Michael Bloomberg's Authoritarian Instincts

If the Bloomberg administration believes that salt is worth losing your freedom over, imagine what he'd have planned after a terrorist attack.


So, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes that the public's interpretation of the Constitution must evolve in the face of terror attacks such as the one in Boston. "You're going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days," the man explained, "and our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change."

Of course he thinks they do. That's why we have constitutions—so they can be changed in tumultuous times. As Bloomberg sees it, the first obligation of government is to keep your "children safe." How this wide-ranging duty affects other societal concerns—liberty, cost, etc.—is largely irrelevant because … well, because toddlers are cute. Those tobacco-addicted Founding Fathers didn't have the decency to include a single line about keeping Americans salubrious or children.

Bloomberg is an authoritarian. He's not an authoritarian in the way Josef Stalin or Pol Pot was authoritarian, but every instinct tells you he's a man who would use any power given to him to govern every aspect of public and private life whenever necessary—or, more precisely, whenever he finds it necessary, which is frequently. All said, he's exactly the type of person who makes the Constitution a necessity.

Anyone who believes your caloric intake is government's prime concern should be watched carefully, of course; but no matter what crusade the man's on, his rationalization for limiting personal freedom is a dangerous one. Some of his proposals are popular (smoking bans), and others are less so (limiting portion sizes and banning ingredients), but all of them set precedents that distort the relationship between government and citizens. The jump from minor infringements on personal liberty to giant ones is a shorter one than you think. Allow a politician to tell you what your portion sizes should be and the next thing you know you're letting Washington force you to buy insurance you don't want.

If the Bloomberg administration believes that salt—"the greatest public health threat facing" New York City—is worth losing your freedom over, imagine what he'd have planned after a terrorist attack.

When Justice Milton Tingling struck down Bloomberg's pathetic soda ban as "arbitrary and capricious" last year, he might as well have been talking about the mayor's overall disposition. Bloomberg likes to act as if he's a man free of the unpleasantness of political ideology or party. He's the driving force behind the inane No Labels group—which, in addition to having no labels, has no ideas and no support. But pretending to be without a guiding philosophy doesn't by default make you a moderate. It can just as easily mean you support using arbitrary and capricious power to get your way.

I suppose the one positive thing that can be said of a man who once declared "I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom" is that he's more honest than most. You may remember that Bloomberg had term limits lifted in New York City so he could run for a third term. (Citizens simply couldn't bear to move on without him nagging them about the perils of plastic foam cups.) Understanding New York, though, I realize that the average person rarely thinks about the mayor, as urban life churns on despite the best efforts of its worst leaders. Still, it's a mistake for the rest of us to ignore one of the most toxic political players in the nation, to allow his radical idea of governance to be mainstreamed.