DALLAS, March 12, 2013 – I’ve never found occasion to drink a 16 ounce soda in my life, much less one of those newly controversial Big Gulp sizes, which yesterday narrowly escaped being rendered illegal in New York City. Indeed, I consider the regular consumption of such beverages not only ill-advised and unwise but probably irresponsible as well. However, the fact that I am no fan of the Big Gulp does not prevent me from being a wholehearted supporter of Judge Milton Tingling’s ruling this Monday.
Judge Tingling’s strongly-worded statement on the legality of big sugary drinks was a long-awaited response to NYC mayor Bloomberg’s “sugary drink ban.” The mayor caused an uproar several months ago when he announced the ban that was to have gone into effect yesterday. The New York Daily News reports the rule would have banned sales of sugary sodas larger than 16 ounces by restaurants, movie theaters, pushcarts and sports arenas.
A large number of businesses were annoyed. So were a large number of people. Including some who, like me, don’t even buy big sugary drinks. What’s all the fuss about? Well, it comes down to one word: responsibility.
Whereas we, in traditionally American fashion, think it’s the responsibility of individuals to make their own choices about health, Bloomberg thinks that responsibility is just one more in an ever-increasing number of responsibilities that belong to the government. That he holds this view is made especially evident by a recent statement he issued in defense of the ban:
“With so many people contracting diabetes and heart disease,” said the mayor. “With so many children who are overweight and obese, with so many poor neighborhoods suffering the worst of this epidemic … it would be irresponsible not to.”
Really? Because people are irresponsible and reckless and sometimes plain dumb, it would be irresponsible not to pass regulations determining how much liquid sugar they are allowed to drink at one time? If history were a testimony to the general rightness of government authority, Bloomberg might have himself a case. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true.
Even regarding matters of health, our own government has historically proven itself to be no reliable authority – even in very recent years. One simple example is the infamous “food pyramid” we all grew up with as children. Our governing bodies spent our money touting this diagram that purported to show the quintessential nutritional diet. It was drilled into our heads from kindergarten. We thought it was true.
But it isn’t, and it never has been. Nutritionists have known that for years now. In the past couple of years, First Lady Michelle Obama has been spearheading an effort to overhaul the food pyramid and replace it with a new diagram entirely. Rough luck for all those taxpayers who had to contribute for twenty years to a nutrition campaign that claimed 6 to 11 servings of straight carbohydrates were essential to a healthy diet.
Am I suggesting that big sugary drinks might not be unhealthy after all? No. The point is that governments make mistakes too, and it isn’t their responsibility to make our health decisions for us. Especially since they aren’t even very good at it. The NYC ban on sugary drinks is objectionable because it bolsters the false and dangerous idea that such interference on the part of our local and federal authorities is acceptable and to be expected.
“They’re soft drinks,” berate those undaunted believers in the power of the state to save the world. They roll their eyes. “We’re not talking about taking away something that anyone could possibly need to have.” It’s true. We’re not.
But what we are talking about is laying yet another straw on the back of the camel of personal freedom. What we are talking about is one more affirmation of the authority of government officials to determine what the ideal life looks like. It’s a reinforcement of the already too-prevalent belief that the stupidity of mankind in general must be mitigated by the surpassing wisdom of the officials they have elected to positions of power. What we are talking about is little green frogs submerged in a saucepan with wide smiles on their faces, simmering, bubbling, boiling away.
Fortunately, we don’t have to talk about it anymore, for a time at least. Calling the decision “arbitrary and capricious,” Judge Tingling rendered it invalid on Monday, adding that while the Health Board can promote rules to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, it has no power to deal with obesity. Only the City Council has that power, he ruled, explaining, “One of the fundamental tenets of democratic governance here in New York, as well as throughout the nation, is the separation of powers. … No one person, agency, department or branch is above or beyond this.”
Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to appeal the court’s ruling, stating,
“Anytime you adopt a groundbreaking policy, special interests will sue. That’s America. We believe that the judge’s decision was clearly in error, and that we will prevail.”
“People are dying every day. This is not a joke,” he went on. “We’re talking about lives versus profits.”
Mayor Bloomberg did get one thing right: We are talking about lives. The issue is that the American people want to live theirs according to their own choices and Mayor Bloomberg thinks he should be the one making the choices for everyone.
An author, history buff, self-taught artist, and enthusiastic autodidact, Bryana brings her always politically incorrect and usually passionate views about politics and the theory of government to her readers. In addition to writing for the TWTC, she also maintains the official High Tide Journal at www.thehightide.com and writes about literature and the world’s great Lover at www.bryanajohnson.com You can also find her on twitter at @_Bryana_Johnson and on facebook
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