By Taylor Armerding
— Maybe we should start calling New York the Big Sugary Soda instead of the Big Apple.
The city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who had been busy congratulating himself for saving his helpless subjects from obesity by slapping big soft drinks out of their hands, got his own hand slapped by the state's Supreme Court, which reversed Bloomberg's ban just as it was set to take effect.
Drink up! Let freedom ring!
It's been all over the news, from the cable shout fests to serious "thought leaders" on National Public Radio. Comedian/actor Steve Carrell walked on to the David Letterman Show carrying a couple of the 32-ounce variety, and the crowd went wild.
I'm a little less amused. The whole thing makes me about as sick as I would feel if I actually drank a soft drink of that size.
Yes, in this one case, the courts told a politician that he had gone too far - that it was not within his power to dictate what size cups of soda that drink vendors can sell and people can buy.
But Bloomberg, who said he plans to appeal, knows that losing a battle does not mean losing the war. He and the other proponents of the smothering nanny state know that both time and public opinion, are on their side. He knows that instead of a real movement for freedom, this is more like the last gasps of a creature that doesn't realize it is in a lethal trap until it is too late.
He knows that "choice" these days refers to only one thing - abortion. A woman should not be allowed to "control her own body" if it means putting a soft drink into it that an elected official has determined is too big.
Bloomberg compares his campaign against big soft drinks to the "pioneering" decision decades ago by the city health board to ban lead paint. Yep, something that causes brain damage, that is dangerous in any amount, and that has no food value whatsoever is just the same as a soft drink. And he doesn't get laughed out of town.
Piers Morgan, the CNN TV host, insisted on his program the other day that, "we all need a bit of nannying," when it comes to fast food and soft drinks, just like we do with drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
Apparently it doesn't occur to him that drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are not necessary in any amount to sustain life. Apparently, it doesn't occur to him that in generations past, "nannying" was expected to take place only during childhood, and that part of being an adult was maturing and moving on from the nanny.
Apparently we're stuck in perpetual childhood. That is apparently not a bad thing, you see, because government is there to enable it.
And the complaints about it are delusional, because they are much too late. We have asked for this, and now we are getting it.
Yes, all the complaints about Bloomberg's ban are true. It is invasive. It is paternal. It is anti-choice. It basically discards one of the founding American principles of freedom, which is that it has to include accountability and personal responsibility.
But what do you expect? This is what we have voted for. We keep electing politicians from President Obama on down who promise to take care of "the most vulnerable among us," and then keep expanding the definition of vulnerable to include everybody but the villainous 1 percent, who deserve to have the fruits of their labor confiscated to pay the bills for the rest of us.
To complain about losing the freedom to eat and drink what you choose makes about as much sense as the demands of a few deluded senior citizens to "keep your (expletive) government hands off my Medicare."
We think it is our right to choose what to eat and drink, but in the next breath demand that government pay for the inevitable consequences of any bad choices we make.
That's what the Big Tobacco lawsuit and settlement was all about. Personal responsibility? Forget it. Forget that tobacco companies didn't force anybody to use their product - a product that is still legal today, by the way. Forget that they advertised their product pretty much like everybody else does: If you buy it, use it, wear it, drive it, drink it, smoke it, you will be cool, you will be popular, you will be a real man or woman.
Yes, of course, it is seductive. All advertising is meant to be seductive.
But if we freely choose to yield to that seduction and something bad happens because of it, then we demand that government punish the companies that "tricked" us into using that legal product.
The delusion is that we think we can have it both ways - and for a while, perhaps we have. But ultimately, we can't.
When we demand that government protect us from the consequences of our choices, government will inevitably demand more and more control of those choices.
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are trading freedom for security. And, as a number of very wise but now apparently irrelevant dead white men warned us, those who trade freedom for security will get neither.
- Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.