Free Markets, Free People

NY soda ban: You can always find someone to defend the indefensible

In the case of Michael Bloomberg’s overreach in banning a specific size of soda drink, the defender is some fellow named Lawrence Gostin.  The headline of the article he’s written is “Banning large sodas is legal and smart”.

Really?  Legal and smart?  His defense of the indefensible has him channeling Paul Krugman, or at least emulating him.

As I’ve said before, it’s always wise to check the premise on which someone like this operates.  In this case, the premise is, as you might expect, flawed and the reasoning thin.   It all comes down to a word – “imminent” – and the author’s obvious belief that it is the job of government to save us from ourselves.   You have to dig through the article a bit, but here’s where Gostin’s claim of legality comes from:

Admittedly, the soda ban would have been better coming from the city’s elected legislature, the City Council. But the Board of Health has authority to act in cases where there is an imminent threat to health. Doesn’t the epidemic of obesity count as an imminent threat, with its devastating impact on health, quality of life and mortality? In any event, the Board of Health has authority over the food supply and chronic disease, which is exactly what it has used in this case.

Members of the Board of Health, moreover, are experts in public health, entitled to a degree of deference. The fact that the proposal originated in the mayor’s office does not diminish the board’s authority and duty to protect the public’s health. Many health proposals arise from the executive branch, notably the Affordable Care Act.

Uh, no, obesity doesn’t qualify as an “imminent” threat such that a Board of Health can arbitrarily declare something “banned”.  Why not king size candy bars?  Why not New York cheese cake?  Why not a whole plethora of sugar soaked products?  Well, if you’re paying attention, I’m sure you’ve realized that if this had flown, such bans were likely not far behind.

But back to Gostin.   Here’s his real argument:

First, the ever-expanding portions (think "supersized") are one of the major causes of obesity. When portion sizes are smaller, individuals eat less but feel full. This works, even if a person can take an additional portion. (Most won’t because they are satiated, and it at least makes them think about what they are consuming.) Second, sugar is high in calories, promotes fat storage in the body and is addictive, so people want more. The so-called "war on sugar" is not a culture war, it is a public health imperative backed by science.

So, there is good reason to believe New York’s portion control would work. But why does the city have to prove that it works beyond any doubt? Those who cry "nanny state" in response to almost any modern public health measure (think food, alcohol, firearms, distracted driving) demand a standard of proof that lawmakers don’t have to meet in any other field.

Because we don’t, in his opinion, “demand a standard of proof” from lawmakers in any other field, we shouldn’t, apparently, demand that standard in this field.  After all it is a “public health imperative” which is “backed by science”.  Where have we heard that before (*cough* global warming *cough*)?

So we shouldn’t ask lawmakers to prove that a) obesity is an imminent threat and b) banning large sodas will defeat that threat?  Because that’s certainly the premise.

In fact, we should do precisely the opposite of what Gostin says.  We should demand “a standard of proof” from out lawmakers that requires they prove whatever bill they’re contemplating is in fact necessary.  Want to ban “assault weapons”.  Prove to me that such a ban will “curb gun violence”.  Stats seem to indicate it will have no effect.  The lapse of the previous ban showed no appreciable increase in gun violence and we’ve seen an overall decrease in violence as a whole.

In this case, the ban Gostin tries to defend and contrary to his headline claims, was neither legal or smart.  It was arbitrary and poorly thought out (if it was thought out at all – seems more like it was a capricious act grounded in an inflated belief in the power Mayor Bloomberg thought he had).  And according to a NY state judge, it wasn’t legal either.

Of course Gostin tries a transparently obvious bit of nonsense by blaming the failure on “Big Food” and a compliant judge buying into their arguments.  It is the usual fall back position for someone who has nothing.  And his trump card is to compare the food industry to, you guessed it, the tobacco industry.  “Big” anything to do with business or industry is a liberal boogyman invoked when arguments are weak.  And Gostin’s is about as weak as they come.  His attempt to fob this off on the “usual suspects” is, frankly, laughable.

I note this particular “defense” by Gostin simply to point out that there are people out there, people others consider to be rational and intelligent (and, apparently, who can get things published on CNN) that can rationalize curbing you freedoms and liberties through the use of force (law and enforcement) because they actually believe they know what is best for you and have the right to act on that on your behalf.

