Free Markets, Free People

Nanny State

Apologizing for authoritarianism

That’s essentially what Sarah Conely does in a NY Times op-ed. Oh, she cloaks it benignly enough -“it’s just soda” – as he supports the Bloomberg ban on large volume soda sales.  But in essence what she claims is “government knows best” and “giving up a little liberty isn’t so bad if it benefits the majority”.

You see, liberty, in her world, is much less important that security or safety.  And we, as knuckle dragging neanderthals, don’t always know what is best for us or how to accomplish our goals without the hand of government to guide us (how we ever managed to make it to the 21st century without that guiding hand is still a mystery in Conely’s circle).  Sure some can do it, but most can’t and so laws should be designed to protect and guide (coercively of course) those who can’t (or are believed to be unable).

A lot of times we have a good idea of where we want to go, but a really terrible idea of how to get there. It’s well established by now that we often don’t think very clearly when it comes to choosing the best means to attain our ends. We make errors. This has been the object of an enormous amount of study over the past few decades, and what has been discovered is that we are all prone to identifiable and predictable miscalculations.

Research by psychologists and behavioral economists, including the Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman and his research partner Amos Tversky, identified a number of areas in which we fairly dependably fail. They call such a tendency a “cognitive bias,” and there are many of them — a lot of ways in which our own minds trip us up.

For example, we suffer from an optimism bias, that is we tend to think that however likely a bad thing is to happen to most people in our situation, it’s less likely to happen to us — not for any particular reason, but because we’re irrationally optimistic. Because of our “present bias,” when we need to take a small, easy step to bring about some future good, we fail to do it, not because we’ve decided it’s a bad idea, but because we procrastinate.

We also suffer from a status quo bias, which makes us value what we’ve already got over the alternatives, just because we’ve already got it — which might, of course, make us react badly to new laws, even when they are really an improvement over what we’ve got. And there are more.

The crucial point is that in some situations it’s just difficult for us to take in the relevant information and choose accordingly. It’s not quite the simple ignorance [John Stuart] Mill was talking about, but it turns out that our minds are more complicated than Mill imagined. Like the guy about to step through the hole in the bridge, we need help.

So, now that we have these Nobel Prize winning psychologists and behavioral economists on the record saying we’re basically inept shouldn’t it be clear to you, as Conely concludes, that “we need help”?

That sort of “help” used to come from family, friends and community.  We somehow managed, for around 200 years, to grow and succeed splendidly without government intruding and trying to control our lives.

The basic premise of her piece is much the same as Bloomberg’s more direct assault:

The freedom to buy a really large soda, all in one cup, is something we stand to lose here. For most people, given their desire for health, that results in a net gain. For some people, yes, it’s an absolute loss. It’s just not much of a loss.

Or to quote a more succinct Bloomy: “I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom.”

Notice the arbitrariness of the “I do think”.  His choice, not yours.  Bloomberg picked sodas.  What else could he or those like  him arbitrarily pick next time?  Think government health care for example and your mind explodes with where they could go.

And notice Conely’s dismissal of the loss of freedom as “not much” of a loss.  Incrementalism at its finest.  Pure rationalization of the use the coercive power of the state to do what they think is best for you, because, as her academic colleagues have stressed, “we need help.”  And our betters are always there to “help” us, aren’t they?

Funny too how the solution is always the same, isn’t it?

And their desire to intrude? Well its wrapped up in their concept of government’s role in our lives:

In the old days we used to blame people for acting imprudently, and say that since their bad choices were their own fault, they deserved to suffer the consequences. Now we see that these errors aren’t a function of bad character, but of our shared cognitive inheritance. The proper reaction is not blame, but an impulse to help one another.

That’s what the government is supposed to do, help us get where we want to go.

No. It’s not. That isn’t at all the function of government as laid out in the Constitution. Not even close. It has always been our job to “get where we want to go”. Government’s job was to provide certain functions to ensure an equality of opportunity (like a fair legal system, stable monetary system, etc), but on the whole we were free to pursue our lives without its interference as long as we stayed within the legal framework and did no harm to others or attempted to defraud them.

