If you have any interest at all in petty local politics, a well-meaning gentleman by the name of Michael Bloomberg, who happens to be mayor of New York City, would like to ban ‘super-sized’ sodas from being sold in city restaurants because they are bad for you.
I’m OK with the ‘bad for you’ part. A legal ban on a large soda? Not so much.
There are many reasons why you might agree or disagree with me. Much electronic ink has already been spilled on this debate, and I’ll leave you to find the other arguments pro and con for this if you are interested. (there’s this thing called ‘Google’ that you can type some keywords into and…)
Instead, I’m going to make an argument that I don’t think I’ve heard very often. The last time I used this argument was in a college essay and I was accused of plagiarism. I had to look the professor straight in the eye and tell him over and over: “I wrote it.” because he apparently thought me not up to the quality of the writing.
I had used the argument in an essay against a flag burning amendment, which was a hot topic in the news about that time. My argument was two-fold. The first part was that it was unenforceable. How does one know when a crime is committed? If I used a newspaper with an American flag on the masthead as kindling to start a fire in my fireplace, have I broken the law? Or is it a ‘thought-crime’ only: if I participate in a Boy Scout ceremony to ‘cremate’ worn out American flags and ‘enjoy’ the experience, does that become the commission of a crime?
I argued that such a law not only served no purpose but caused an even greater crime in my opinion: bad laws cause people to lose respect for ALL laws. In a free society, there should be as few laws as possible prohibiting people from their personal pursuit of happiness – even if that happiness is found in a 32 ounce soda I would personally advise them against drinking on a regular basis.
We might quibble as to where that line needs to be drawn, but I think in this case most people would agree this is a bit much. Imagine someone in a bar drinking shots with soda being told: “I can’t serve you any more soda, but you can have all the shots of whisky you like. Wash them down with beer instead.”
I’m kind of a ‘live and let live’ sorta guy. Mayor Bloomberg in contrast, is perhaps a bit meglomanicial in is well-intentioned attempt at a ban. (He IS a billionaire – perhaps this breeds meglomania?) . If I recall, the mayor also refused to allow the city’s fine restaurants from donating their food to the homeless shelters because it could possibly be too high in saturated fats and salt to be ‘healthy’ for poor people. Again, his concern is for the well-being of the city’s residents, even the lowliest ones.
But somehow, preventing a hungry homeless person from eating leftovers from a 4-star restaurant, or giving out tickets to restaurant owners because they served someone a 32 ounce soda seems to be a tad fucked up, don’t you think?