Declare Your Independence from Food Nannies

The fight against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’ portion–size prohibition on soft drinks continues, even as Bloomberg’s allies look to make the ban more inclusive.  As Hizzoner was attending the festivities surrounding the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest this Independence Day, our Senior Research Analyst J. Justin Wilson, recognizing how “America’s historical love for individual liberty seems to occasionally clash with our Puritanical roots,”  was channeling America’s founding spirit—“Give me a large soda or give me death”—for readers of The Washington Times:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a Puritanical take: Adults shouldn’t be allowed to order a soda larger than 16 ounces. Yes, you read right. The leader of America’s largest and most dynamic city wants to make it illegal for a restaurant, ballgame vendor, or movie theater to serve you a soft drink larger than 16 ounces.

The editor of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, who wrote that he would ban sugared drinks “in half a fat minute,” also ends up on the Puritan side of America’s founding contradiction. 

But where do Americans stand? A recent poll found that 65 percent of Americans opposed the soda ban, and a majority of New Yorkers were against it before members of the Board of Health proposed expanding it to calorie-dense milk-based coffees. (PETA would be so proud, as long as soy milk isn’t included.) We told the Times that there might be a bit of revolutionary spirit left in the American psyche:

[I]t’s a lot easier for regulators and bureaucrats to play mommy and say, “You can’t have that,” than to treat Americans as adults. But banning particular foods or portion sizes is a path of certain failure. Research demonstrates that people instinctively resist heavy-handed dictates. It’s the American way.

And we’re not just speculating. Researchers from Cornell University who objected to Bloomberg’s plan noted that not only will portion-size prohibition fail, but the inevitable fiasco will make better ideas less appealing.

We don’t expect that to stop the activists’ crusade. Although some might think that a ban on wine, a beverage Hizzoner has been caught on camera consuming, rises to the level of a “modest proposal” a la Jonathan Swift, the fact that public health officials are speculating that alcohol controls should be a model for food controls makes that comparison a bit too close for comfort. Give us our buffets and drive-thrus, or give us death.


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