"What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don't like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don't expect freedom to survive very long."
- Thomas Sowell
In his latest attempt to save New Yorkers from themselves, Mayor Michael Bloomberg - that embodiment of statist self-parody - is attempting to ban the sale of soft drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. But lest you see this as the most recent bit of petty bossiness to come out of the mayor's office, Bloomberg would like to set the record straight: "“We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things, we’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup."
To Bloomberg's credit, he at least acknowledges that this ban on the sale of large sodas relies on the use of state force to interfere in the peaceful decisions of private citizens. Trouble is, this ban amounts to an abuse of government power, enabling Bloomberg to foist his preferences onto society.
Preferences, though, are subjective matters of individual choice. Perhaps Bloomberg, like me, is obsessive about his diet and exercise regimen, desiring ripped abs and a six-minute mile time over the occasional cheeseburger and cold Pepsi. Good for him.
But Bloomberg's and my ordering of preferences are not "correct" in any objective sense. That is, there is nothing wrong with another person's choice to drink a six pack of Pepsi each day and thus forgo the six-pack abs. These are not moral choices and it is therefore impossible to say that Bloomberg's anti-soda initiative will lead to "better outcomes" (in any generic sense), as the definition of "better" in this instance is entirely in the eye - or pot belly, as the case may be - of the beholder.
The true problem in the United States is not that any given person may often make unhealthy lifestyle choices (after all, it is herlife), but rather the fact that the healthcare "system" forces others to pay for the consequences of that choice. Consider that, in the United States, approximately 50% of all healthcare spending is controlled - either directly or indirectly - by the government, a statistic which provides ample ammunition to meddlesome busybodies like Bloomberg who claim that one person's cup of Fanta imposes costs on everyone else. Instead of banning large sodas, however, the goal should be to ensure that every person is free to live as he pleases provided he bears the costs of his choices.
Yet, for men like Bloomberg - and those who support his policies - very little justification is needed when it comes to interfering in the private lives of other people, as arrogance alone provides ample thrust. But here's a suggestion for those who support policies like the large soda ban: next time you think you know what's best for someone else, try to persuade them, peacefully, to adopt your idea. If you fail to do so, and instead have to start calling for the use of state coercion to force people into line with your ideas, your idea probably wasn't worth a damn in the first place.