What we need to do, quickly, is find a way to dissuade the nannies of the world from that belief.  They need to understand that freedom means they’re free to act on what they believe in circumstances like this but they’re not free to decide that others must do it too, because they’ve decided that’s the “smart” thing to do.  Freedom means the right to fail, get fat, do stupid things (that don’t violate the rights of others), etc.  We’re issued one mother in our lives.  And it’s not the state.

~McQ

43 Responses to NY soda ban: You can always find someone to defend the indefensible

  • Just as an aside for these asshats….do they REALLY think you get 32 ounces of soda in your 32 ounce cup?
    Anyone…show of hands – how often have you found your 32 ounce cup contains about 16 ounces (or more) of ICE?
     
    How they don’t see the parallel between SODA, and anything else that some jerkwad rich nanny mayor has determined is bad for you is beyond me.
    How about limiting the size of your steak purchases to 4 ounces?   Too much red meat, bad for you.   How about large baked potatoes?  All that nasty starch?    these are all imminent threats.
     
    And what will Asshatberg and this dillweed propose when the obesity epidemic isn’t stopped by the soda ban, refund the fines?  Apologies all around?   Or will they leave the ban in place, and move on to take the next hill?
    You KNOW the answer to that.

    • I’m a new Yorker but my dream is that all the coffee and fast-food places pack up and leave in response to this. How many jobs lost, how many taxes not pumped into the economy? We need them much more than they need us. If only they’d discover that….

      • Make no mistake, the restaurants love this.  They have to give out less product which costs a little bit less for them.  Probably very small, but every penny counts.  And they don’t have to worry about the competition out sizing them.

        • You have it backwards. The bigger sizes are more absolute profit for them per transaction.  It’s to their financial advantage to sell larger portions.

          • There are different strategies for different places.  Movie theatres do what you say.  They don’t offer a smaller option.  But you’re assuming those places will ‘downsize’ their prices.  I doubt it.
             
            McDonalds offers $1 drinks no matter the size.  They are competing on their drinks.  A normal cash cow for their competitors, they undercut.

  • The so-called “war on sugar” is not a culture war, it is a public health imperative backed by science.

    For an example of just how mad that notion can get, see Holocaust.
    And, to see how the world approached that level of “rationalization” in the name of science, see Era, Progressive.  See also Wilson, Woodrow.

  • http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/03/matt-ridley-explains-it-all.php
    Not only do we have a future…if we don’t destroy modernity…it is a very, very bright future.

     

  • “Doesn’t the epidemic of obesity count as an imminent threat,…”
     
    Pshaw! Of course not. I can give personal testimony that it takes years of dedicated over-consumption to turn that six-pack into a keg.

    • You SURE it’s not like, a ZOMBIE thing…you know, a comet flies over and suddenly everyone but a few ditzy kids and a hot blonde wake up the next day and have turned into fat people who run around yelling “BRAINS!!!!!!” or…something like that.
       
      (Come on, it’s a brilliant script idea for a zombie parody movie, you just know it!)

  • This soda ban story is a corollary of the meme:

    Congress and the president can do basically whatever they want. And if it’s unconstitutional, well, the Supreme Court will say so, and all will be well.

    In other words .. they are lawless, unless they get caught.

    • Another way to view it is this…
      In negotiations, I can offer you the chance to cut your own throat.  It is not my job to prevent you cutting your throat.  THAT is your job.  If you accept my offer…your bad, not mine.
      Now, this does NOT consider that each member of the Federal government above a certain level takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.  Which SHOULD change everything.  But does not.

      •  
        I mentioned a while back that the folks shot at in the Dorner fiasco wouldn’t get paid back in full.
        Well, I’m right.  They were going to give the two women replacement vehicles, but first they had to pay the taxes on the vehicles.
        The treated it like they got a “prize” instead of a “loss replacement.”

          • If you are going to criticize someone for not comprehending something, it would help if you were talking about the same article.
            “According to Jonas, LAPD and Galpin Ford wanted his clients to pose for a photo opportunity and pay income tax on the truck.”(from Looker’s cite)
             
            That sure sounds like what Looker described to me. Just like ads showing prize winners for Publisher’s Clearinghouse or the lottery.

