The Corner

Regul8rs Gonna Regul8

Mayor Bloomberg’s latest wheeze is a plan to ban sales of sugary drinks (by street vendors, movie theaters, etc.) in units larger than 16 ounces. After spending 30-odd summers in New York City, I can confidently assert that it won’t work. Most food carts stock sodas in 12-ounce cans and 20-ounce bottles, and on any reasonably warm and sticky day, a can won’t make a dent in your thirst, while a bottle is barely adequate. So if you can’t buy a 20-ounce container from the vendor, and there’s no bodega handy, you’ll buy two cans and end up drinking 24 ounces of death-dealing Dr Pepper instead of 20. Take that, health police!

It’s been said that every economic argument boils down to a conservative saying “the market isn’t free, so let’s make it freer” and a liberal saying “the market isn’t free, so let’s regulate it.” In this case, the liberal argument seems to be that evil corporations are forcing helpless New Yorkers to consume mass quantities of soda by pushing super-sized containers; conservatives reply that it isn’t MegaSugarCorp, but Old Sol.

That’s as good an example as any of the liberal mindset: The notion that nobody would buy a 20-ounce Coke on a hot day unless they were forced to — with the corollary that people can be manipulated just as easily to drink less soda as to drink more, and the unspoken assumption that since they can be manipulated, they should. Conservatives, by contrast, say: “I can’t even get my kids to pick up their socks; how do they propose to change the response to thirst of 8 million New Yorkers?” But careerist bureaucrats and legacy-seeking mayors are too busy running everyone’s life to bother with such quibbles.

Fred Schwarz — Fred Schwarz is a deputy managing editor of National Review.

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