The following editorial appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News June 5:
We have problems with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to ban large-size sugary sodas. But like our beef with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's attempt to tax sugary drinks back in 2010, our objection is mostly based on practical considerations.
Bloomberg wants to ban the sale of sugary sodas over 16 ounces in restaurants, theaters and other outlets. But anyone wanting a bigger gulp in one sitting merely has to buy two cups of a lesser amount - and we're betting manufacturers are already gearing up production of 15.5-ounce cups. Nutter's proposal was also logistically problematic, since only the state, not the city, can impose an excise tax on a specific product; the mayor's tax would have likely led to a price hike on all beverages, not just sugared ones.
But most of the objections to Bloomberg's proposal are not based on logistics; they're based on "freedoms" and the "nanny state." Two comments on the New York Post website sum up much of the outcry: "This is about liberty. Simply put, what Bloomberg is doing is un-American and freedom-loving people need to inundate the statist creep with protests."
Here's another: "Seriously? So it's up to you and Bloomie to decide for me and my children via the Nanny Police state? This is supposed to be a free country. And it used to be."
It's fun to pretend that we live in a time unequaled in government interference, and even more fun to pretend that we remember a time the government was far less intrusive. To that, we have two words: Oliver Cromwell.
The 17th-century "Lord Protector" of the British Commonwealth, Cromwell was said to have banned mincemeat pies because they were, essentially, too tasty and led to louche lifestyles.
That's not the earliest incident of a "nanny state," but only one point on a long timeline of government banning things it thinks are dangerous - like cigarettes, or cocaine, or beef from mad cows.
The rationale is that government must bear the cost of the bad effects of these things. And in the case of sugar, that cost is huge, in obesity and its many related illnesses.
In fact, earlier this year, a team of scientists argued that sugar is so toxic it should be considered a controlled substance.
Those fretting about the "nanny state" claim that the government has no right to tell us how to behave, and those who must have their 32-ounce big gulps are exercising their personal freedom.
Really? We believe the decision to drink a quart of unhealthy soda is less tied to individual will and more tied to the billions that soda giants Coke and Pepsi spend on enticing us to want their product.
This battle isn't about Bloomberg and freedom-loving Americans. It's really a battle between the marketplace and government.
You may think the marketplace is a benign provider of only good things that should be free of government interference. You may think you want a giant soda because you're "free," and not because Coke's advertising might have manipulated you to consume as much of their addictive product as possible.
In which case, you are not crying over the loss of your human rights. You're crying because someone is taking your bottle away. In which case, you may need a nanny, after all.