New York Mayor Bloomberg has recommended that a 16-ounce limit be placed on the size of soft drinks sold at city restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, and arenas. This seemed necessary because of an epidemic of obesity in his municipality, where over 50% of the residents are now judged to be overweight. I’m not sure what “overweight” means for NYC officials, but I’ve noticed lots of fatsos waddling around on their streets.
Over the last thirty years Americans have been increasing their food intake by almost 300 calories daily. Limiting soft-drink consumption would ostensibly help combat this public danger in the same way that earlier measures such as posting calorie counts on restaurant menus and prohibiting trans fats in restaurant food aimed to trim New Yorkers’ waistlines. Apparently, these earlier measures hadn’t done the trick, so Bloomberg is now pulling out the big guns against soda pop. Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson has confidently assured us that “People will come to see this very much in the interest of public health.”
There is no reason to think that Bloomberg’s law will have much effect on the average New Yorker’s girth. At least for now, consumers will be allowed to purchase as many sugary drinks as their money and appetite will permit. Although it may cost more to buy these additional high-calorie drinks, New Yorkers will not be prevented from doing so.
I’m probably sugar-averse, a natural condition that has allowed me to reach my present age without the diabetes that afflicts other family members. If all the Pepsis and other foul-tasting drinks in stores and restaurants disappeared overnight, it wouldn’t bother me.
But I believe New York City has a legal and even moral right to enact the mayor’s law. He was duly elected. And his periodic attempts to control people’s eating habits represent exactly the kind of leftist government that New Yorkers seem to relish. Bloomy’s proposed measure already enjoys 42% public approval. If the media work a bit harder, they may be able to ratchet up the approval ratings to 60 or even 70 percent. In a federal republic of the kind this country used to be, there should be different places for people with different lifestyles. I’d be delighted if all the nuts moved to New York, San Francisco, and a few other urban centers, as long as they and their governments left me alone.
Perhaps most irritating about the soft drink-controversy is the way GOP journalists have piled on to condemn the “nanny state.” A Forbes columnist calls NYC “Nannyville.” George Will castigated Bloomberg for his proposed restriction. It would take several pages to list all of his Republican brothers and sisters who seem to be vying with each other to express the greatest outrage against Bloomberg’s meddlesome government.
Where were these journalists when it came to criticizing much bigger infringements on individual liberties? Why the relative silence regarding anti-discrimination measures against people refusing to provide accommodations to gay couples? What about challenging laws prohibiting men-only but not women’s clubs? What about those parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that put under the federal purview accusations of discrimination in public accommodations? The only public figures who protest such forms of government intrusion are libertarians such as John Stossel or Rand Paul. Regular Republicans don’t object to the nanny state except when they can make hay with certain innocuous issues that affect our liberties only minimally.
In Pennsylvania and in other states where this noxious arrangement exists, I’m still waiting for the GOP to abolish state monopolies on the sale of hard alcohol. It seems Republicans do just as well as Democrats living off this monopoly, which is supposed to advance public health by reducing alcohol consumption. I see no evidence of this putative health benefit, but the monopoly provides public revenues by making booze far more expensive here than in neighboring states.
I prefer cognac and Scotch, so I am far more concerned about Pennsylvania’s booze monopoly than New York’s soda restrictions. For those who want humongous soft drinks but have no problem with higher booze prices, I suggest they move to Pennsylvania. My state’s Republicans will give you both.