If you enjoy having a Big Gulp along with your burger and fries, you’d better drink up fast if you live in New York City: do-gooder Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks you are too irresponsible to know what’s good for you. He believes super-large sugary drinks contribute to all sorts of bad health issues, so he’s determined to make you downsize whether you like it or not.
The mayor’s ban on these drinks could go into effect as soon as early next year, and would affect drinks larger than 16 ounces. Bloomberg’s ban is aimed at drinks sold only at movie theaters, restaurants, or from street carts, meaning you could still get your large-sized drink fix at convenience stores, supermarkets, or other retail sellers.
This isn’t Bloomberg’s first foray into the “nanny state,” or employing excessive state action to protect people from themselves by restricting freedom. Under Bloomberg’s leadership — and via an equally meddlesome and liberal city council — the city has banned trans fats from food preparations in restaurants (the ingredient that makes french fries, doughnuts, and other deep-fried foods taste so yummy) and has forced chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus.
Bloomberg, in one of his most Orwellian moves, even banned donations of food to the homeless because the city didn’t have the ability to monitor these much-needed and welcomed gifts for things like fat, salt, or fiber content — a concern not typically voiced by individuals desperate for a meal.
Of course, the mayor’s rationale is the protection of public health. After all, there is an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. However, who among us really believes regularly downing upwards of 32 ounces of soft drink is a healthy thing to do? And since anyone addicted to gigantic-sized soft drinks can easily ask for a second 16-ounce drink or find a nearby retail outlet, is this ban likely to impact obesity among people already making unhealthy decisions?
For libertarians and conservatives, the far more greater concern is government intrusion into our private lives. There can be no confusion about this: controlling the intake of food and drink is simply not a function of good government as outlined by the framers of our Constitution. (David Harsanyi’s excellent book probed exactly this issue. Nanny State: How Fast Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children spotlighted politicians like Bloomberg.)
The problem of meddling, “I-know-best” bureaucrats obviously isn’t just an affliction local to New York City. In 2008, Los Angeles City Council member Jan Perry succeeded in imposing a resolution banning any new fast food restaurants in a 32 square-mile area of South L.A. Like Bloomberg, her rationale was the disproportionate rates of obesity and diabetes among the largely poor, black, and Latino residents of her district. The racist, infantilizing message: poor minorities living in South L.A. are too stupid to make their own food choices. Her patronizing solution: experiment with their lives by forcing them to eat what she wants them to eat.