American doctrine throughout history constitutes liberty as the freedom to make choices so long as those choices don’t break the law.
Anywhere in the country if I decide to chew on blocks of trans-fat purchased from a restaurant or chug a gallon-sized cup of sugar bought from a concession stand, then I should be able to do just that—regardless of the health consequences.
Unless, of course, I find myself in America’s largest city.
This month, New York City’s Board of Health voted 8-0—with one vote abstaining—to take away an American liberty by banning sugary drink sizes over 16 ounces from being served in restaurants. The ban hardly affects anyone, and is little more than just an annoyance; people can still purchase more than one soda under 16 ounces to compensate. On top of that, supermarkets and other vendors are unaffected.
All health consciousness aside, the Declaration of Independence was written to declare regulations like this un-American.
Although the ban, proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is limited to New York City, the metropolitan urbanites tend to start trends when progressing to new levels of health-concerned regulations for its citizens. For example, the city was one of the first to force restaurants to include the calorie count of items on its menu. The Big Apple was also the first to limit restaurants in the amount of trans fat added to prepared food.
Soon after, California followed suit.
However, this choice of what a person consumes should be left for the people to decide.
The Declaration of Independence shouted out to the world and to the oppressive monarchy overseas during the American Revolution about America’s demand for what Thomas Jefferson wrote are “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” He left that arduous task of defining “Happiness” for courts and society to interpret.
But in this case, New York City and Mayor Bloomberg have gone too far in asserting their values about how humans should live, and residents of New York City might be growing weary of the local government interference.
A New York Times poll on Aug. 22 concluded that 60 percent of the city residents oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s sugary drinks ban. In a democracy that majority number could spell bad news for the party that supports this ban.
Obesity rates are high in America. The health research cited on every news network makes this abundantly clear. Yet this unpopular action from the city does nothing to stop the people who are obese from calorie consumption. The problem doesn’t lie with American citizens choosing to partake in extra soda. The dilemma lingers in the country’s unwillingness to get up and move around.
Now that our country’s economy relies heavily on stationary service jobs, the responsibility to stay healthy lies with the people. The nation should stay active, but only if they feel like it.
Imposing a minor ban on soda opens up a public debate about the nation’s health, but it also opens up a debate about government overstepping its authority onto citizens’ lives. Instead, if the mayor still feels obligated to tell Americans how to live, he should impose a tax on soda companies and, for that matter, on any food with a calorie count that sucks up a person’s daily calorie intake with one meal.
With a tax, the city could use the funds gained to pay for the supposed medical costs that obese people pass on to society. A tax doesn’t tell the community how to live, but it does make it a little costlier to live unhealthy, instead of passing on the debt in medical costs or forcing unnecessary regulations.