Just a spoonful of sugar helps the tyranny go down

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has outlawed trans fats in french fries and led efforts to ban smoking not only in bars and restaurants, but even at his city's outdoor parks and beaches.

Now Mr. Bloomberg "is proposing an unprecedented ban on large servings of soda and other sugary drinks at restaurants, delis, sports arenas and movie theaters," The AP reports.

The ban - pay attention, now - would apply only to sweetened drinks over 16 ounces that contain more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. (A 12-ounce can of Coke has about 140 calories.)

It wouldn't affect diet soda, any drink that's at least 70 percent juice, or one that is at least half milk or milk substitute. Nor would it apply to drinks sold in many supermarkets or convenience stores. Businesses would face fines of $200.

Mr. Bloomberg said folks who want to guzzle soda would remain free to order more than one drink, but he argues "You tend to eat all of the food in the container. If somebody put a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less." City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley cited research linking sugary drinks to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, estimating obesity-related illnesses in New York City cost $4 billion a year.

"The percentage of the population that is obese is skyrocketing," Mr. Bloomberg said Thursday on MSNBC, adding, "We've got to do something."

And is there any limit to that "something"?

Thousands of years ago, when the behavior of their neighbors offended them, people went to their temples, crying that the priests "had to do something." But governments on this continent are not empowered as a priestly theocracy, ordained to keep us on the straight and narrow.

In fact, our governments have limited powers. Not only do they not "have to do something," it's not clear where they find the authority to meddle in such matters at all. And particularly insidious is this argument that the government may ban behaviors that "cost $4 billion a year" in medical expenses.

Cost whom? If patrons of fast-food restaurants pay for their own health care - directly or by buying insurance - then the fact they may end up paying more to treat diseases aggravated by their unwise dietary decisions is, on the largest scale, a good thing, setting an example to others of the price of unwise choices.

If, on the other hand, efforts to socialize medicine have the effect of shifting those costs to others, who have troubled themselves to eat healthier diets, that's simply another argument against socialized medicine, since it perversely punishes those who choose wisely while rewarding those who don't.

Or are we soon to ban motorcycles, and alcohol ... again?

In a free country, adults are free to make their own decisions. They are then responsible to pay the costs of their bad decisions. Anything else is a recipe for tyranny, along with an encouragement of more bad choices among an infantilized populace - one good intention at a time.