Conely’s last sentence is the mask that fronts and justifies/rationalizes every authoritarian regime that has ever existed.  If you don’t believe that, I invite you to look at the title of her last book.  “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.”

Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

~McQ

Calling all Nannies

A new study that is sure to make Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other health nannies wet their britches in thanks is out:

New research finds that the consumption of sugary drinks and sodas contributes to about 180,000 obesity-related deaths around the world — including the deaths of about 25,000 adult Americans — each year.

According to a new study presented on Tuesday at a meeting of the American Heart Association, one out of every 100 obesity-related deaths around the world can be tied to sugary drinks, which directly exacerbate health conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer. Specifically, the over-consumption of those beverages increased global deaths from diabetes by 133,000, from cardiovascular disease by 44,000 and from cancer by 6,000.

So, 180,000 out of what, 6 billion?  And 25,000 in the US in a population of 300 million.

Can you say “statistically irrelevant”?  I knew you could.

But the “if our draconian measures can save even one life” crowd will see this as the means to more control, just watch.  It’s just predictable (your health is now a “growth area” for control freaks and nannies).

Don’t believe me?

The experts who contributed to the study explained that’s a big issue because those calories don’t provide any nutritional value, and policymakers should focus on helping encourage Americans to cut back:

“One of the problems of sugar-sweetened beverages is that we don’t seem to compensate as well for the calories as we do for solid foods,” [Rachel K. Johnson, a professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Vermont] said. “In other words, when we consume sugar-sweetened beverages we don’t reduce the amount of food we consume.

Johnson cautioned the study didn’t prove cause and effect, just that there was an association between sugared-drink intake and death rates.

Singh, the study’s co-author, said that taxing sugary drinks in the same way as cigarettes, or limiting advertising or access, may help reduce usage.

“Our study shows that tens of thousands of deaths worldwide are caused by drinking sugary beverages and this should impel policy makers to make strong policies to reduce consumption of sugary beverages,” Singh said.

~McQ

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

State court says no to Bloomberg’s large soda ban

As it should:

A state judge on Monday stopped Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s administration frombanning the sale of large sugary drinks at New York City restaurants and other venues, a major defeat for a mayor who has made public-health initiatives a cornerstone of his tenure.

The city is “enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations,” wrote New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling, blocking the rules one day before they would have taken effect. The city’s chief counsel, Michael Cardozo, pledged to “appeal the ruling as soon as possible.”

In halting the drink rules, Judge Tingling noted that the incoming sugary drink regime was “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences” that would be difficult to enforce with consistency “even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole.”

“The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of the rule,” the judge wrote. (Read the full text of the ruling.)

Under a first-of-its-kind prohibition approved by the city Board of Health last year, establishments from restaurants to mobile food carts would have been prohibited from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 oz. After a three-month grace period, the city would have started fining violators $200 per sale.

So the nanny gets told “no”.

Does anyone really believe this will stop him?

~McQ

You are just not relying on government enough

Or perhaps, you’re just not thankful enough for the nanny’s help and nanny feels a little put off.  Why?  You just don’t rank mommy government high enough (especially at election time) in your hierarchy of what helped you most through these difficult economic times:

“Given that only 15 percent of you turn to government assistance in tough times, we want to make sure you know about benefits that could help you,” USA.gov announced today. The ”government made easy’ website has created a “help for difficult financial times” page for people to learn more about the programs.