          • Tim, Neo’s piece also made it clear that the offered truck was a NO-GO.  The ladies DO have a lawyer, and they are NOT taking the first offer.  Read the whole thing.

          • “Read the whole thing.”
             
            I did. I read both of them. Did you?
            “The ladies DO have a lawyer, and they are NOT taking the first offer.”
            Of course they have a lawyer and of course they refused the offer of having to pay taxes and appear in a photo opportunity. How does that contradict anything Neo or I said?
             

          • I mentioned a while back that the folks shot at in the Dorner fiasco wouldn’t get paid back in full.
            Well, I’m right.

            Well, no he is NOT right.  First, the PROCESS of compensation is not over.  Second, the specific instance cited was NOT even a deal.  It was an offer with no acceptance.

        • For clarity, I didn’t cite on this, but I did read about the ongoing struggle the women are having.
          I’d forgotten our discussion, but I thought on the day we were talking about compensation were were discussing the owner of the house Dorner took refuge in.
           
          On this one, the police  certainly are making the attempt to minimize their responsibility for adding 100 rounds worth of metal the original designers didn’t have in the plan.  And the reason is I suspect they’d prefer not to have people realize if they shoot the snot out of your car by mistake they’re going to try to dodge the subsequent repair bill, but that’s just me (on a side note, it makes me feel better to think these icons of the state can pop off with 100+ rounds against a vehicle and only manage to achieve 1 or 2 actual hits…in a way….)
           
          from the article – “Galpin Ford estimates the value of the truck – a 2013 Ford 150 SuperCrew – at $32,560. The dealership had planned on paying the sales tax, vehicle registration and title on the truck, according to a dealership spokesperson.
          “It’s really sad for us because we want to help these women move on with their lives, and help them move forward with that, we just can’t get past the 1099 issue,” LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. “The government has to take their bite out of it, I guess.”
           
          Galpin bellied up to pay the bar bill, not the State.  The police are just acting the part of middlemen for something they destroyed between the generous (tax write off) dealer and someone they were, decidedly, trying to kill, even if the targets were erroneous.   This is a case of stupidity not being painful if it plays out this way.   It needs to be painful for LAPD, and for the city of LA.
          Galpin steps in to bear the burden of ‘the state’, a little good PR is worth something to them, but it isn’t LAPD.
          and it isn’t a Toywagon either, it’s a Ford, I like Fords fine, I own Fords, and after that cluster F bailout, I WON’T be buying an American vehicle that isn’t made by Ford until some other car company appears…
          but what if they a Toyota back.
           
          On an unfortunate note, the IRS bill, if someone gives you the money, the IRS wants you to pay, I don’t think they have a “owes me a new truck for trying to kill me” exemption.  Not sure how they get out from under that.  Did any of us think of that when we were having this discussion about these being compensated? I know I didn’t.  I always forget the damn tax bill except when I’m swagging how much the IRS will get out of the Powerball money I’m going to win (which I just know I won last night but haven’t checked yet).
           
          Eh…what about their insurance, the IRS doesn’t bill you for vehicle repairs or replacements, I guess in this case it’s not the same.

    • “Congress and the president can do basically whatever they want.”
       
      As that ditz San Fran Nan said “Are you serious?  Are you serious?”

  • I can’t reconcile these two things: We can make 16+ ounce sodas illegal because they represents an imminent threat, but we couldn’t quarantine people with AIDS even when it was a certain death sentence. Can anyone help me out?

    • AIDS was one of the few diseases in history with a lobby.
      Or “politics”.

    • Aids, like abortion and birth control, are sacraments. They should be available to all, not restricted to a favored few.

  • He must be a Republican. As we all know, Democrats are all about your right to choose.

  • But why does the city have to prove that it works beyond any doubt? Those who cry “nanny state” in response to almost any modern public health measure (think food, alcohol, firearms, distracted driving) demand a standard of proof that lawmakers don’t have to meet in any other field.
    >>>> You mean like the d-bags who ask us to show just why we “need” an AR-15 or magazine with 30 bullets, right?  Suddenly standards of proof are no good because of soda?  Eff this guy.

    • That’s a good point. I think his general point is that we, the serfs, should shut up and do as we are told. Our betters don’t need evidence to rule over us, but even if we have evidence it probably doesn’t count.

