Michael Bloomberg has received more than a few broadsides for his seemingly endless parade of new, nanny-state laws designed to tell you how to live. (You know… for your own good.) And now he’s taking another shot across the bow from New York University professor and nutritionist Marion Nestle. But unlike most of the criticism that you’ve read here – or from other sane sources – Ms. Nestle feels that Bloomberg’s reign of lecturing simply doesn’t go far enough. Let’s take a look.
Barring any late legal surprises, Mayor Bloomberg’s 16-ounce cap on sugary sodas goes into effect on Tuesday, March 12. After that, restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and food carts will not be permitted to sell extra-large portions of sugar-packed drinks.
Stay calm. This does not signal the end of democracy in America. This is not the nanny state gone out of control.
If we want Americans to be healthy, we are going to have to take actions like this – and many more – and do so soon.
First of all, I’ll find some common ground in this debate by agreeing with Dr. Nestle on one point. This is not the “end of democracy.” In fact, this is democracy in action… at its very worst. Leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that we don’t actually have a textbook “democracy” here, the scene playing out in the Big Apple is democracy taken to the extreme. It’s a lesson in what happens if you keep electing the same type of nanny-state, big spending, “government is the answer to all problems” types over and over again regardless of the consequences.
As to the second part of her assertion, yes… this is the nanny state gone out of control. But the professor disagrees.
So-called “nanny-state” measures – like bans on driving while drunk, smoking in public places and, now, selling absurdly large sugary drinks – help to level the playing field. Such measures are about giving everyone an equal opportunity to live a safer and healthier life.
At the moment, it is up to you to make healthier choices, but that’s not easy in the face of relentless soda marketing. Governments have a responsibility to provide healthier environments for their citizens.
Trying to design some sort of equivalency between drunk driving and buying soda is so far afield from reality as to be offensive, but the real question comes in the second paragraph. Trying to say that it’s difficult to make choices of beverages other than soda or heavily sweetened coffees is absurd. If you actually want to make the “healthy choice” in a beverage, you should probably drink water. Has anyone noticed a shortage of bottled water lately? If the real problem is “marketing” then you are assuming that the American people are so brainless, helpless and hopeless that they can not resist anything being pitched in television commercials and we need Big Brother to shield us. Why not just outlaw advertising for things you don’t agree with? (That’s probably next.)
So what are these “many more” things Professor Nestle thinks we need to be doing? Here are a few.
Close the loopholes. The city does not have jurisdiction over sales of sodas in convenience stores and supermarkets.
Fix the price differential. A 7.5-ounce can of soda costs twice as much per ounce as a two-liter bottle, and you can’t buy just one; it comes in an 8-pack. Price determines sales. If a 16-ounce soda costs a dollar, a 32-ounce soda should cost two dollars.
Remove vending machines from schools.
Restrict marketing of sodas to children.
Don’t let SNAP (food stamp) benefits be used for sodas.
Almost all of these proposals fall into two categories. They are either more regulations to restrict human behavior or – the wildly popular idea on the Left – using taxes to modify behavior by driving the price of things they don’t like to unaffordable levels. The latter is one which crops up all of the time with predictable results. When they can’t take away your guns, they want to tax the ammunition. Rather than trying to make tobacco illegal, they tax it until piracy takes over the market. And now, if they can’t ban soda outright, they’ll tax it until only the richest people can afford it. The next development after that, I assure you, will be the appearance of black market soda and a new parade of citizens being dragged into court over nonsense.
Welcome to New York. Now get out while you still can.