Say this for Thomas Friedman: he was right that Michael Bloomberg could unite moderate Republicans and Democrats. I think that they, along with all the libertarians, agree that his soft drink ban is rather absurd.
I know Republicans–particularly those in the “Tea Party” faction–will say otherwise, but in my experience there are precious few Democrats who will draw a line in the sand and fight to the bitter end to prevent the sale of medium-sized soft drinks. Yes, liberals want to regulate big business, but it’s Kochs, not Cokes, that they are concerned with.
No matter how hard Friedman wishes upon stars, (specifically, these stars)* Bloomberg isn’t going to be President, because banning soft drinks is not the sort of thing that the average voter takes kindly to. It is saying not merely “I know what is best for you,” but “I cannot permit you to even have the chance to act otherwise.”
Is there anyone who doesn’t already know that drinking carbonated corn syrup is worse for you than drinking a bottle of water? I very much doubt it. It can be inferred from the scientific principle that everything that tastes good is bad for you.
It would be different if the ban was on selling the stuff to kids. That would be something people could understand. But if a consenting adult wants to drink a gallon of sugar water, who can say that person hasn’t the right to do so?
Are there any other instances in history of unhealthy beverages being prohibited? Any famous ones that didn’t work at all? Someone should investigate that. In the meantime, you have to wonder just how much this can possibly change obesity in New York City. Maybe Bloomberg should eliminate all forms of public transportation in the city instead, thus forcing people to exercise. (True, they could try driving. But this is New York City we’re talking about.)
Of course, this isn’t in any way a massive infringement on New Yorkers’ rights. They’re not even banning all sodas; just certain sizes. What could be wrong with that? The mayor himself commented upon the sheer banality of his plan:
“Your argument, I guess, could be that it’s a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic tone. “I don’t think you can make the case that we’re taking things away.”
He’s right, you know. It doesn’t even make a difference! A trifle, nothing more!
Hey, wait, why do it then? And why tell the portly partakers of Pepsi the loophole that they just have to buy more drinks? I mean, is he serious about matters of public health or not? This is where trying to be a centrist gets you into trouble: you end up doing just enough to annoy the Republicans without solving the problem the Democrats want solved.
I rag on the libertarians a lot on this blog, mostly because I used to be one and I can see so many of their errors. We need government regulation to protect the public health. We need it for big things that private industry might cut corners on, such as making sure that the sewer system and the drinking water system are two distinct things.
But not this sort of thing. This stuff makes the libertarians feel justified. I realize that the government feels like it ought to do something, just to make sure it still can, but in this case it really would be better to just put up some posters telling people to eat and drink healthy stuff, silly as that may seem.
*This is what I am alluding to regarding Mr. Friedman