After an exhaustive three year study involving 21 experts, an agency of the European Union determined that drink manufacturers should be banned from claiming that water can prevent dehydration. “Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.”  Critics said the decision was a perfect example of bureaucratic waste.


Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large.

“The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true.

“If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”

But other experts said that that one could remain adequately hydrated without drinking water. Therefore in the strictest sense, drinking water did not in and of itself dehydration.

Martin Robbins of the Guardian says “Firstly, “regular consumption” of water doesn’t reduce the risk of dehydration any more than eating a pork pie a day reduces the risk of starvation. … Secondly, dehydration doesn’t just mean a lack of water, or ‘being thirsty’; electrolytes like sodium are important too. If salt levels fall too far, the body struggles to regulate fluid levels in the first place.”

So the ruling seems pretty sensible to me, or at least as sensible as a ruling can be when the claim being tested is vexatious in the first place. It’s accurate advice, and it prevents companies selling bottled water from making exaggerated claims for their products, which is a good thing.


But Robbins misses the point. The government should properly intervene only when there is a compelling public interest to do so. Human beings have consumed water when thirsty for as long as the human race has existed. It seems self-evident that most people, even those who don’t read the Guardian or live within the protection of the European Union, know what water is good for. There is no public interest in involving a supra-national bureaucracy in the regulation of the wisdom of drinking water. It is pointless, a waste of money and regulatory overreaching. It is senseless and not all of the Guardian’s arguments to the contrary will provide it with sense.

The whole thing is a total waste of time and I feel sorry for even having written this post, as it tells the reader nothing he didn’t know already about water or anything he may have not yet suspected about the European Union.

Read the Guardian Gasim. Water does not necessarily prevent dehydration.

Einer Elhauge of the New York Times argues that the US government, like the European Government should not be limited by anything as mechanical as scope. He says that under the Commerce Clause, the Federal Government has the power to compel citizens to buy broccoli if it sees it as wise. Therefore people may be compelled to buy health insurance. And if people didn’t want to be forced to buy health insurance they wouldn’t have elected Barack Obama.


Opponents of the new mandate complain that if Congress can force us to buy health insurance, it can force us to buy anything. They frequently raise the specter that Congress might require us to buy broccoli in order to make us healthier. However, that fear would remain even if you accepted their constitutional argument, because their argument would allow Congress to force us to buy broccoli as long as it was careful to phrase the law to say that “anyone who has ever engaged in any activity affecting commerce must buy broccoli.”

That certainly sounds like a stupid law. But our Constitution has no provision banning stupid laws. The protection against stupid laws that our Constitution provides is the political process, which allows us to toss out of office elected officials who enact them.

Without the Commerce Clause government would be unable to enforce “wise policy”. “It is not stupid to require us to buy air bags for our cars and pensions for our retirements. Nor would it be stupid to require us to buy life and disability insurance to make sure we have provided for our children. Whether the law should is up to our political process, not judicial second-guessing.”

But perhaps Elhauge is wrong. The Constitution wouldn’t have provisions for limiting the Federal Government if it hadn’t intended to limit it. And unless the effect of the Commerce Clause is to abolish all limitations, it cannot have the consequence of extending power in a limitless way. Circumscribing the Federal Government’s powers might seem foolish to Elhauge, but the Constitution was also adopted by a political process and allows the country to amend it. The very same logic that Elhauge marshals can be used against him. If the ultimate remedy for Obamacare is to repeal the act, surely the remedy for eliminating restrictions is to amend the Constitution.


But Elhauge is correct to say the problem is fundamentally political. It is not about whether water or broccoli is good for you. It is a question of who decides, not what policy should be. Things come down to whether Government is restricted in any meaningful sense by the Constitution; if there is any basis left for citizens to say, “I decide”. The objection to limits cannot be brushed aside by saying “if you don’t like it then why did you vote for Obama or join the EU”? The question is whether voting for Obama or the EU made you a slave to its whims or whether there are some limits beyond which government cannot go. It is on this fundamental question of limits that question turns, not policy. If the government has the power to pronounce on the wisdom of drinking water and compel the purchase of broccoli then that itself is the issue. It will not do to simply say, “we have the power to pass any law provided we mean well”. The issue is who has the competence to decide, not what the policy is.

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