New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has constructed a near perfect illustration of petty tyranny, what's wrong with the left and why those who care about doing good need to focus on creating environments whereby people can make good decisions and not try to force their perceived notions of what constitute proper decisions upon people. Like the proverbial frog in the pot, liberty is rarely stolen all at once, but removed bit by bit. One “If it just saves one child” law at a time until the sum of human choices are reduced to that which is mandated and that which is forbidden.
Mayor Bloomberg has noticed that an increasing number of New Yorkers are obese. In an effort to change the sobering statistics on obesity, he proposes to make illegal the sale of sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces. This is a horrible idea for the following reasons: 1. It WILL NOT make people less obese. 2. It will increase the ever-increasing regulatory burden people face. 3. It destroys liberty.
Study after study shows that these type of bans just will not result in less obesity. I understand that the Mayor is aghast when he sees a fat person, but simply making it illegal to sell a popular high calorie item is not shown in any known study to reduce obesity, or increase healthy metrics in any way whatsoever, and in fact have been shown to do nothing of the sort. Even if such drastic measures as making certain products illegal are appropriate as public health measures, shouldn’t such bans be made in the face of good science? Would it be a good system if every mayor in the country were simply able to make a list of the food and drink items he or she personally finds objectionable and ban their sale for the duration of their administration when a new dear leader would implement a different list?
Now you may say "well what's the difference - it's just soda" or the like. Even if it is just soda, that's enough of a problem for freedom lovers to resist the new law. It is essential for a free society that the government not ban a product or service based upon the chief executive of the jurisdiction's finding that it is undesirable. What about the needs of the millions of New Yorkers who find value in purchasing these drinks? What about the bottling plants with many thousands or millions invested in the production of this legal product? What about the struggling bodega owner for whom these drinks represent an important percentage of sales? Tough, says Bloomberg. He doesn’t like it and he’s the boss, so shut up. Will the City of New York pay for new shelving systems to replace the 20 ounce bottle organizers which are ubiquitous in convenience stores? Put yourself in the place of a soda company – how many different laws should they be forced to contend with to sell soda?
Of course it's never just soda. We really should have learned with cigarettes - just as they should have stopped Hitler at Munich. The failure to stop the do-gooders with power will be realized in reduced liberty, a rise in government control over our lives, all coupled with a failure to fix the problem that supposedly motivated all the restrictions in the first place. Gun control and Prohibition present two instructive examples for the would-be social planner. Of course the five scoop Golden Opulence Sundae at New York’s famous Serendipity restaurant will not be initially targeted, nor will the 2600 calorie rib eye at the Waldorf. No, the first to go will be the least defensible products. Those most enjoyed not by the chattering classes but their lessers who don’t have the sound judgment and keen self-discipline of a man of Bloomberg’s constitution. But then…but then when they find that soda bans don’t work and the soda manufacturers complain about Starbucks, and the scolds who can’t stand the sight of the fat people they have to see in public… Bloomberg’s “hand-picked board” is already setting its’ sights on other food choices it disfavors – movie theater popcorn, and milk drinks.
Hopefully this ban will fail the sure-to-come court challenges to enjoin its enforcement. While those on all sides of various arguments invoke the Founders to bolster their claims, I’m confident the fathers of our country definition of freedom and liberty included that to decide what food and drink to consume.