Coca-Cola Is Just Bad For You

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Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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351 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I understand the complaints of the folks Sullian cited i.e. even low-calorie corn syrup is bad for you. What I would counter with is that millions of people have been successful at losing weight by following a Weight Watchers-type plan of counting calories. So while perhaps any soda is bad from some perspectives, from others it is okay in moderation.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      I guess we’d have to define “okay.”

      We could argue the point, but I don’t think it’s controversial to say that in every instance you’d be healthier not drinking Coke (assuming you have access to the alternative: water).

      Going beyond the sugar to the acid and other chemicals. Saying that it’s okay to indulge because we’re all going to die at some point and health is a hard thing to control is one thing–but I think the ad intentionally tries to give the impression that having the coke wouldn’t actually be indulging in something that’s bad for you.

      Donuts are bad for you. I still eat them, but they’re not part of me having a healthy diet.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I think what they’re saying is, “We know soda isn’t very healthy, but we’re trying to make it less not healthy. I’m 100% sure that if Coke could figure out a way to make a drink that tasted good and had the nutritional characteristics of water they would do it. In the meantime, if they’re fooling people into thinking soda is a healthy option…those people might just be fools.Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          False advertising is false advertising. Period.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

            Which claims in the above ad do you find to be false?Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              #1, that the “smaller, portion controlled sizes” are new.

              An original serving of Coca-cola came in a 6.5-ounce glass bottle.

              #2, that the posting of calorie count on side of the packaging was done for any other reason than FDA requirements (Coca-cola and other food and beverage makers lobbied against this requirement, BTW).

              #3, their similar claim about reductions in vending machines in schools.

              That’s at least three.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                As to the vending machines and the highly-visible calorie disclosure, these are cynical claims, spins intended to portray the company as somehow worthy of credit for decisions made by others which the company did resist. But they aren’t deceiving the viewer about the nature or quality of their product.

                As to the serving size, I don’t think there’s a lot of consumers left alive today who remember the original serving size being that small. When I was growing up, the twelve-ounce can was the “normal” size.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Yea, they did emphasize the word “voluntary” for something I’m pretty sure was mandatory. But none of that really has anything to do with the product itself.

                Unless folks are sitting there thinking, “Those Coke fellers are such good guys, I’ll go buy a bunch of their crap even though I don’t like it,” I don’t know that there is really any practical effect. It is a PR move, plain and simple, one most people are going to ignore.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Ever read your labels? The “12-ounce can” listed itself as one and a half servings (by that time they had bumped their “serving size” up to 8 ounces). I was much happier with the bottled stuff, still in the 6.5-ounce bottles, anyways. You could do a lot of cool art projects with those bottles.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Bottles list servings as eight ounces and 2.5 servings per, but cans are one serving of twelve ounces.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Not when I was young. It was 1.5.

                Very similar to the argument about 20-ounce bottles that are now vending-machine standard from a couple of years ago.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                The whole serving/nutrition info on the package always kills me. “Oh, that’s not so bad…WAIT, THAT’S FOR ONLY EIGHT M & M’s?! WHAT THE HECK KIND OF “SERVING” IS THAT?!?”

                But that said, I do try to actually limit myself on a lot of things to whatever amount the packaging is calling a single “serving”, which inherently will be calorically limited, because the manufacturer wants the product presented in the best possible light = maximum servings for implied product value, minimal calories for implied product health.

                So the nutritional info, even while sort of making an attempt at “deception” (or at least, “presenting in a flattering light”), can still be usefully applied to make healthier choices, even if you still choose to consume the overall unhealthier foods.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                M.A. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember, though I’ll buy that they were once different. Yes, bottles are listed as 2.5 servings, though that actually makes sense to me since they are resealable and I do often drink them in something close to recommended servings.

                I wrote a post on that Nestlé piece when it came out. It actually originally said that a 20oz bottle was 800 calories. I sort of understand how that picture might have fooled her but seriously anyone with a modicum of cola nutritional knowledge should have known better. But Nesrle’s knowledge seems tobe limited to “bad!”Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:

                The reason for larger quantities was to make people buy more of it. The price of the soda syrup itself is so small that it’s far easier to increase profit by increasing amount sold. (Thanks Nixon for the agricultural subsidies!)

