The Associated Press reported yesterday that soft drink makers are considering legal action against the Pop Czar’s latest edict: banning larger size soft drinks in certain locations. It doesn’t appear that Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban will be in all that much legal trouble, though the article notes some constitutional objections to the plan as well. But there is another, possibly more effective way for opponents of the ban to fight the policy, and it’s one they really haven’t employed: science.
Politico’s Tim Mak wrote a comprehensive piece on opposition to the soda ban this week, but nearly every “expert” who opposed the drink ban gave Mak a variation of the following quote, from Quinnipiac’s Mickey Carroll: “The people who are against it aren’t against it because it’s bad health [policy] but that it’s over-intrusive government.” But that’s silly–it’s terrible policy. Why cede this ground? Over at the Atlantic, two economics professors who focus their research on food economics introduce a bit of reality into the equation:
In similar lab settings, this kind of approach has inspired various forms of rebellion among study participants. For example, openly serving someone lowfat or reduced-calorie meals tends to lead to increased fat or calorie consumption over the whole day. People reason that because they were forced to be good for one meal, they can splurge on snacks and desserts at later meals.
New York City Mayor Bloomberg struck what he claims is another blow for the cause of public health yesterday by announcing a ban on the sale of all sugared drinks in containers that measure larger than 16 ounce servings. Because soft drinks are widely believed to be part of the obesity epidemic, he believes it is his duty to try and stop the citizens of Gotham from harming themselves. As the New York Times reports:
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in the Governor’s Room at City Hall.
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
But even if we concede that drinking too much soda is an unhealthy practice, what the mayor again fails to understand is that the purpose of government is to protect freedom, not to heedlessly infringe upon it merely for the sake of what some people may believe is doing good. Like the city’s ban on the use of trans fats and draconian restrictions on smoking, the new soda regulations are an intolerable intrusion into the private sphere. Though the mayor seems to relish his reputation as the embodiment of the concept of the so-called nanny state, what is going on here is something far more sinister than a billionaire version of Mary Poppins presiding at Gracie Mansion. Rather, it is yet another installment of what Jonah Goldberg rightly termed “liberal fascism.”