Mayor Bloomberg, having failed to win state approval of a soda tax and failed to win approval from the Obama administration of a ban on the use of food stamps for soda, now wants to ban the sale in New York of sugary beverages in containers of larger than 16 ounces, the New York Times reports. The mayor would still allow someone to buy two or more 12-oz. containers at a time.
This is a classic "who decides" case. Who should decide how big the soda cup is? The seller? The buyer? Michael Bloomberg thinks the mayor should decide; he knows better than the seller or the buyer what is best. It's a kind of elitist egotism that grates on even some New Yorkers, like me, who don't drink cola.
Katherine Lee Bates's lyrics to America The Beautiful include the lines
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
The line applies here in three ways — the self-control required to order a small soda rather than a large one; the fact that it is self-control rather than government control; and, finally, the self-control that is required of Mayor Bloomberg not to use his power to force people to do what he thinks is good for them. Mr. Bloomberg has a way of posing as superior to others who lack the self-control to moderate their soda consumption. But when it comes to the self-control that really matters in his case — exercising restraint in using his own government power — Mr. Bloomberg is as lacking as the worst soda-guzzling glutton.
For a look at the complexity of actually implementing this regulation, check out the graphic that goes along with the Times article. Venti cappuccinos and chocolate milk shakes larger than 16 ounces are allowed, but not sweetened coffee larger than 16 ounces. The ban applies in "delis" but not in "convenience stores."