                In the same way, let’s compare the size of a normal muffin in the 50’s compared to the muffin monstrosities of today. The muffins we consider mini-muffins now used to be the normal sized ones.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Donuts are bad for you. I still eat them, but they’re not part of me having a healthy diet.

        This is a bit of a different sort of claim than “capitalism is failing us” and I think it’s a much more accurate take on things. Capitalism isn’t failing you, you are failing you by virtue of choosing to consume something unhealthy. No one forced you to buy the donut and you bought it knowing it wasn’t the healthy choice. Make better choices. Or not — maybe it’s okay to indulge every once in a while. No one seems upset at Godiva because it sells chocolates, even though those are pretty much just empty calories too.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          In so far as certain systems which are predicated on certain incentives, encourage instant gratification vs. long term gratification or holistic gratification (a compromise between the short and long views), I think there’s a good debate to be had here.

          I’m obviously making the controversial and provocative point that not only is coca-cola bad, but that products like it which are bad for us but which we like anyway, and have a hard time controlling our use of, are a kind of product that free markets tend to produce, in so far as they look at aggregate desire regardless of how healthy or beneficial that desire is, even in its fulfillment.

          I think there are good counter-arguments to that, but I don’t think it’s an absurd proposition.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            How are you defining “bad for us”?

            A bit presumptuous to assume that everyone assesses the quality of their life in the same way that you do, no?Report

            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              What’s the one that says we can meaningfully measure utility across people? Is that cardinal or ordinal utility? Either way, there’s a reason it’s controversial/unused: it’s extraordinarily presumptuous.Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              Statistical analysis helps us with these things.

              Obesity rate increases correlate startlingly well with the increase in consumption of HFCS-laden beverages. Research on HFCS in relation to appetite dynamics and weight gain is ongoing but strongly indicates that HFCS suppresses satiety hormones and encourages people to go back for more instead of feeling sated.

              A bit presumptuous to assume that everyone assesses the quality of their life in the same way that you do, no?

              Fine, let’s look at it from a societal perspective. Immense increase in obesity-related diabetes and cost of treatment. Immense increase in heart disease and cost of treatment. Immense increase in rates of gout and cost of treatment.

              And we go on.

              When do we hit a point where we might, just might, have to say that certain products need to have requirements to be packaged in a responsible way?

              I’m not talking about cutting them off completely. But eliminate the free-refills policies, regulate what a “small”, “medium”, and “large” actually are by volume (a “small soda” at my local movie theater is 30 ounces of soda; that’s 3.75 “recommended servings” of 8 ounces!).

              Part of the problem is how people’s brains are wired. They don’t see “serving sizes”, they see food or drink by a simple metric. “One glass” = one serving, no matter how big. “One plate” = one meal, whether it’s a 5-inch or 12-inch diameter. “One bag” = one serving of chips or other sort of snack food.

              Of course, suggest that a little regulation, in light of modern science regarding the psychology of food, could do wonders to help reduce health care costs round the country and you’ll be met by the libertarian and conservative wings with cries of “freedom” and “you just want to ban sodas entirely.” We do this dance round and round, it’s as silly on sodas as it is on guns.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I think you missed my point.

                I’m not arguing that Coke is healthy.

                I’m arguing that Coke can be “good for you” if we define “good” as “makes ya feel happy”.

                I’d rather live to 70 and enjoy the occasional steak and the regular beer and a bag of Doritos here and there than live to 80 without any of those things. And I should have the right to decide for myself.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                the occasional steak and the regular beer and a bag of Doritos here and there

                Here’s what I don’t get about your argument: there is no insistence that these be taken away from you in my argument.

                All the proposals that have been made so far relate to two things: marketing, and sold portion sizes. Except for your beer, which we had under Prohibition (which was not a result of health concerns, but rather too many religious wack-jobs getting too much influence on government and inserting their religious wackery into the Constitution) but repealed darn fast. I wish we had simply repealed it, since the religious wackery continues all over the nation in the form of liquor-control laws on state and county and city levels.

