A curious thing happened this week; Conservatives got a prime example of everything that is wrong with liberal governance. Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to ban sugary drinks over the size of 16 oz in the city of New York. In one fell swoop Bloomberg justified the notion that liberals want a nanny state taking away the freedom and rights the conservatives strongly protect. Finally we can all see it, we should all know, all except two things. Bloomy isn’t a very liberal liberal especially when it comes to governing the city of New York. Secondly who said banning things was liberal?
More importantly the soda ban in method and premise isn’t a very liberal idea. The closest analog to the ban is the infinitely arcane metering laws regulating alcohol in Utah:
Utah law requires restaurants, clubs, on-premise banquet licensees, reception centers, and airport lounges to use a metered dispensing system that is calibrated to dispense no more than 1.5 ounces of primary liquor in a mixed drink. Secondary alcoholic flavorings may then be added to a mixed drink as the recipe requires, not to exceed a total of 2.5 ounces of spirituous liquor.
As a liberal I think it is patently stupid to try to ban things that can be considered personal vices. When the effect of someone’s actions is generally considered harmful to no one other than themselves it is virtually impossible to curb the practice through banning, see marijuana. It’s not that I feel consuming 32 oz of coke during the Avengers movie was particularly good for me (it was the small). I actually abhor the ludicrous sizes, but that’s because there are no reasonable healthy alternatives. The guy in front of me in line actually asked if he could have a cup of water, regular old tap water, and was told it would cost the same as the soda, a ridiculous $5.49. That’s more than it cost to at Woodstock 99, and people rioted over that. It’s true that the mark up on the soda is also insane seeing as the amount of syrup necessary to make the soda in that size cost about 20 cents. However most people would logically come to the conclusion that economically at least the soda is the better value.
I don’t even disagree that there are societal cost to excess sugary drinks, but the key here is excess. One super big gulp isn’t going to give me diabetes, any more than one cigarette will give me cancer, or one night of heavy drinking is going to make me an alcoholic. The societal costs are in my continual care when I am negatively affected by my excess. This is why, for me taxing vices such as these and using the revenue from these taxes to a) promote and subsidize less destructive habits, and b) treat those afflicted by the ravages of excess is the much more reasonable governmental role. In a sense the tax would be a way for people to take personal responsibility for their individual actions. Banning on the other hand, would be costly to all concerned and be completely ineffectual in addressing the long term health concerns. To call this plan liberal is to only know the caricature of what liberal governance is.