Getting a lot of traction this morning is a story of the perennial enemy of personal freedom, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, seeking to ban sugared drinks above a certain number of ounces. That’s right, folks – in New York City, it will soon be impossible to buy a Route 44 cherry Coke. Thank goodness for Mayor Bloomberg! For a moment there, I’m sure we were all very concerned about that great threat to our safety.
We chuckle and shake our heads at the sheer idiocy here, maybe get a little indignant, and then go on our merry way. But let’s travel back to 2009, when the Texas State Senate, that venerable chamber of relative sanity, actually passed SB 204, an effort by then-Senator Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso) to ban trans fats in restaurants throughout Texas. This bill didn’t end up going anywhere, though not for lack of trying. After passing the Senate, it was passed to the House Public Health Committee, passed out easily and was placed on the General State Calendar. The only thing that killed it? The House ran out of time, due to desperate Democrats’ now-infamous “chubbing.”
The temptation of nanny-state policies, from the local level on up to the federal level, is great – won’t we spend less, some say, on Medicaid and indigent health care if people are “forced” to be healthy? Probably, but that just underscores another problem. Government is so pervasive that we rely on it to take care of us no matter our choices. Government’s response to this is to limit our choices. Our state has come within a hair’s breadth of banning smoking in public places, of banning certain kinds of fats in food, of limiting the kinds of foods available in our schools, all in the name of health and safety. Our cities ban the sorts of containers alcohol may be sipped from, the kinds of bags we can use when we shop for groceries, in the name of a clean environment. On another scale, transportation projects that will improve safety are put on hold in the name of lizards and rodents – as are drilling and energy projects.
In reality, these measures aren’t about health or safety, or the environment, or the protection of rare species. They are about control.
What’s happening in New York isn’t funny. It’s a tragic example of the nanny-state run amok, and that isn’t at all limited to the Empire State.