post by Paul Kelleher
I have been on something of a blogging hiatus of late, and am now actually on vacation. I am planning to return to blogging when I get back, including with a new semi-daily feature that I'll explain soon. But I wanted to make one point about the topic du jour, Mayor Mike Bloomberg's proposal to ban the sale of large soda in New York City. (I'm not really able to provide hyperlinks, but there are already plenty of hyper links about the issue in the blogosphere.)
So, is this a good idea? I can think of some reasons why not, but many of these are practical concerns. (See Sarah Kliff's post today at WaPo's Wonkblog.) Are there any principled moral reasons to oppose this policy? Perhaps, and this is something I'm sure we'll come back to on the blog. But let me make one observation. The soda "ban" is clearly designed to reduce the health risks that come from regular consumption of large quantities of soda. Think now of airbags, which are designed to reduce risks to health associated with regular passage in a car. (A single trip without an airbag carries very little risk in and of itself, just as a single large soda does not.) No new car can be sold in the United States unless it comes equipped with airbags. Is this a threat to liberty? Perhaps, but I don't hear many saying that it is. But now note that if we applied Bloomberg's soda framework to auto safety, we'd actually have to *weaken* the airbag law. In particular, we'd have to allow car buyers to buy new airbagless vehicles *so long as* the customer buys two cars at the same time. After all, customers can get around Bloomberg's "ban" by buying two sodas (or getting refills).
If, then, we do not view airbag laws a threats to freedom--of course I know some people do--then what is the principled freedom-related objection to Bloomberg's even weaker proposal? Is there one?*
*If it is a slippery-slope argument, then please google "Austin Frakt slippery slope" (without the quotes).