Go ahead and yell at me, but I have been a huge fan of New York mayor Mike Bloomberg over the years.I admire his discipline and clear decision-making.
I like that he’s independent and not beholden to entrenched, monied constituencies.
I love that he fired a city employee for playing solitaire in the office.
I love his focus on education. (If New York really does build a huge engineering campus on, this will be great for the city).
And I am also grateful for his ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.
Why the latter?
Because I used to hate to have to wash all my clothes after merely walking into a bar. And I hated having dinners ruined because the guy at the next table decided to light up. And I hated being forced by others to breathe foul, dangerous air. And so on…
The smoking ban has made the city vastly better for everyone who chooses not to smoke while still allowing those who do choose to smoke to do it outside or in their own apartments and houses, where it won’t make life miserable for everyone else.
But Mayor Bloomberg has now moved from bold decisions that improve quality of life while emphasising freedom and personal choice… to decisions that resemble the worst kind of nanny-state government overreach.
Mayor Bloomberg now wants to ban the sale of big sodas.
Apparently because big sodas are bad for you.
Never mind that they’re mostly ice.
Never mind that they don’t affect anyone but you.
Never mind that Bloomberg LLC, Mayor Bloomberg’s company, serves free soda to all employees all day long–as much as they want. (Not BIG sodas, but FREE sodas, which is arguably worse.)
Never mind that, in the hierarchy of all the things that are bad for you, big sodas barely merit a mention.
Yes, Americans are too fat. Yes, Americans need to eat less. Yes, soda is horrible for you and makes you fat.
But if you’re going to ban big sodas, where are you going to stop?
Are you going to ban fast food, too?
Fast food is also, often, horrible for you. Bazillions of calories. Low-quality ingredients. Huge amounts of fat and carbs.
Salt can be bad for you. And restaurants shovel it into food by the wheelbarrow-full, to make the food taste better.
Carbs make you fat, Bread has a lot of carbs. Restaurants serve bread by the truckload.
Beer makes you fat. It also makes you drunk, which is arguably worse. Drunk people do really stupid things, like punch other people, or rape them, or run them over. But at that Mets game last night, they were selling beer by the barrel-full. Mets fans staggered home drunk, fat, and happy. Some of them probably punched people, or raped them, or ran them over. And they woke up this morning hungover. So is Mayor Bloomberg going to ban beer?
Every corner deli has a whole freezer-full of ice cream. Ice cream is terrible for you. Fat, salt, sugar–you name it. Eat a pint of ice cream every day, and you’re going to inflate like a balloon.
So why isn’t Mayor Bloomberg banning ice cream?
I don’t happen to drink soda.
It’s not because I don’t like soda. I do.
It’s because, the older I get, the more likely I am to inflate like a balloon (this isn’t theoretical: It’s empirical. I can’t eat and drink a lot of the things I used eat and drink because somewhere in my 30s I noticed that I was suddenly inflating like a balloon.)
But I certainly don’t mind being able to drink soda. And I don’t mind anyone else being able to drink soda. And, again, if Mayor Bloomberg is going to argue that everyone else drinking soda costs me money because they get fat and sick and I have to pay for it, well, then, there’s a long list of things we need to talk about banning.
In short, the reason Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban is absurd, whereas his smoking ban was excellent, is that the choice to smoke affects others whereas the choice to drink big sodas affects only the drinker.
And if the government is going to start restricting personal choice and mandating that citizens be healthier, this seems a very random place to start.
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