                But I digress.

                Again: Nobody has suggested you can’t have a steak. Or Doritos. Or a soda. What’s being suggested is that maybe-just-maybe there ought to be regulations saying that a “small soda” should be a single, 8-ounce portion and that “free refills, drink your weight in nectar” policies should be prohibited. That Doritos, or other snack makers, should not be putting out vending machine bags that constitute 3 “serving sizes” and only admit to it in 5-point font on the back of the bag.

                Argue THAT point rather than the strawman of “you want to take away things”, please.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Where did I argue that you are trying to take those things away? You are guilty of your own criticism.

                You seem to be arguing that we the justification for regulation, which may not include a ban but may limit size, is based on the notion of doing “what is good for people”.

                I’m arguing that you have no right to decide what is good for other people. The entire basis of your argument is flawed because it relies on a very narrow definition of “good”.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I’d rather live to 70 and enjoy the occasional steak and the regular beer and a bag of Doritos here and there than live to 80 without any of those things. And I should have the right to decide for myself.

                Those were your words. They sound a hell of a lot like arguing that people are trying to ban your beer, steak, and doritos.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Nope. I don’t think anyone is trying to ban them. I think I should have the right to decide for myself what constitutes “good for me”. Your suggest a worldview wherein there is one definition of “good for me” which is achieved, in part, through regulation.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “What’s being suggested is that maybe-just-maybe there ought to be regulations saying that a “small soda” should be a single, 8-ounce portion and that “free refills, drink your weight in nectar” policies should be prohibited. ”

                But here you are trying to enforce your worldview on others via the government. No where am I trying to do that.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                Kazzy, that’ what the government does. It’s people deciding what to do, and then forcing everyone involved to do it.

                I know of any number of things you probably think it’s fine to force other people to do. So you need to give us more than just “leave me alone!”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Ethan,

                There isn’t a TON that I think people should be forced to do (or prevented from doing). And those which I do support generally to be objective in nature.

                For instance, I don’t think murder should be legal, because we can objectively point to the harm done by that. BUT I do think suicide should be legal and assisted suicide. And, hell, if I was of sound mind and wanted YOU to kill me and you agreed, I wouldn’t even prohibit that!

                People should be largely free to pursue their own ends. I think some things ought to be compulsory, like taxes, because that is part of a broader societal agreement that is voluntary. And I think that taxation should be predicated upon a mechanism to make decisions about the taxation policy and what is done with the money (i.e., taxation predicated upon representation).

                But, if I have otherwise argued that people should be forced/banned from doing some things because they don’t comport with my view of what ends they should take, lemme know and I’ll address that.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                Kazzy, will you meet me at the bottom of the thread to discuss “People should be largely free to pursue their own ends.” in further detail?

                Could you provide an outline of your grounding for that claim?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I heard of this thing a couple of years ago that Jack Daniels was selling off the spent grains from their mash as feed. It’s common practice in Europe. Cattle love the stuff, and it fattens them up really quick.

                So, I’m wondering why no one ever come up with the idea of just feeding cattle chips and soda. Maybe give them a remote and tell them to go watch some TV.
                Sell the idea of The Cattle Network to Turner maybe.
                If it works, it works.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                They have… either way for industrial farmers it is all a function the price of corn. Now, the science is indeed indicating that the way in which animals are fattened will affect all sorts of things in their gut, their meat and their fat… but that’s another argument.

                via Huffington post Oct 2012:

                “With a drought continuing to affect agricultural and farming operations across the Midwest, exorbitant corn prices are forcing ranchers to seek alternative ways to feed their cattle….
                …[snip]…
                Watson feeds his 1,400 cattle a diet of second-hand candy unfit to sell in stores that’s been mixed with an ethanol by-product and a mineral nutrient. He says the animals haven’t shown any health problems, and are on track with weight gain.”Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Here’s the fun question: Why is HFCS used instead of sugar?

                Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Federal corn subsidies, and protectionist tariffs keeping the price of cane sugar and other primarily imported sugars higher than they otherwise would be in the US.

