The Tyranny of "Doing Something"
Let no one say that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not "doing something."
Mayor Bloomberg is upset that so many people in New York City are so very fat. Perhaps this worsens overcrowding. Perhaps it puts a strain on infrastructure. Perhaps it degrades the city's proudly-held reputation for pointless rudeness and conversational instability — after all, thin rude people are edgy, but fat rude people border on comic. I should know, it's my schtick.
At any rate, for whatever reason, Mayor Bloomberg is convinced that he must Do Something — that Something Must Be Done. Specifically, he wants to dictate the size of non-diet soft drinks that a variety of of businesses can sell. The justification is self-evident — if Bloomberg did not tell businesses what they can sell, and therefore tell people indirectly what they can drink, he would not be Doing Something:
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in the Governor’s Room at City Hall.
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
Fair-minded people might point out that New York City seems to be simultaneously wringing its hands and Doing Something, but that's neither here nor there.
The important point is that Bloomberg has recognized and proclaimed not only that it's imperative to Do Something, and that Doing Something is its own justification, but that dissent is ridiculous. Concerns about business and individual autonomy? Suspicion that obesity, while threatening to health, is also a media flavor-of-the-decade, served Claim-Jumper style with fulsomely large portions of fear, hysteria, and calculation? Speculation about where this will all end? Ridiculous — worthy only of scorn:
The mayor, who said he occasionally drank a diet soda “on a hot day,” contested the idea that the plan would limit consumers’ choices, saying the option to buy more soda would always be available.
“Your argument, I guess, could be that it’s a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic tone. “I don’t think you can make the case that we’re taking things away.”
The Something that Bloomberg wants to Do will encounter only pockets of resistance. Americans are backing themselves into justifications for regulation of their personal decisions. When I have to pay the piper myself for my nasty cheeseburger habit, only the most perverse nannies want to regulate it. But when I've convinced myself that I should have the right to draw upon the public fisc when I drop, loudly and heavily, of a massive beef-induced coronary, and that my fellow citizens should pay to send me to a rehabilitation camp run by a deeply repentant Mayor McCheese, then everyone starts to come around to the idea that maybe they have a say in what I stuff in my mouth. That's my own damn fault. TANSTAAFL. The price of government subsidy is not merely monetary.
Meanwhile, I'm off to hit Google Images to see if Gracie Mansion has a lawn. If it does, I call upon all good Americans to Do Something — by chugging a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew and lining up to take a long, insolent piss on NYC Nanny Bloomberg's lawn.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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