I know, I know: “An online poll?!” C’mon, humor me. It’s Friday evening and the news pickins are slim. Besides, I feel a regrettable twinge of vindication in this result. Bloomberg is indeed a loathsome nanny-state tool and I’d never support a ban on big portions, but as I said once before, I do think limiting portion size will probably lead to marginal weight loss in the aggregate. That end doesn’t justify the means of taking another step down the slippery slope of controlling people’s diets, but just because we oppose a certain policy doesn’t guarantee that it won’t achieve part of what it’s meant to do.
Anyway. You trust online poll respondents, don’t you?
Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday said they would oppose the introduction of a similar [soda ban] measure where they live, saying it gave government too much control over people’s dietary choices.
More than 70 percent of the nearly 1,000 U.S. adults polled online also said they did not think the proposed rule would affect obesity rates. About 30 percent disagreed, saying it could help curb obesity and lower healthcare costs…
At the same time, the majority of those polled said that if faced with a similar ban, they would significantly change their own drinking habits by switching to water, low-calorie drinks or diet beverages, or simply consuming fewer full-calorie drinks.
Fewer than one-third of respondents said they would buy additional servings to compensate for a such a ban, according to the online survey.
It’s gratifying to know that so much of the public is on guard about dietary nannyism, but the Bloombergs of the world will find tremendous encouragement in those boldfaced results. Remember, their standard rap when confronted about the unpopularity of the ban is that smoking bans were unpopular too before the public got used to them. The health police don’t care if you like what they’re doing; they trust that you’ll come to like it in time, and if you don’t, hey — they’re doing it for your own good, not to make friends. If the ban goes into effect and they find some metric showing that the public collectively lost a little weight because of it, that’ll be all the encouragement they need. Here’s the accompanying graph from Reuters:
I’m kind of shocked by that result, just because it comes in the context of people roundly rejecting paternalistic intrusions into what they eat and drink. The state is claiming that it will succeed in making you healthier if given the regulatory power to compel you, and here’s an irritated set of respondents angrily declaring … yeah, it probably will. Then again, how much we can trust the respondents to answer a question like this honestly? The subtext here, and the subtext of the ban itself, is that only the gluttonous and obese (or soon-to-be obese) gorge themselves on giant sodas. Go figure that when a pollster asks someone whether they’d continue to gorge themselves on soda if giant cups were banned, they feel a pang of shame and falsely declare that they’d switch to something healthier instead. (On the other hand, since this is an online poll and not something told to another person over the phone, might respondents actually answer that question truthfully?)
Ah well. Look on the bright side, guys: If the soda ban does come to your city, you’ll get to enjoy the libertarian pleasures of … er, smaller portions. TNR:
Indeed, the 16-ounce limit might actually enhance individual liberty by compelling restaurants and bottlers to sell soda in the smaller quantities that people often want but can’t get. It might become possible once again to order a Coke at a movie theater in something less than a Jacuzzi-sized tub. After all, the government isn’t the only actor imposing its will on Americans today; corporations boss them around quite a bit, and, unlike the government, they seldom have to answer to anyone but their shareholders for it. When their bullying gets rough, it sure can help to have a tough nanny in your corner.
If the market won’t meet the public’s clamoring demand for less food, then darn it, the government will. Via Mark Serrano, here’s a very New Yorkish little satire of the city’s latest lurch towards utopia. Exit quotation from NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Farley: “It’s not saying ‘no’ to people. It’s saying, ‘Are you sure? Do you really want that?'”