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Eroding freedom one sugary drink at a time

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POSTED March 12, 2013 11:50 p.m.

Who would have thought Give Me a Super Big Gulp or Give Me Death would have been a libertarian rallying cry?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to take government intrusion into our lives beyond the bedroom and into our stomachs has been temporarily sidetracked. A judge has ruled the edict regarding the selling of sugary drinks bigger than 16 ounces in the Big Apple is capricious and arbitrary. The ruling was based on places where Bloomberg sought to ban them as opposed to those businesses he said it would still be OK for sugar drinks to be sold in larger sizes.

That isn’t exactly a win for personal liberty. Rather, it is a judge saying rules governing commerce and personal consumption have to have a rhyme or reason. George Orwell would be proud.

Bloomberg, in response to the court’s ruling, said the city would appeal as “people are dying every day. This is not a joke.”

Ever notice how those who seek to limit freedom play the death card freely? Eroding the Second Amendment is based on saving lives. Banning or restricting food and beverage consumption is based on saving lives.

Since Bloomberg is concerned about people dying every day he must be against legalizing suicide. And while it is a gray area for many, he must also believe at some point that abortion is thing a life so he must be against that as well.

The mayor may be right that government has a legitimate role in stopping people from killing other people but does that apply to people who might - and that’s only might - be slowly killing themselves by consuming sugary drinks by drinking more than 16 ounces at one sitting?

The entire sugary drink debate is being justified by the cost government incurs delivering health care. So why not propose a law that bans those who have their health care covered by government programs consuming sugary drinks at all? The city could then require buyers of sugary drinks to show a valid private sector insurance card to purchase a Super Big Gulp.

No one is arguing that reasonable government regulation of commerce and our lives doesn’t have its place. We need rules to make sure our roads aren’t turned into non-stop demolition derbies. We need to set boundaries regarding rights since it is obvious unbridled exercise of all rights conferred by the constitution on 313 million people would result in chaos and the inevitable trampling of others’ rights when interests clash.

But once we cross the Rubicon into minutiae it will be next to impossible to retreat.

Government can also find a way to impose the will of the majority - or of those in control - on others. China found a way to make abortion mandatory and we’re debating whether to outlaw abortion. Any action or power we invest in government, there is a premise created for government to have the authority to do the opposite.

If government can eventually outlaw sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces then the same constitutional basis can be used to give government the authority to require that we all drink at least six ounces of soy milk every day.

And - as judge Milton Tingling noted - government decrees regarding personal consumption can be “laden with exceptions based on economic and political concern.”

That means the judge viewed the 16-ounce sugary drink regulation pushed by Bloomberg as one that intentionally creates different classes by varying the rules and making then more favorable for those that align closest to Bloomberg’s view of the world.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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