                Corn Lobby has their hands up the butts of a lot of GOP Howdy Doody representatives from the midwest.Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                Go! Go! Free Market Capital . . . . oh, wait. That is kind of the opposite, really.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                They’ve never been very good at sticking with their principles.Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                You mean the politicians? That is exactly why they should have as little power as possible.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                everyone who says that then goes koala about Intellectual Property.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Not just the GOP, dude. Corn producers represent three movable states that no one wants to alienate.Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Good, at least it is understood that the choice of HFCS is entirely an artificial economic one. Pull the subsidies & tariffs, and soda would more than likely be made with sugar again.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            This is a good deal more well-developed a thought than the OP. No, it’s hardly absurd.

            I’d suggest that the (relatively) free market simply doesn’t care whether a product is good for you or not. The market cares whether a product has high demand. If consumers demand a healthy product, the market will find a way to deliver it.

            Apples, for instance, are pretty good for you and there’s a high demand for them. And it turns out that the free market is pretty good at delivering them to consumers, because people want them so there’s profit to be made in giving people what they want. Pretty much everywhere I go that sells packaged foods also seems to have apples on offer. Fast food outlets sell packaged apples (I guess there might be an issue with the product used to keep the apples looking white and fresh in those little plastic bags? Or is that just a lot of pectin and lemon juice?) and they’re on the counter or in the refrigerators at every c-store in town. These merchants wouldn’t offer them if customers didn’t buy them.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Since when are apples good for you?
              http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1809/2
              A bit of vitamin c, sure (nobody eats enough apples to get a full dose per day…), and a bit of fiber, but other than that…Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Now you’re doing the same thing Ethan is, Kim: you’re making the perfect be the enemy of the good. An apple is a way better choice for a snack than a bag of chips.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                An apple, itself, is a better choice.

                McDonalds apples, or most of the “prepackaged” ones, are packaged in a sugary syrup to keep them looking “fresh”. And then you’ve got the “caramel dipping sauce”, which is basically HFCS cooked to look brown.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                The caramel dipping sauce also tastes awful.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                And yet you’ll see people wiping the last of it out of the little plastic tub with their fingers. Eww. Just ewww. And aside from the visual imagery, a bit enlightening to the problem that something that terrible is nevertheless addictive while at the same time these people have been tricked by McDonalds’ false advertising into thinking they ate “healthy apples” and made a correct health choice.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Not really. If the goal is to stay full, eat popcorn (with a shmear of grease). Volumetric, and fat together keep you full much longer than a silly apple.

                If the goal is to have something to put in your face without consuming a lot of calories… *shrugs* eat celery.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:

                Apples digest at a slower rate and have enough fiber and volume to make one feel not hungry for relatively fewer calories.
                They’re definitely healthier than fructose/glucose syrup mixes simply by that virtue, but there is some evidence that fructose has very different effects on the body than glucose, which is what fruit sugars primarily are.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Not everything I eat has to be polyphenol-enhanced flaxseed butter on whole bulgur wheat germ pita pockets and you know what? I LIKE THE GODAMNED APPLE! So I’m going to fishing eat the godamned apple. I don’t need a nutritionist to tell me that an apple is a much better choice than a bag of Cheetoes and I don’t particularly need to know that there might be something just a leeeeeeeeeeeeetle bit better for me than an apple if I am willing to drive an hour each way to the Whole Foods in Santa Clarita to get stevia-brined durian fruit segments or tofu pops or whatever the hell else it is you might suggest I would be better off eating for lunch than an apple. Chances are, most people would be better off if they ate more of them than they do. I don’t understand why so many commenters here have reflexively subscribed to this bizarre anti-apple agenda. Apples are good.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Would that McDonalds would just sell a damned apple, rather than slicing it up and marinating the slices in HFCS while telling people it’s still “healthy.”Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                I looked it up, M.A., and McDonald’s doesn’t put anything on or in their apples other than calcium ascorbate to keep them visually appealing.

                The “caramel” sauce, that we agree on. Nasty.

