Addicted to Meddling: Stop the Bloomberg Soda Ban

Our friends at the Center for Consumer Freedom have an interesting post on food addiction-and their commentary raises some interesting issues about the upcoming Board of Health vote on banning large sized soda:

“We’re tired of hearing the multitude of ways to assign blame when the real cause of health problems comes down to the small choices that people make. Researchers at Cambridge University have told us that “The vast majority of overweight individuals have not shown a convincing behavioural or neurobiological profile that resembles addiction.” And even this most recent study tells us:

A small proportion of people with binge-eating disorders – maybe 0.5 per cent of the general population – fit most of the criteria for addiction, it is believed.”

Consumer Freedom

The issue is choice-but the mayor feels that choices are being dictated to the foolish and gullible folks by devious advertisers and the big bad soda industry-he’s only intervening on behalf of the unenlightened for their own good. But this mentality assumes first of all the Mike Bloomberg, of all people, has the foresight to know what’s good for New Yorkers-and that this control of choice doesn’t have some seriously negative consequences for individual liberty.

In fact, people may be making quite rational choices when they decide to opt for that large drink-as Gary Becker and Richard Posner so nicely point out:

“Another example concerns the growing obesity of adults and teenagers that presumably encouraged Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal on sugary drinks, and related proposals by others. One argument behind these proposals is that many adults and teenagers do not know the health consequences of their diets and lifestyles. That may well be true for some consumers, but most consumers may be rationally trading off the negative long run effects on their health for more immediate enjoyment from French fries, cheeseburgers, and other weight-raising foods. One should require evidence that the great majority of obese adult individuals do not make the connection with health before trying to restrict their consumption.”

Becker Posner Blog

It is also quite possible-possible because the mayor is simply winging it when he makes this proposed ban (since there is no good science that indicates it will have the desired effect)-that the ban will have unexpected consequences, and won’t do much to get the folks any slimmer:

“This is even aside from the fact that many of the proposed restrictions, such as Bloomberg’s, would not reduce obesity by much, if at all. His proposal might even increase the use of sugary drinks. Suppose that drinks come only in 10 and 16-ounce sizes. If the 16-ounce size were banned, enough consumers might substitute 2 10-ounce drinks for 1 16-ounce drink to increase total consumption of these drinks. Of course, the drink market might respond with offering other sized drinks, but the main point would still hold that the ban could raise consumption of sugary drinks.”

All of this means that the mayor’s meddling needs to be actively opposed by all of us who are interested in keeping the government out of our personal lives. If women can rightly argue that their bodies belong to them and no politician should dictate their choices, why shouldn’t the same rule apply to all of us?

As Becker and Posner conclude-and we’ll give them the last word: “In summary, even when consumer decisions are not in their self-interest, it is questionable whether that provides sufficient grounding for government efforts to regulate and tax these decisions.”


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