What happens in New York seldom stays in New York. So be very worried about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to enact a far-reaching ban on large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, theaters and on the streets.
This effort to manage the buying and selling decisions of private individuals will become irresistible to other politicians who believe they have an obligation to control us, rather than serve us.
The law will ban any sugary drink, including pre-sweetened teas and sports drinks, in containers that hold more than 16 fluid ounces. That’s the size of a medium coffee. It would not apply to diet drinks, natural fruit juices, dairy-based drinks or alcoholic beverages, and would not affect beverage sales in grocery and convenience stores.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Bloomberg said Wednesday, as quoted by the New York Times. “New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something. I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
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Well, let’s think about that. All over the country, health and law enforcement officials think our mass consumption of cheap alcohol is just terrible. If Americans had less access to affordable liquor, we would have far less crime. We would have less disease. We would have fewer wife beatings and drunken driving deaths. We would have less divorce, less obesity and less alcoholic despair. Yet our government’s prohibition of alcohol was such a famous and abysmal failure that we amended the Constitution to forbid any future ban. We did so because this country values personal freedom over the utopian aspirations of central planners and collectivists.
Mayor Bloomberg, you are not New York City. You are the executive of a government that is supposed to serve individuals and protect their rights within the political boundary of the city. You were elected to serve individuals who have long enjoyed the liberty to make their own decisions about soda and sweetened tea. You were elected to serve the thin and the fat, without prejudice.
Because of controlling politicians like Bloomberg, we may no longer smoke in most restaurants and bars. Children can’t have lemonade stands without an attack from the local health department. Teachers can’t hug kids. School inspectors confiscate home-made lunches if they don’t meet USDA guidelines. We cannot give perfectly good food to the homeless because bureaucrats are protecting their health. We must buy health insurance. We must subsidize birth control. We must drive fuel-efficient cars and pay for all sorts of air bags in the event we crash.
This is supposed to be the land of the free, which means we tolerate the sights, sounds and afflictions caused by liberty. When we start controlling the buying and selling of soda, nothing is immune from government control. — Wayne Laugesen, editorial page editor, for the editorial board. Friend Wayne on Facebook; follow him on Twitter.