                But the apples themselves, at least at McDonald’s, are not sugared or otherwise sweetened. No HFCS in them apples. I can’t speak to other vendors because I didn’t look them up.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Normally when I encounter vicious arguments between apple fans and apple critics on the ‘Net, the argument is about something else.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Apples are fantastic things! Love ’em dearly.
                So long as they aren’t SQUARE.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                But square apples are innovative. Go science!Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Gotta love the 1950’s — everything industrial and devoid of flavor:
                White Sugar
                White Bread
                And Square ApplesReport

          • Avatar Mo says:

            People will make stuff that are pleasurable and bad for you with or without capitalism. Cigarettes predate capitalism by a long shot.Report

  2. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    How is this a problem with free market capitalism? People like soda. Coke makes soda and sells it to people that enjoy it. It seems to be working just fine.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      “Fails us” meaning it leads to bad or sub-optimal outcomes for people e.g. consuming sugar water, even if this kind of self-inflicted bodily harm is in the service of certain kinds of momentary pleasure.Report

      • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

        What is the standard for sub-optimal?Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

        This whole argument seems to fail the basic test of respecting that other people have preferences that might differ from yours.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          These people are hurting themselves, though.

          Can’t we just regulate the parts of the country that haven’t proven to be able to manage the responsibilities we’ve allowed them to have?Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

            Yeah. I mean, it works so well in the War on Drugs.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              It’s always the first tool they reach for. Given that they don’t care how (or whether!) it worked last time, I’m suspicious that the goal isn’t the publicly stated one.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I find it interesting that on the one hand, much of the pot-legalization arguments revolve around the idea that if it were legalized, then government can tax and regulate it to make it safer…

                and on the other hand, suggesting taxing or regulating a product that shows a startling relationship with the rise in obesity-related health issues and impact on the costs of healthcare is met by “well prohibition worked so well for drugs.”

                As I said to Kazzy above, please address the actual points regarding regulation of sold portion sizes and advertising (and particularly, advertising towards minors).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, the “IT’S NONE OF YOUR F*CKING BUSINESS IF I EXPERIENCE PLEASURE IN A WAY THAT YOU DISAPPROVE OF YOU F*CKING PURITAN” argument fell on deaf ears.

                One is stuck appealing to pragmatics at that point.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                As I said to Kazzy above, please address the actual points regarding regulation of sold portion sizes and advertising (and particularly, advertising towards minors).

                Also kindly understand that the collective bad choices of people influenced by some very dishonest marketing and a failure of the “free market” to encourage better choices appear to be causing a major problem for the commons in terms of health care access and health care cost that we all absorb.

                Also: I’m not a “F*CKING PURITAN.”Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Doesn’t the whole smaller portion sizes thing increase the amount of waste in landfills?

                Why can’t we just buy a big bottle, and then drink from it until we’re not thirsty anymore?

                What happens to people that don’t know to stop drinking after they’re no longer thirsty when they come up on a water fountain?
                That’s a serious health hazard, the way I call it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Whether you’re sniffing sheets for sexy fluids or doritos farts, you’re still a sheet sniffer, dude.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                Jaybird, you got a point to make, or you just gona take slanderous pot-shots from the sidelines?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Will H., I can’t tell if you’re being facetious or not.

                Regarding the portion sizes thing: we used to return bottles. I am one of those people who believes that municipal recycling programs ought to be something done, even if it need be taxpayer supported, for the good of the commons as an overall benefit.

                As far as buying a big bottle, and drinking from it until you’re not thirsty any more, there is a difference between multi-serving bottles (say, the 2-liter or gallon milk) and the “single-serving” portions from vending machines or restaurants.

                What happens to people that don’t know to stop drinking after they’re no longer thirsty when they come up on a water fountain?
                That’s a serious health hazard, the way I call it.

                Most often, a need to urinate. (This is also the point at which I started to wonder if your commentary was meant in a facetious manner, BTW).

                Offchance, this, but that’s incredibly rare and the last known instance I’ve heard of involved a badly considered radio promotion where people deliberately held their urination off in hopes of winning a video game console.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                MA,

                What areas of life would you say the government should have NO ABILITY to regulate?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                My point, such as it is, is that your interest in my lifestyle choices is not a compelling one and is, in fact, prurient.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Kazzy,

                When it comes to “areas of life”, you’re painting a wide, wide brush.