      We respect to 30 round magazines and such, I want such things because you don’t really know what you will need until you do. It is basically the same reason you want a fire extingusher or maybe a larger fire extingusher. You may never need it, but if you need it you need it bad. That said, I’m more of a 20 round mag guy myself, since those enable a lower prone position.

  • Members of the Board of Health, moreover, are experts in public health, entitled to a degree of deference. The fact that the proposal originated in the mayor’s office does not diminish the board’s authority and duty to protect the public’s health. Many health proposals arise from the executive branch, notably the Affordable Care Act.

    I wonder if he showed such deference to Bush. Oh, sorry, actually I think I can guess the answer to that . . .

  • I’m willing to bet this jackass won’t be crying ‘public health crisis’ over abortion, unwanted pregnancies, and binge drinking, to name but a few.  Maybe he’d surprise me. Maybe he’s against everything.
     
     

  • As much as I don’t like this drink size control, I wouldn’t mind a requirement for a restaurant to offer potable water as an option.  Some people are doubly screwed medically in that they shouldn’t consume neither large amounts of pure sugar nor caffeine.

    • Dude, you CAN ask for water or a diet non-caffeinated soda!  They never come over the counter to force-feed colas!!!

      • Today you can.  Once upon a time water wasn’t reliably offered.  In fact, I believe offering free tap water became mandatory in the past couple of decades in most places and only then did bottle water become common.

        • Once before that time, water <em>was</em> routinely offered.  Then Green fascists decided that potable water was a scarce resource…

        • But it was always available on request.  Think about it.  They HAVE to have clean water available under any sanitation regulations I know about.  Even your proverbial taco truck (which are sometimes great eats).

        • “Once upon a time water wasn’t reliably offered.”
           
          Ask for a glass of water, for crying out loud. How old are you?
          Once upon a time indoor plumbing wasn’t reliably offered. I have been offered glasses of water routinely for over half a century, from coast to coast, in roadside diners, truckstops, even back before McDs had an arch.

          • I get offered them all the time, maybe because I frequently have a brewski with supper.   But yeah, I have to turn the damn things down.

    • “I wouldn’t mind a requirement for a restaurant to offer potable water as an option. ”
       
      You patronize restaurants that won’t give you a glass of water? Hey, that’s on you.

  • Not as off-topic as one might think…

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/17/colorado-sheriff-says-new-state-gun-laws-wont-be-enforced/
    Hey, if Obama can pick which laws to enforce, why can’t all sheriffs…???

    • I read somewhere last week that Sheriff’s are the LEO’s of the people, and Police Chiefs are the LEO’s of the Washington rulers.
       
      Seems to be that way every time one or the other speaks up regarding the ideas of registration and gun control.
       
      On a visible damage note – my local Cabela’s has dropped their number of long gun racks by half, and done away completely with the bulk ammo aisle.  9mm was impossible to buy, and 22 LR can’t be had either, while the price of what .308 they had, was….wait for it…$40.00 for 20 rounds.   The only evil black rifles on the racks were $2200+ Sigs.   At the range, the rifle bays were half empty, but the pistol bays were full.
       
      Ba

      • American sheriffs are…or were…remarkably powerful civil officers.  Most all are elected, whereas most all police chiefs are appointed, which explains a lot.  Most big city police chiefs also have advanced degrees, and have been thoroughly screwed up in the process of indoctrination…like a lot of our flag-grade military.
         
        But if it is acceptable for Obama to enforce or not enforce laws…as he does…why can’t any level of government executive do as well, and on the same pretexts?

        • Well, you know, they’d LIKE to enforce those laws, but darn it, the SEQUESTRATION!!!!!!!

          • One of the things I’d like to see people impose on their legislators is one commonly applied to leaders in business and the military…
            before you ask me for MORE laws, show me how you’ve employed the ones entrusted to you already.
            Businesses (damn well better) do cost/benefit on their projects pretty much constantly.  Show me the money on gun control. And, remember, Connecticut had very strict gun control laws.

          • And have you noticed the number of ‘open fire’ whack jobs produced in Upstate New York lately?
             
            According to their reasoning we should have one or two a day out here in the ‘Wild West’ but it ain’t happening.