Bloomberg’s Big Gulp ban banished by court

Calling the measure “arbitrary and capricious” and a violation of the separation of powers, a New York judge permanently enjoined the city of New York from carrying out their proposed soda ban, one day before it was to take effect.

New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling tossed out the law, which was contested by a broad coalition of groups representing grocers, restaurants, theaters, and unions all affected by the proposed regulation.

Yet the law wasn’t necessarily denied on the idea of being an overly intrusive effort by the nanny state as evidenced by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s willingness to police the size of sodas, but instead mainly as an exercise in the separation of powers. Had the City Council of New York passed the law instead of a Board of Health appointed by Mayor Bloomberg, and had the bill come out as a blanket prohibition instead of only applying to establishments under the purview of the Board of Health (as opposed to exempting grocery stores and the like) there’s a very real chance the law would have stood.

Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has some of the same line of reasoning I do:

My first thought, of course, is “Sweet!” My second is that although it’s great a judge has recognized the error of Mayor Bloomberg’s ways, it shouldn’t take a court ruling for New York City residents to have the right to make their own decisions about how and when to consume goods like soda.

As I have said before, the constant onslaught of regulation that has been the hallmark of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration hurts New York’s economy. It favors large corporations over smaller businesses and hurts those with low incomes more than those with high incomes. More importantly, it raises some important questions about who has the right to choose what an individual consumes. As silly as the soda ban may seem, it forces us to consider: When do policies that ‘nudge’ us toward ‘healthier lifestyles’ become unacceptable intrusions into our lives?

If you substitute the phrase “Governor O’Malley” for “Mayor Bloomberg” and “Maryland” for “New York” you could say the exact same thing about our state. (There was a transfats prohibition bill introduced and heard this session in the General Assembly, so we’re not that far behind.)

In my lifetime, we have seen the government take a number of steps to reduce freedom in the name of safety: smoking bans which began on airplanes then expanded to portions of restaurants and eventually practically all public places, seat belt laws which were originally up to each state until Uncle Sam started to threaten highway money if states didn’t fall in line (the same was true with lowering allowable blood alcohol levels), and even the banning of the sale of  raw milk. Are we really better off with all these intrusions? Where is the line in the sand where the public will say stop?

Perhaps it was the Big Gulp which captured public awareness, but I suppose better late than never is the word here. But there are so many intrusions which go hardly noticed that it’s only the most brazen prohibitions which attract attention – meanwhile, your freedom to develop your land as you wish or raise your child as you see fit continues to be threatened.