The government got that statistic from a poll asking Americans what helps them the most during tough times. Here are the results:

  • Savings 44%
  • Family 21%
  • Credit cards/loans 20%
  • Government assistance 15%
Oh my, you mean people are being too “self-reliant”?  Not enough reliance on government?  Why, if this sort of trend continues the people may not vote to expand government like certain parties would prefer.
So we get the “pitch”:
“Government assistance comes in different forms—from unemployment checks and food assistance to credit counseling and medical treatment,” USA.gov reminded readers.
Good to know, no?  Also good to know that self-reliance isn’t yet dead.  But the government sounds desperate that you don’t realize how important they are to you:

This leg of the financial assistance push has ended. “Although our campaign to highlight Help for Difficult Financial Times has ended, we know that your struggles may continue,” said USA.gov today. “We will keep updating the tools and information we provide to help you get back on your feet.”

“Because without us, well, you can’t even find your feet” … or something.

~McQ

Twitter: McQandO

Facebook: QandO

No progress in the War on Poverty and none expected

A new study from CATO has found that despite trillions in spending, the poverty rate hasn’t moved much:

“[S]ince President Obama took office [in January 2009], federal welfare spending has increased by 41 percent, more than $193 billion per year,” the study says.

Federal welfare spending in fiscal year 2011 totaled $668 billion, spread out over 126 programs, while the poverty rate that remains high at 15.1 percent, roughly where it was in 1965, when President Johnson declared a federal War on Poverty.

In 1966, the first year after Johnson declared war on poverty, the national poverty rate was 14.7 percent, according to Census Bureau figures. Over time, the poverty rate has fluctuated in a narrow range between 11 and 15 percent, only falling into the 11 percent range for a few years in the late 1970’s.

The federal poverty rate is the percentage of the population below the federal poverty threshold, which varies based on family size.

A point that needs to be raised here is the poverty rate isn’t going to change no matter how much we spend because revisions to the threshold will always be such that about 15% of the population will be considered poor.

And, in a relative terms, they are indeed “poorer” than the other 85%.

The question is, are they really “poor” in real terms?

It depends on how you measure poverty, doesn’t it?  You can’t spend taxpayer money on poverty unless “poverty” exists, right?  But how many of our “poor” are truly poor?

Well, I’m not sure and neither is anyone else.  That’s because of the way poverty is measured in the US.  Essentially it is based solely on income.

The official poverty measure counts only monetary income. It considers antipoverty programs such as food stamps, housing assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid and school lunches, among others, “in-kind benefits” — and hence not income. So, despite everything these programs do to relieve poverty, they aren’t counted as income when Washington measures the poverty rate.

So guess what remains the same?  The poverty rate.  If “in-kind benefits” were included in income calculations for those receiving them, a lot fewer of them would be considered “poor”.   And since it’s only based on income, many elderly who receive retirement incomes below the “poverty” threshold are considered to be poor despite the fact that they own paid off assets like houses and cars and live comfortably on that retirement income.  But they pad the stats and help to continue to justify the programs and expenditures.

Do any of us have a problem with giving those who are down a hand up? 

I don’t.  But, I want a fair and reasonable determination of who really needs it before I extend that hand.

That’s something we’ve never, ever gotten since the beginning of the War on Poverty.

Are there real poor in this country.  Yes, there probably are – but not 15%.

I know CATO’s study emphasized a lack of progress.  It has nothing to do with “progress” against poverty – as noted, there will never be any progress made given the constant upward revision of the poverty level and the absurd way poverty is calculated in this country. 

As with most programs the government runs, this is one in dire need of a complete and total overhaul.

And CATO’s study is useful in pointing that out – again.

Not that anything is likely to actually happen to address the problem or anything.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Nanny state update

It’s a bit of a mixed picture with both state and federal nannies doing their best to get the proles under control.  The base premise, of course, is only government can save you from yourself since you’re too freakin’ dumb to handle it yourself.  And since you’ve been so kind as to put these people in power they find it only fair that they exercise the power they’ve accumulated to ensure you live the life they deem best.

First a local example from NYC:

The New York City Board of Health showed support for limiting sizes of sugary drinks at a Tuesday meeting in Queens.  They agreed to start the process to formalize the large-drink ban by agreeing to start a six-week public comment period.

At the meeting, some of the members of board said they should be considering other limits on high-calorie foods.

