There are public hearings today in New York City that cut to the heart of who we are as a republic. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing outlawing the sale of soda in any containers larger than 16 ounces. Let me say in the spirit of full disclosure -- I love soda. I know I shouldn't. I know it has zero redeemable qualities. I know when the soda manufacturers show me silly commercials about corn sugar versus cane sugar they are just trying to muddy the picture. I know-I know-I know. Yet I still crave the sugar-juice.
That aside, this issue is not about soda. That is to confuse the issue. This is about the proper role and function of government in the lives of the people. People who know me know I am far from a Libertarian but I understand where they are coming from on this issue. Have we learned nothing from prohibition? You cannot legislate morality! That is because everyone comes from differing moral point of views. I heard Bloomberg ask people to not look at this from the standpoint of government trying to tell you what to do but rather from the viewpoint of trying to control the epidemic of morbid obesity. While the desire to tell our plumper brethren they can no longer make choices for themselves might have its genesis in good intentions that really isn't the point. The point of course is the very thing Mayor Bloomberg is asking you to ignore. Intentions are irrelevant. As my pastor likes to say, you can be sincere and sincerely wrong.
This issue actually has nothing to do with obesity. Nor does it have to do with healthcare costs associated with obesity -- an unseemly correlation made by the three term mayor of the two term city this morning. This has to do with a government thinking that it knows what is best for some people and then applying it to all people. It is beyond an overreach and there is definitely a slippery slope ahead. If soda is so absolutely reprehensible then outlaw it all together. If your argument is that there is nothing redeemable about soda, then ban it. But to pre-determine what size a business can sell it in is just downright silly. Oh, and if you are banning soda, may as well start looking at those Twinkies! Let's be reasonable. There is very little we eat regularly as Americans that is truly healthy. Between the processed food and the fast food. The salmonella and the PCBS. The pesticide ridden crops and the genetically altered beef. Where does the soda ban end?
Does the government have the right to tell you what you should be eating and drinking? Make no mistake about it -- this is a big moment in what is left of our democracy. You see they didn't come first for the soda. They came first for the smokers. They outlawed smoking in private buildings and personal businesses. The government stretching its grubby little hand into the lives of people and most looked the other way because the government's point hinged upon a health infringement upon non-smokers. The argument being that a smoker does not have the right to give a non-smoker second hand smoke. Then they came for the drivers. They passed laws such as seatbelts and cell phones just so they can have another reason to pull you over that you cannot argue. Another advance of the police state. They put up cameras at traffic lights. One at a time. Slowly infringing upon our civil liberties. One street corner at a time. No one said anything and now we have a camera at every corner. Big brother watching everything that is done now. Once again, allowed because the government argument hinged upon public safety. Isn't it a proper function of government to ensure the safety of the citizenry? A debatable topic but one that at least had legs.
Fast forward to today and we see they are now coming for the soda. Not all of it mind you. Just some of it. Just a camera on a couple of corners, no reason to worry. Just enough to see if they can get away with it. This is huge news constitutionally however because the government has no public health argument. No "public good" argument. Sure maybe for the percentage of folks who find themselves portly but not as a whole. There is no good reason why the government should be telling a body builder that he cannot order more than 16 ounces of soda at the same time other than to see if they can get away with it.
If they do, remember these words. Remember this day. The day the government became that aunt you never wanted to visit as a child because she would only give you fruit. Then the real fun begins. The next stop on the slope. Will it be the percentage of trans fat used in the oil of fried foods? Will it be how many carbs can be ordered at one sitting in an Applebees? Will there be a one big mac quota per week? Now I know what you are thinking"those things sound ridiculous. Here is the thing. I want you to seriously think back just ten years ago and ask yourself one question"
Did you ever think we would be holding hearings to decide if we should pass a law to limit the amount of soda you can buy to 16 ounces or less? Seriously.
I would start stocking up on Twinkies while you still can.