                There are people who would say we “shouldn’t be able to regulate” parenting. Yet we have laws about child abuse and required education. Stick your kids in a dog kennel every night and chances are, we’re going to take the kids away.

                There are people who say we shouldn’t be able to regulate keeping pets. I think some jurisdictions’ restrictions on pets or livestock are stupid; I really don’t care if my neighbors keep a couple chickens in their backyard, or a pet goat or a potbelly pig instead of the “traditional” annoyingly loud dog that starts yapping its head off or howling at the moon around 3 AM. On the other hand, there are good reasons to have laws regarding pet-hoarders who create health concerns not just for themselves but for others around them.

                You want to bring up an area, we can have the discussion. I’m not prepared to offer an exhaustive list of every area of life and what level of regulation, ranging from “total” to “none at all” (and I’ll note that while I would say “none at all” is close-to-correct regarding interior decorating, we banned lead paint for good reason too!) should be the standard for each.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Many of those spill into “areas of life” which are not strictly about your own ends. Parenting impacts the child and his ability to seek his ends, so I think *some* regulation is acceptable. But, despite being a teacher, I don’t know that I’d necessarily require school, though I think when a child reaches a certain point of agency (far younger than 18), we should not allow a parent to deny them it either.

                But can you give at least ONE example of an area that you think should be completely hands off to government regulation?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                But can you give at least ONE example of an area that you think should be completely hands off to government regulation?

                I think that the government has no business being involved in who, what gender(s), or how many people I can convince to engage in sexual congress with me, either on disparate or similar occasions.

                Provided that they’re all consenting adults.

                Well, hm. Guess that’s a regulation.

                How about you? Suggest one. Let’s see if you can come up with one I’ll agree with.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          Ryan, what are your thoughts on marketing cigerrets to kids? Obviously, soda is very different, but we know physiologically that there are mechanisms that will move people to crave certain products they’ve become used to.

          What about unhealthy cereals marketed to kids with mascots? Would the world be an inhumane place if people simply couldn’t market cereals to children that didn’t meet certain nutirional guidelines, OR, better yet, couldn’t market products to kids in general?Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

            As James Hanley will tell you until your ears bleed, kids are a pretty special case. I think preventing companies from marketing various things to kids (if not all things, although I have yet to commit to that) is within the realm of legitimate restrictions on trade.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        So does this mean you similarly fault McDonald’s for selling anything but tofu? Chicken McNuggets and Big Macs are bad for you in lots of ways other than their caloric density, after all. But there’s a demand for them.

        Or shall we fault General Motors for making the gas-guzzling Lincoln Navigator when really, all we need are Smart Cars or their equivalents?

        Come to think of it, I’ve heard that coffee is not so good for you. Better stop drinking my morning cup right now! And throw some spite at Juan Valdez while I’m at it.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

          My only quibble here is that coffee actually appears to be terrifically good for you.

          But your point is right. Ethan’s position is a fundamental denial of the right of people to choose how to live their lives.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            Yeah, the most recent stuff I have seen has put coffee back in the “good for you” column, so I plan to ignore any future developments in that area, because you can have my coffee when you pry it from etc. etc.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Oh, is it good for you this week? Then I’ll have second cup!Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            1) My coffee is pretty chemically complex, and not shelf-stable enough that researchers have bothered to measure it (also, most people don’t roast their own). A lotta the alcohols and stuff are really good for you (and the fresh stuff seems to have less of the bad chemicals. Also, I drink full city espresso, which has less caffeine)

            2) Coffee is still a good source of tooth rot. Drink fast kiddos! And brush teeth 30 min afterwards.Report

          • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

            Ouch, didn’t ever say anything about rights.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              And Coke didn’t say anything about it being healthy.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                Are we to debate marketing strategies then?

                Resolved: Coke only markets coke on the facts and merits?

                Will you stand by that proposition, or would you like to amend it?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                My point is that you claimed to not mention rights, though you certainly implied it, but you don’t see implication as something you need to address.

                Likewise, Coke never said it was healthy, though it did give that impression, something you thing ought to be addressed.