One member, Bruce Vladeck, thinks limiting the sizes for movie theater popcorn should be considered.

"The popcorn isn’t a whole lot better than the soda," Vladeck said.

Another board member thinks milk drinks should fall under the size limits.

"There are certainly milkshakes and milk-coffee beverages that have monstrous amounts of calories," said board member Dr. Joel Forman.

Ye gods.  When government is given the okay to manage your health care, this is what you can expect to happen.  Update on the drink ban – refills, according to Bloomberg, will be “ok”.  Yeah, so what’s the purpose of the drink ban? 

Moving on to a federal example of drink ban stupidity:

The vending machines are unplugged at a Utah high school after a violation of federal lunch rules. Davis High School was fined $15-thousand dollars for selling carbonated beverages during the lunch hour.

Vending machines in the hallways at Davis High School normally sell carbonated beverages and candy, but to receive federal nutrition funding, they can’t sell it during lunch. Students say it doesn’t make sense.

"Everyone goes out to lunch anyways and drinks them so it’s pretty dumb."

District officials say the policy can be confusing too. Chris Williams, the Davis School District Spokesperson, says there are definite rules about how, and when carbonated beverages can be sold. “It is challenging when you can buy a Coke before lunch, and consume it during lunch, but you can’t buy a coke during lunch."

It’s not just soda sales that are a problem; candy can be too, depending on what kind it is. Davis High School’s Principal, Dee Burton, says Snicker Bars are considered nutritional and legal, but other candy is not. "We are not allowed to sell anything that is carbonated or any candy that sticks to your teeth”

“Snickers” is considered “nutritional?”  And you can buy carbonated drinks before and after lunch but not during?  Oh, and the $15,000 fine?  Any guess where that comes from?  Yeah, Mr.Taxpayer – you.

Finally, the FDC is going after cigars:

Though the agency has yet to lay out its new regulations in detail, industry insiders speculate that it could ban flavored cigars, require ugly warning labels or graphic pictures on cigar boxes, bar customers from entering store humidors, or require that cigars be kept out of the reach of potential buyers, who typically handle and examine them before choosing which ones to buy.

“Banning that experience would be crippling,” says Gary Pesh, the owner of Old Virginia Tobacco in Richmond, Virginia, and executive officer of Cigar Rights of America. “Making a customer pick their brand of cigars from a black-and-white catalog — that destroys the way we’ve done business.”

Pesh says some speculate that the FDA would also bar shops from letting their products be visible to anyone outside the store.“That means I’d have to put blacked-out windows on my storefront,” he explains. “Like a porn shop or something.”

Well let’s be honest, among the zealots it is akin to a porn shop.  Well, with one exception – they’d likely support the right of a porn shop to exist with much less regulation.

Real effect:  if (and they say a number of times that they’re speculating) these sorts of regulations are indeed passed, then they will negatively impact jobs at a time that this economy can’t afford to lose more:

New FDA regulations could result in the immediate closing of many cigar shops, most of which employ only three to five people and operate with slim profit margins. About 85,000 people work in the premium-cigar industry — jobs that would be in jeopardy if the FDA’s regulatory power grab succeeds.

“To jeopardize 85,000 jobs in today’s economic times is absolutely unconscionable,” says Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association.

Pesh thinks small shops could also be hurt by user fees the FDA can charge to the businesses it regulates. “I’d have to pay to put me out of business,” he explains.

But that’s not the real problem.  We’re talking about a voluntary transaction between consenting adults.  Why is government involved in any other way but to prevent the use of force or fraud?

Freedom?  Forget about it.  Choice?  Not if the FDA does this the right way. 

There’s a bill in Congress right now to stop this overreach.  By the way, has anyone noticed that instead of being involved in oversight of many agencies, Congress has been reduced to the role of reactive legislation to remove or prevent the most egregious examples of regulatory overreach?

