Recently I’ve decided to expand my podcast listening tastes and began listening to the daily NPR podcast Talk of the Nation. Last Friday, they had a segment that was discussing the New York City cap on sodas over 16 oz. As a libertarian, I lost track of how many times I rolled my eyes or vocally expressed my disbelief at what I was hearing. The host of the show had two ‘experts’ on: One was Marion Nestle of New York University and the other was Brian Wansink of Cornell University. Both were people involved in the debate over the public health issues surrounding the debate. What troubled me was the fact that everyone on the show just tacitly assumed that some sort of government intervention in the name of public health was perfectly justified. In fact, Ms. Nestle would frequently suggest the government do more.
When all of this talk was going around concerning the NYC soda ban, I shrugged my shoulders and thought how typical of big government supporters. I didn’t want to think too much about, much less write about it, because I thought it was all absurd. But now that it has become official in NYC and given that many, at least in the NPR crowd, think it’s perfectly OK for government to make our health choices for us, I feel compelled to say something. Are we out of our minds?!?!?
I am really surprised that there isn’t more outrage over this than there already is. I know that this is a big deal in libertarian circles and even in some conservative circles. But the vast majority of liberals seem to think this is OK. With all of the larger fish to fry, politically speaking, the mayor of NYC thinks it’s time to crack down on the size of Big Gulps? Unemployment is out of control (currently 10% in NYC), the city has a public debt approaching $70 billion, and making sure citizens don’t have access to soda sizes larger than 16 oz. is what gets passed. I’m sorry, but when did our elected officials begin thinking that telling us what and how much we drink is somehow within their purview?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the government will use red herrings like ‘public health’ to restrict our freedom and increase their control any day of the week. This soda ban is all part of the grand plan to combat the dreaded obesity epidemic. Now, I don’t want to debate whether or not obesity is an epidemic. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that it is. OK, why is this a government issue? Why does the mayor of New York think it’s his solemn responsibility to control what people drink? Why is the First Lady of the United States making it her goal in life to combat the obesity epidemic through the strong arm of government control? The public health is a concept that doesn’t exist. There is no ‘public health,’ there is only individual health. If an individual is obese, then that is between that individual, his/her family and his/her doctor. It is not any of our business and it certainly isn’t the business of government.
But the typical mindset of today’s modern (as opposed to classical) liberal is to enforce his or her enlightened worldview on the rest of society. Because they think they know better, they want to use the mechanisms of government to promote their enlightened worldview. Because they believe the global warming scare, we should all use energy efficient light bulbs. Because they believe there is a problem with unwanted pregnancies, we should give condoms to children in school. Because they believe that a woman should have the right to kill her unborn baby, abortions should be covered by health insurance. And because they believe that obesity is an epidemic, they have every right to restrict what we all eat and drink. In the greatest of all modern oxymorons, today’s modern liberal is all about control.
But the liberal control freaks have an ace up their collective sleeves. Because of rising health care costs (thanks to government interference in the free market of health care) and government provided health care in the form of Medicare, Medicaid, and the monstrosity known as the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the liberal control freaks think it’s perfectly justifiable to take government action in the obesity epidemic. You see, obese people have more health risks. More health risks mean more health care. More health care means rising health care costs. Rising health care costs means more strain on the public coffers. So, to combat the problem of rising health care costs, the liberal control freaks can dictate to all of us how much soda we can drink, or how much trans fat we can consume, etc. Because the government is paying the health care bills, they can tell is what to eat and drink. It’s all perfectly logical and most people have absolutely no right to complain because they voted for this mess.
Now I know some of you might say to me, “Hey, it’s only soda. What’s the big deal? There is nothing in this ban that prevents people from buying two 16 oz. drinks or getting multiple refills.” You’re right. It’s only soda. There is nothing preventing people from getting infinite refills. You’re right. Maybe it’s not a big deal at all. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg really is trying to look out for the public health. Maybe…
But you know what? This is much bigger than just soda. It’s about freedom and control. If the government can tell us what to eat and what to drink under the guise of ‘public health,’ then the question becomes what else can they do under the auspices of the ‘public welfare?’ Not to mention that this NYC soda ban is just yet another in a long line of encroaching government control in our lives. There is subtle government pressure on what cars we can buy and drive, what light bulbs we can use, what substances we can put into our bodies, and on and on it goes. Not to sound too alarmist, but how long before we’re told what books we can read and what shows we can watch…all in the name of public welfare?
I don’t really like sounding like a paranoid freak, but seriously, if the government can tell us how much soda we can drink, it’s not really a stretch at all to think it’s not too long before they start controlling other aspects of our lives. For me the issue boils down to this: Are we free individuals or not? Do we have the right to live our lives as we deem best or not? Are we adult enough to do what we want as long as we deal with the consequences of our actions or not? Yes, consuming too much sugary soda can lead to obesity. However, it’s not my business or yours if someone chooses to do that. The flip side to freedom is responsibility. The problem with our over protective nanny state is that they’ve virtually eliminated personal responsibility so much that they’ve now assumed the right to curtail our freedom. We will never be a free society unless and until we take back responsibility for our lives and stop living like leeches on the government carcass.
Libertas Aut Mors!