gives$$ anymore , all you get is shit candy - corns, I feel bad for this generation of trick-or-treaters they aren't getting the full experience.

Manthong's picture

Prior to the Great Society, a Trick or Treater could roam most any street, alley, apartment building corridor or gangway in the City of Chicago with little to no concern  for their safety.

We have come a long way since those times.

Big Corked Boots's picture

Where the fuck did you go trick-or-treatin', Greenwich? I was lucky if I got fifty cents.

Of course, I'm probably older than you... I have to pay about $6 now for the quarters I spent as a kid. 

tip e. canoe's picture

yeah, but were yours made of silver?

blindman's picture

i don't know about all this but for every
treat there was to be a prayer for a soul
in purgatory; that is what i tell the children
at the door. peace

Schmuck Raker's picture

You must be pretty popular.

Wakanda's picture

By the end of the night, I could often guess which houses gave great treats by decorations, lighting, neighborhood.  It was something of an anarchistic sociological experiment in the 'burbs where I grew up.  The energy was often charged when there were lots of kids on the streets running from house to house in the dark.  Fun!

nmewn's picture

Wait a minute...I think I know that nurse!