Folks, freedom means the freedom to consume bad things if that is your desire as long as you doing so doesn’t violate the rights of others.  What we see with these examples are attempts to violate that freedom of choice and use the power of government coercion to prevent you from making choices it deems harmful.

Not. The. Job. Of. Government. In. A. Free. Society.

Period. 

Yet certainly the growing trend is to do more and more of that.

And in the case of the NYC soda ban, a good portion of the left is just fine with it.

It’s frightening.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

The law of unintended (but obviously expected if you know anything about human nature) consequences

Remember the “digital divide”.  The bloviating over the “right” of access to the internet and how the “poor” were being left out and that was hurting their chances of advancement?

Remember how government decided it would fix that and take your money and provide hardware and connectivity to the poor?

Well it did, with predictable results:

As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show.

This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.

Is it?  So if it is a parent problem, what’s the solution?

Ha, ha, ha … you already know the answer, don’t you?

The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.

Yes, friends, the solution is just as predictable as the problem.

More government, of course.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Like other researchers and policy makers, Ms. Boyd said the initial push to close the digital divide did not anticipate how computers would be used for entertainment.

“We failed to account for this ahead of the curve,” she said.

Ya think?  Name another government policy or program that ever has accounted for consequences ahead of the curve.  Back to our most recent Quote of the Day.  How in the world do we continue to let this sort of inept, wasteful, ill-thought-out nonsense continue?

Who knew, when free access was provided to the internet, that most would use it to entertain themselves?  Nothing like free YouTube and porn, right?

Thanks, taxpayers.

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Three examples of government intrusion where it has no business

Yes, just three.  You’re right, I could probably make it 30 or 300.  3,000 even!  But for brevity sake, three current examples where government has no business yet feels somehow justified in intruding or regulating in a manner that limits freedom.

First is an example of excessive regulation which in reality is an example of crony capitalism, where a regulation or mandatory licensing creates a state enforced bar to entry into an industry.

Louisiana has a plethora of such laws which regulate or license all sorts of things that few of the other states do.  An example?  The manufacture of caskets is illegal unless, well, you read it:

Brown, a soft-spoken man who is only the fifth leader of a monastery that dates to 1889, said he had not known that in Louisiana only licensed funeral directors are allowed to sell “funeral merchandise.”

That means that St. Joseph Abbey must either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room.

“Really,” Brown said. “It’s just a big box.”

Indeed it is.  And buyers should have a choice as to whether to buy it or some other casket.  They likely could pick up the Abbey’s “big box” for much less than it might cost to buy a similar casket in a "licensed funeral director’s” place given the required overhead that the regulatory mandate places on such entities.

In effect, the mandate acts as a high bar to entry.  It is likely the existing funeral industry in LA helped write the law.  That’s called “crony capitalism”.  The Abbey simply provides the illustration of the result.  If freedom equals choice, LA is in the choice limiting business with regulatory and licensing regime like this.

Some good news on that front:

The monks won round one in July, when U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled Louisiana’s restrictions unconstitutional, saying “the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry.”

As you might imagine, the other side is not happy.  So is it the state that is appealing?  Well not the state, exactly:

The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which has argued that the law protects consumers, has appealed, and the circuit court in New Orleans will hear the case in early June.

That’s right … the protected want to continue to have their state protected industry … protected.  Good lord, if consumers have real choice, well, they might not buy the crony capitalist’s overpriced “funeral merchandise”.

And, of course, that state isn’t the only one with choice limiters working to cut down on your freedom.  Our next two examples come from the state of New York.  I know, shocking.

Case one – Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has decided that you fat folks just shouldn’t have the right to decide (there’s that choice thing again) on the size of “sugary drink” you can buy.

New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid  ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in City Hall’s sprawling Governor’s Room.

“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”

Nanny Bloomberg assumes New Yorkers need a mommy.  That they’re fat because of their diet of sugary drinks of a certain size. He’s sure if he limits you to 16 fluid ounces of such belly wash they’ll slim right down.   Nanny Bloomberg also assumes that the public wants him to intrude into every deli, fast-food franchise, food cart and sports arena to save them from themselves.

