Freedom is a moving target, as is social authoritarianism, and how people seem to come down on one issue often shows how they think on a whole raft of other ones.
Social authoritarians exist among every political group - anyone who denies that is simply denying an uncomfortable truth about their fellow voters. Social authoritarians are creepy when they are in conservative camps (banning gay marriage) and they are creepy among progressives too (banning golf) but if you are okay with one and not the other, it basically just tells people how you vote.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg oversees a realm that is more liberal than progressive yet he is a kooky progressive through and through. Being rich does not make you smart. His latest big government bender is criminalizing what size soda people can buy. Some laws make some sense, even if they solve a problem no one has - when I was a kid, I could go into a store if my mom was waiting in the car and buy her a pack of cigarettes but you can't do that now. I didn't know any 6-year-olds who smoked cigarettes but in today's instant news world someone somewhere can find some crazy parent who made that happen and get a law passed. It's not a bad law to say 6-year-olds can't buy cigarettes but when I was a kid, if an adult saw a 6-year-old smoking a cigarette, it was going to be a big deal and a whole lot of neighbors were going to talk to the parents. They did not passively sit around and wait for the government to pass a law so they did not have to be members of society directly.
But banning stuff is popular now. Want to ban goldfish? Go to San Francisco. Plastic bags? Go to Los Angeles. You get the idea. Everyone likes to ban stuff, progressives just want to ban stuff that reads like an April Fool's joke - like Happy Meals. Oddly, both sides claim they care about freedom more than the other.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not think this man is smart enough to make an informed choice. Come to think of it, neither do I. There is no sausage on his pizza. There should be a law requiring sausage on any NYC pizza. photo: Shutterstock
Will we get claims of death due to second-hand soda consumption, too?
Mayor Bloomberg is in that self-belief-about-freedom camp. He is not 'banning' anything - in the progressive social authoritarian sense - he thinks he is 'leading the way' in the freedom sense. He is the same mayor who banned smoking in bars - rather than do the obvious and require a ventilation system - banned trans fats, legislated calories counts in foods and wants to control salt. Yet he loves freedom, he contends.
Like all good progressive elites, he says he is doing it for stupid people - namely the poor and Republicans, who lack the sophisticated understanding of nutrition it requires to know that if you eat too much of something, you will get fat. Apparently, Bloomberg thinks NYC voters are like goldfish and if you don't measure their food for them, they will eat themselves to death. In defense of conservatives, they may think people are just as stupid, but they are at least willing to let people prove it, like with kids and guns.
Even people you would expect to side with him are not doing so. New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat and actual liberal (not a creepy progressive social authoritarian) , told The New York Post, "We may be getting too close to Big Brother. I just think we ought to step back and look at the freedoms that we have been given in this country and reflect on them."
Whaaaa? Freedom? How do I vote for that guy? But if people have freedom, won't it be a state full of 400 lb. people herded into forced gay porn zones where they have to shoot guns made from BPA plastics? Freedom may be too risky for New Yorkers.
But Bloomberg falls back on the 'disease' metaphor; a mindset that lobbies to have more government social services provided for people, like health care, so it can then turn around and force people to behave in certain ways, because 'society' is on the hook for their health care. He even compared soda pop to asbestos in an interview with MSNBC. You don't want your kids to get lung cancer, right? Then don't let them buy Pepsi in sizes greater than 16 ounces and they will be saved. And if soda is as dangerous to kids as cigarettes, as he claims, it is only a matter of time before some charlatan produces a second-hand soda study, correlating children who are around people who drink soda with greater levels of obesity.
Why aren't environmentalists lobbying against this ban?
I'm not sure I have ever even bought a Big Gulp but knowing it might soon be banned - California has always been a little jealous of New York City so we are sure to outdo a city ban with a statewide one, if the NYC thing ever actually happens - I kind of want one.
I have seen people with them, sure, and they seem to have them a long time, they are not drinking them in 10 minutes. One question an environmentally conscious, socially libertarian fiscal conservative needs to ask is, did anyone do any simple math for the mayor? Since the city is not yet banning daily consumption of soda but rather purchase size, is there any evidence this will make people thinner?
No, but it takes no thinking at all to recognize that someone who is determined to drink 32 ounces of soda per day will have to buy two containers - packaging is a big chunk of cost in packaged foods so now poor people will be paying more because they are buying two containers that may or may not ever get recycled in our lifetimes (the recycling backlog in most states is so long it is basically just a landfill) which means a substantially greater environmental footprint both in manufacturing and in the post-consumer cycle. Obviously the mayor is counting on the fact that his
What do experts say?
Social authoritarian progressives like Mayor Bloomberg love experts, especially when they agree. No surprise that his hand-picked group, The New York City Board of Health, agree completely that banning the Big Gulp is a good idea. But they may have a little too much enthusiasm, since at their meeting to rubber stamp his idea they endorsed the one thing he said he was not trying to do; micromanage personal choice across the spectrum.
Board member Bruce Vladeck said popcorn should also be on the list, especially those movie theater tubs, which everyone knows poor people buy every day. "The popcorn isn't a whole lot better than the soda," he said.
Dr. Bruce Forman, also a board member, wants to add in coffee and milkshakes because those poor people Bloomberg says can't understand simple nutrition can apparently afford a tub of popcorn, a frappuccino and a milkshake every afternoon - "There are certainly milkshakes and milk-coffee beverages that have monstrous amounts of calories."
Bringing this full circle, if you are okay with levying a $200 court fine for selling an illegal soda but think the $100 fine for selling that same container full of marijuana is too much, we know how you vote.
If you are part of the 51% of New Yorkers who think the whole idea is ridiculous, the mayor of London says even Europe, which once declared that water could not be advertised as curing thirst, thinks NYC is being silly and disgruntled people should move across the pond. But to Bloomberg and his handpicked fellow believers, poor and fat people are too stupid to have read this article anyway, so they are not worried about a mass exodus.