When Mayor Bloomberg proposed his soda ban all those months ago, it was evident that the bill would receive some flak. Anything above 16 ounces of pop eliminated from storefronts and restaurants? New Yorkers didn’t know whether to yell out “Communism!” or binge drink Big Gulps faster than always-bored teenagers who spend a majority of their day lingering outside of the local 7/11.
It was a public health proposal reminiscent of Bloomberg’s 2002 smoking ban in restaurants and offices, except with a product that had a less shitty public image. Of course, that time, New Yorkers erupted at the then-new Mayor but gradually accepted the cleaner air. And restauranteurs shrugged off their old enemy as more customers came to restaurants, scared before of inhaling the secondhand smoke instead of the sirloin. Now, smoking inside public spaces is not even an after-thought for most.
The backlash against the soda ban, however, has attained a different feature; one that could possibly be linked to this confused conservatism of the present day. The anti-smoking-ban did claim to defend “the rights” of smokers but this opposition, symbolized by New Yorkers for Beverage Choices and other groups, has donned a mask of small government libertarianism. Across the country, the fight for Big Gulps has transformed into an ideological battle between those who view consumerism as a choice and others who view consumerism, like capitalism, as a system that must be closely regulated to prevent unwarranted side-effects.
And that’s exactly what shouldn’t happen.
Soon after Judge Tingling gave his ruling that upended the soda ban yesterday, former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Barracuda unleashed this tweet for the world to see. Even if an endorsement from this one is the last thing New Yorkers want to be associated with:
Victory in NYC for liberty-loving soda drinkers. To politicians with too much time on their hands we say: Govt, stay out of my refrigerator!
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) March 12, 2013
She describes those who hate the ban as “liberty-loving” and declares, “Govt, stay out of my refrigerator!” It’s hard to say whether the New Yorkers who are against the ban love liberty more than its supporters, let alone the fact that Mr. Tingling struck it down because it was a shitty bill in terms of efficiency, not that it was totalitarian. And most of the things in your refrigerator are already regulated (for the most part but not really) by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.
But a card like the phrase “liberty-loving” is very easy to throw down on the table in this day and age; fears of government intervention are at an all-time high, spearheaded by the Tea Party and characters like Ms. Palin. By those standards, any instance where choice is limited by a higher authority is deemed appropriate for a fired-up kind of groupspeak. And there is something to be said when New Yorkers are ideologically tied to Sarah Palin in this strange way.
Then we hear more news of the same ilk from Mississippi.
There, the state is about to pass an “Anti-Bloomberg” law, one that will stop any local government from regulating consumer products. In a state with one of the highest obesity rates in the country, that job will be left up to the legislature, which, if this bill is any indication, don’t seem too keen on doing much.
But the subject of this bill hits the core of the problem at hand. The fact that the Mayor’s proposal has risen Mississippians to actually state this removal of authority is a step backwards. It’s civil libertarianism used like a chess piece and, seriously, soda is too mundane to start a fight over.
If there is to be an ideological battle over this ban, it should not be over our rights as consumers because, face it, we’re Americans – our lives are defined by our transactions. Or the role of government in our affairs: you’re not “liberty-loving,” you’re just jumping onto an ideological bandwagon that’s way too easy to jump on. If you want to hate anything, pick a fight with a drone.
Upon creation in the early 1900s, the FDA’s first goal was to make sure there wasn’t poison in our food (success rate = mediocre); over time, our problem has morphed from a lack of information to its modern form, where we have all this information but still continue to disregard it, leading to shorter life spans and an overall less healthy nation.
So, rather, we should be discussing how the hell we’re going to fix this obesity problem. Yeah, you may disagree with the soda ban and argue that it’s over-reaching on the government’s point but what other alternatives can you provide against an industry that literally thrives off mass consumption? You can direct all your frustration at this fizzy product and call yourself a freedom fighter. You can blare up the war drums and act like this is a battle over the Constitution. But that loud noise doesn’t get anyone anywhere.
Until then, we leave you with this:
— Mountain Dew® (@mtn_dew) March 11, 2013