June 1, 2012
Mayor Bloomberg wants to ban sugary drinks that exceed 16oz in New York. Large colas, root beers, sweet teas, sports drinks—none would be safe. Restaurants, delis, sports arenas, street hot dog carts—all would be captured territory in the Mayor’s war on obesity. No longer could you wash down a monster pastrami on rye with an equally gigantic Dr. Pepper.
There would be exemptions to Bloomberg’s crackdown. An extra-large diet soda would be legit. Fruit juices, despite having large quantities of fructose, sucrose and glucose, all capable of contributing to fatness and diabetes, would be untouched. Milkshakes—teeming with sugar and fat—would for some reason escape this crusade unscathed. And large alcoholic beverages would continue to have the city council’s approval. This is America, after all.
Convenience stores would be unmolested. Big Gulps and Slurpees shall be spared.
The arguments over this appear to be terms of costs vs. benefits. Some say the obesity epidemic, fueled by soft drink consumption in particular*, is worth combating through these dramatic means. Others say the cost of the restriction is too high, and that the ban will backfire, as people buy two sodas instead of one, or find other options.
No one is talking about rights. What has become of this society? If this very proposal isn’t unAmerican, perhaps what it means to be American has lost all its connotations of independence and freedom.
I suppose the modern governing philosophy dominant in the United States, which says the state can tell you what medicinal and recreational drugs you can consume, how many hours you can work, what kind of firearms you can own, who you can hire or fire, what structures you can build on your property, what job you can take, what kind of school your family must patronize, which types of retirement and health care programs you must enroll in, and so much else, can also, predictably, tell you how much soda you can buy. But I never cease to be heartbroken about this country’s slide toward total state control, especially considering the piecemeal way in which we lose our freedoms. Every week I conceive of some crazed reductio ad absurdum: “Given that the government is controlling us in X manner, soon it will seek to regulate Y, and wouldn’t that be insane!” The very next week the government arrives with its plans to regulate Y with an eye toward W and Z, as well.
What frustrates me most is how rare a spectacle it is that anyone prominent in the media simply stands up for individual liberty on these issues. Just once I want someone with a few million viewers to shout: This is an immoral infringement on people’s liberty we’re talking about. People have a right to buy 60 ounces of soda, and anyone who proposes otherwise is clearly hostile to the very idea of individual liberty, an enemy of the dignity of mankind, and he should be booted out of office and laughed out of polite society merely for a suggestion so offensive to the foundational sensibilities toward freedom that our society pretends to possess with pride!
No one says such a thing because, for the most part, this society does not even feign such lofty ideals of freedom anymore, except in the most vacuous, transparently phony sense.
*Do Americans drink too much soda? Probably. But I blame the government for this. Ever since the feds propped up the corn industry and imposed tariffs on sugar, our soda supply, and so much else, has been adulterated by High Fructose Corn Syrup. Buy a Coca-Cola from Mexico and you’ll notice it tastes great. That’s the cane sugar. It is also more satisfying, ounce for ounce. A soda with cane sugar comes at a premium cost, but I am easily sated by ten or twelve ounces. American sodas, back when they featured cane sugar, used to come in smaller bottles. And it would take less to satisfy one’s sweet tooth. HFCS, which is just as bad for you, seems not to do the job in as small a dose. Someone can easily chug three or four fountain sodas and be thirsty for more. Give him the vintage stuff and he’ll most likely be pleased with one bottle. This is my own unscientific observation and I lack the evidence to prove it. But it rings true for me.
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