In a stunningly awful column, Newsweek/Daily Beast contributing editor Michael Tomasky continues his war on the libertarian-conservative fetish for "liberty" by charging that Americans have far too much of the stuff already:
There's only one way to say something like this, and it's loud and proud and without apology: I wholeheartedly support Mike Bloomberg's war on sugar. It's unassailable as policy. Refined sugar is without question the worst foodstuff in the world for human health, and high-fructose corn syrup is little better. We are a fat country getting fatter and fatter, and these mountains of refined sugar that people ingest are a big part of the reason. The costs to the health-care system are enormous, so the public interest here is ridiculously obvious. Obesity is a killer. Are we to do nothing, in the name of the "liberty" that entitles millions of people to kill themselves however they please, whatever their diabetes treatments costs their insurers? We have this "liberty" business completely backward in this country, and if Bloomberg can start rebalancing individual freedom and the public good, God bless him, I say.
It's a policy designed to guide people toward a certain kind of behavior. This talk of "freedom" is absurd. No one's freedom is being taken away. When the rule goes into effect, probably by September, assuming the city's board of health votes it through (it's appointed by the mayor), New Yorkers will still be able to buy these beverages. And those who really feel that they will perish unless they have 32 ounces of Mountain Dew Code Red can simply buy two. Nothing is being banned, and no one's being arrested.
Are bacon-cheeseburgers next? As a practical matter, no. Sodas are an easy target because there is nothing, nothing, nutritionally redeeming about them. But might there come a day when the New York City Department of Health mandates that burgers be limited to, say, four ounces? Indeed there might. And why not? Eight- and ten-ounce burgers are sick things.
We have a health crisis in this country. A country with half of its adults living in a condition of obesity is a sick country, quite literally, spending probably not billions but trillions on the associated illnesses and maladies. Under such conditions, the state has every right to take action on behalf of the common good. We once had an epidemic of traffic deaths. We didn't ban driving. But we came up with a device that is a minor inconvenience at most. And so seatbelts became mandatory, and now the epidemic has receded. A few people still foolishly oppose seatbelts. But most of us accept them and understand that whatever little dollop of our freedom is taken away as we latch up is more than countervailed by the practical upside.
The kicker is the best part:
One day, if the country comes to its senses, we'll reverse the obesity trend and, just as we now chuckle at the prevalence of smoking on Mad Men, we'll say, "Can you believe people used to peddle this treacle in 64-ounce doses?" We will not only have done something about obesity. We'll have won an important victory over Libertarianism Gone Wild, a far bigger threat to society than even Sunkist Orange.
Previously, Tomasky railed against the "right's 'freedom fetish.'" I quote: "This 'freedom' business is simply paranoid and delusional. I defy anyone to name for me a specific and precise freedom that Obama has taken away from the American people. You can't. When they're not just invented out of whole cloth by multi-millionaire propagandists, all such laments are based on ignorance about what freedom actually means and an equal ignorance about how our system of government works."
With a gruffer yet equally well-reasoned defense of Bloomberg's soda ban, here's Drew Magary at Gawker:
New York city residents were already fully aware that Bloomberg was prone to implementing drastic public health measures, like the 2003 ban on smoking in bars. And yet, they re-elected him. In other words, New Yorkers were FREE to vote for the man who installed laws that they apparently considered both sane and reasonable. That's how democracy works. Democracy is not OH MY GOD THESE LAWS WILL MAKE US PUSSIES! Democracy is people working together to sort out just what the rules of society should be. Obviously, this process is labored and often hilariously corrupt, but that's what living in a "free country" is supposed to mean. It doesn't mean that you get to grab a gun and storm City Hall just because you think a soda ban is some kind of sign of the End Times. It's fucking soda. Don't be such a pussy that you can't live without a 42 oz. cup of the shit. If you're the type to flip out just because you can't have that, then who's the real pussy?
For something more sensible, read liberty-loving freedom-fanatic Baylen Linnekin on Bloomberg's history of "regulating city residents within an inch of their lives."