The Madness of King Bloomberg and His Acolytes

Bryan has already covered Mayor Bloomberg's comments about there being "certain times we should infringe on your freedom," and I would like to add to Mr. Preston's short but sweet commentary. Who is it hizzoner believes he is referring to when he uses the pronoun "we"? Is it "we" in a government sense, where he and other political hacks think themselves our overlords, magnanimously allowing us some freedoms while infringing on others?

Perhaps he means "we" in the sense of a royal "we," as in "we are not amused that you object to us infringing on your freedom."

Maybe he is implying a kind of communitarian "we," as in all of us collectively can place our boot on your neck if you as an individual do something we don't much like.

Frankly, I think Bloomberg thinks of "we" the same way a British lord might have referred to his fellow nobility 100 years ago. "We" as in the ruling class. "We" as in "those of us who control your destiny." "We" as in those who think themselves smarter, more capable, and more privileged to run the lives of the rest of us.

All for our own good, of course.

Along those lines, Sarah Conly writes in the New York Times: "Three Cheers for the Nanny State." I began to read thinking it a tongue-in-cheek paean to Bloomberg and his insufferable pretensions, but was shocked to discover that, yes, Conly believes that "infringing on our freedom" is just a starting point. She is an assistant professor of philosophy at Bowdoin College, and is the author of Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.

Yeah -- she goes there:

Is it always a mistake when someone does something imprudent, when, in this case, a person chooses to chug 32 ounces of soda? No. For some people, that’s the right choice. They don’t care that much about their health, or they won’t drink too many big sodas, or they just really love having a lot of soda at once.

But laws have to be sensitive to the needs of the majority. That doesn’t mean laws should trample the rights of the minority, but that public benefit is a legitimate concern, even when that may inconvenience some.

So do these laws mean that some people will be kept from doing what they really want to do? Probably — and yes, in many ways it hurts to be part of a society governed by laws, given that laws aren’t designed for each one of us individually. Some of us can drive safely at 90 miles per hour, but we’re bound by the same laws as the people who can’t, because individual speeding laws aren’t practical. Giving up a little liberty is something we agree to when we agree to live in a democratic society that is governed by laws.

The freedom to buy a really large soda, all in one cup, is something we stand to lose here. For most people, given their desire for health, that results in a net gain. For some people, yes, it’s an absolute loss. It’s just not much of a loss.