Because that’s a nanny’s job – limit choice.  Limit freedom.  All for the common good, of course.  (added: here’s a distant cousin’s view – “Sixteen Ounces of Bull”.  Amen, cuz).

Case 2?  Well it seems a couple of state legislators in NY want to outlaw anonymous posting on the internet.  A couple of Republicans, by the way.

New York State Senator Thomas O’Mara recently proposed legislation that would ban anonymous postings on websites in his state.  The bill requires citizens posting on any blog, social network, message board or other forum, to turn over their full names, home addresses and IP address to web site administrators for public posting.  Supposedly it is being pushed as an “anti-bullying” step.

His cohort in this nonsense, however, reveals the real purpose.  State Assemblyman Jim Conte released a statement saying:

…the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web. By removing these posts, this bill will help to ensure that there is more accurate information available to voters on their prospective candidates, giving them a better assessment of the candidates they have to choose from.

Or, the “let’s limit free speech to protect politician’s reputations” bill.

As the Center for Competitive Politics points out:

Anonymous speech has played a part in our political process since the very founding of our nation.  Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers, which where primarily targeting voters in New York, under various pseudonyms.  The Supreme Court upheld this precedent in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, noting:

“[u]nder our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)

and:

“But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.” McIntyre, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)

Everyday in just about every way, our freedoms are under assault at all levels of government in this country.  I spend a lot of time recording those at a federal level.  But just as pernicious and certainly just as dangerous are those at local and state levels. 

The cumulative result is we live in a much less free society than we did 100 years ago.  50 years ago.  in fact, 20 years ago.

These three examples can indeed be multiplied by hundreds if not thousands.  They are fairly common unfortunately.  They cost a lot to enforce.  They’re unnecessary.  Most important though,  in each case they limit choice and thereby freedom.

Frog.  Pot. Rising heat.

Time to start getting serious about turning off the freedom limiting burner.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Randy Barnett on Drug Prohibition

For a libertarian blog, this is a subject that we rarely opine about. Probably because its a rather dead horse that just doesn’t need any more beating. Even so, we do all too often have occasion to discuss the ill effects of the War on (Some) Drugs, such as the asset seizure case Bruce highlighted.

In that vein, Randy Barnett offers up his latest law review on the subject “The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Prohibition” and this abstract:

Some drugs make people feel good. That is why some people use them. Some of these drugs are alleged to have side effects so destructive that many advise against their use. The same may be said about statutes that attempt to prohibit the manufacture, sale, and use of drugs. Advocating drug prohibition makes some people feel good because they think they are “doing something” about what they believe to be a serious social problem. Others who support these laws are not so altruistically motivated. Employees of law enforcement bureaus and academics who receive government grants to study drug use, for example, may gain financially from drug prohibition. But as with using drugs, using drug laws can have moral and practical side effects so destructive that they argue against ever using legal institutions in this manner.

This article will not attempt to identify and “weigh” the costs of drug use against the costs of drug laws. Instead, it will focus exclusively on identifying the harmful side effects of drug law enforcement and showing why these effects are unavoidable. So one-sided a treatment is justified for two reasons. First, a cost-benefit or cost-cost analysis may simply be impossible. Second, discussions by persons who support illegalizing drugs usually emphasize only the harmful effects of drug use while largely ignoring the serious costs of such policies. By exclusively relating the other side of the story, this article is intended to inject some balance into the normal debate.

The harmful side-effects of drug laws have long been noted by a number of commentators, although among the general public the facts are not as well known as they should be. More importantly, even people who agree about the facts fail to grasp that it is the nature of the means — coercion — chosen to pursue the suppression of voluntary consumptive activity that makes these effects unavoidable. This vital and overlooked connection is the main subject of this article.

It’s a pretty interesting read. You can download the entire article by visiting Randy’s post linked above.