By Nathan Tucker
New Yorkers are apparently smart enough to elect Michael Bloomberg as their mayor, but not quite smart enough to choose their own size of soft drink. Last week Mayor Bloomberg announced a ban on restaurant sales of soft drinks larger than 16 ounces. While viewed by most as the nanny state out-of-control, Bloomberg’s proposal is simply the natural progression of government regulation.
For Bloomberg, the war on soft drinks has replaced the war on smoking. His reasoning, doubted even by CNN, is that “the single largest driver of these alarming increases in obesity is sugary drinks.” Even if true, however, the mayor had to concede that the ban would not prevent someone from ordering two 16-ounce or three 8-ounce soft drinks. And, as John Stewart aptly noted, it does nothing to limit obesity from other foods, such as donuts which Bloomberg celebrated on National Donut Day.
But never fear, for Bloomberg’s office will soon be issuing such regulations when it is apparent that this initial ban will do nothing to convince New Yorkers to change their behavior. For when government no longer simply protects us from each other but protects us from ourselves, there is no limit to its power or coerciveness.
This attitude was reflected by former President Bill Clinton, who told CNN’s Piers Morgan that “I know a lot of people think ‘this is a nanny state’ but there are very serious problems…So, if you get rid of these giant, full of sugar drinks, and making people have smaller portions, it will help.” Clinton is right—making people do something isn’t “a nanny state” but the logical result of giving government control in the first place.
Making this more explicit, former NYC Mayor Edward Koch stated, “It is obvious that simply pointing that out, as we do, has not been enough to halt the increase in the number of people added to the obese list each year. The Mayor’s action in restricting some of the sales of the unbelievably sugar-laden drinks is a positive measure. I pray it works.” It won’t, of course, which will require yet more prohibitions by the state.
Chiming in, Professor Marion Nestle told CBS news that “something needs to be done, and you can’t just tell people to eat better and move more. If I’m given huge amounts of food, I’m going to eat it. Cheers for the Bloomberg administration, they’re really trying to make environmental changes.”
That’s right, it isn’t your fault you’re fat, it’s the restaurant’s. Pastor Brian Carter made that clear in his statement: “New York City’s low-income residents expect their elected officials to protect them from unscrupulous industry practices that put profits above the health and well-being of our communities….City officials will be doing what you elected them to do: fighting for your right to a longer and healthier life.”
That’s the American Dream of the statist—the government riding in on a white horse to make decisions for us that they believe we are incapable of making for ourselves. But don’t they have a point? If health care is a legitimate concern of the state, why shouldn’t it proportion our meals for us, force us to exercise, and ban donuts, soda, cigarettes, and other unhealthy products? In fact, isn’t it more humane to coerce preventative measures in the first place rather than ration care after the fact?
Once you concede your liberty to make your own choices to the state, there is no fixed principle by which its coercion can be limited. Attempts by the government to control the otherwise lawful products from which competent adults can choose from in order to alter their behavior is incompatible with its responsibility to secure man’s inalienable right to liberty—his freedom to choose.
Once you ask the government to enforce this or that policy preference, it has no choice but to supplant the knowing and voluntary decisions made by individuals in the exercise of their liberty as free moral agents, subsequently abrogating them of responsibility for their actions.
Once started, the state cannot stop itself; and once supplanted by man’s general welfare as the goal of government, natural rights become a mere memory. Political self-governance does not long survive once men have surrendered their own personal self-governance to the state.
Though they may live in a democracy, men who are not free to buy incandescent light bulbs, gas guzzling SUVs, or large sugary drinks only pretend to be free.
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