                See the problem?Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                I didn’t mention rights. If you think it’s an issue of rights, that’s on you and you have to explain your take, not just pressume our world-views aline and so when I say X, im implying something about rights.

                The ad above argues that calories are a zero-sum game, and thus implies that products like diet coke are as healthy as water, and that you won’t be unhealthy if you burn more calories than you get from drinking cokes.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Where does it say that?

                I heard it say that obesity can be addressed via consuming fewer calories than burned.

                Obesity is not the only healthy issue.

                You want to read between the lines for Coke but don’t like the same done to you.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                Because I’m talking political philosophy and ethics, the ad is talking medicine and nutirion (health science).

                Ergo, I can reject a certain conception of rights you think I’m implicity bringing up and put the onus on you to argue why they do, while the ad *can’t* reject the science.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                But what “science” did the ad reject? It actually seemed pretty carefully constructed to avoid painting itself into a corner.

                It spoke specifically about “obesity”, which has to do with weight.
                It spoke specifically about caloric intake versus calories burned, which is a huge factor in weight gain or loss.

                You seem to want to argue against Coke’s claims that it is healthy. But I don’t think Coke said it was healthy anywhere in that ad.Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          There are more calories in the tall glass of coca-cola than your 6-piece nuggets…Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          Or shall we fault General Motors for making the gas-guzzling Lincoln Navigator when really, all we need are Smart Cars or their equivalents?

          I think we should rather fault the “free market” for a failure in this regard. 2-seat “Smart Cars” are functional. Ideally, I would like to own one and occasionally rent a larger vehicle if I needed carry space (for doing things like furniture shopping).

          But here’s the catch: that 2-seat car costs MORE THAN most 4-seat cars do. So much more that it makes financial sense to own my current 4-seat car and absorb the extra cost of fuel rather than selling mine and buying a new or used “Smart Car.”

          Free Market Fail.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        How do you know the current outcome is sub-optimal? To be able to figure that out you need information about people’s real preferences independent of their actions.Report

  3. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    I’m not totally sure how free market capitalism is failing us here. It seems to me that Coca-Cola has enriched the lives of millions (billions?) of people by providing them a product they want. And now they’re responding to a growing sentiment that their product is unhealthy by creating new alternatives that meet the needs of a variety of consumers. Would a product as delightful as Splenda exist without the nexus of consumer desire for sweet products and low-calorie lifestyles?

    Unless your point is that totally unfettered capitalism allows Coca-Cola to sell a product with some potential externalities at a price that is below a sort of “true” market price, in which case we agree.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      I’ll take issue with “enriched the lives.” Would you clarify how? To use a loaded example that nevertheless shares a common principle: provide drugs, even if the other person wants the drugs, isn’t necessarily “enriching.”

      Responding to the sentiment falls short in two ways: 1. not going with an actually healthy alternative and 2. all of the money spent on convincing people to buy and then selling them the unhealthy version for so long.

      How important would the need for Splenda be if Coke hadn’t already tried to normalize soft drinks and sweet juices?

      The product doesn’t have “some potential externalities.” It has them–look at healthcare. So yes, in addition, the losses due to obese children, etc. could all be factored in, but I’d argue that, more basically, you simply can’t turn people’s healthy into an accounting trick. The damage isn’t easily undone.

      Hence why I would not propose legalizing heroine under the justification that we can tax sales of it to pay for the recovery services.Report

      • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

        So who gets to be the arbiter of what externalities are acceptable, when it comes to people doing things they enjoy?

        As far as health care being an externality, that is definitely NOT a result of free market capitalism.Report

        • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

          And they ARE only potential externalities. An occasional Coke is not going to have a drastic effect on someone’s health.Report

          • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

            Coke would not be coke if the people who drank coke only drank it “occasionally.” So if we’re talking about how things presently are, and thus what the current externalities presently are, you’re being disingenous in suggesting that the effect is simply a rounding error on health care costs.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

        It enriched their lives given the basic fact that people enjoying themselves is a good thing. Unless you are rejecting utilitarianism root and branch – and I’m not sure how you’d get to “Coca-Cola produces bad health outcomes, therefore it’s bad” without utilitarianism – then you must accept that increasing utility is, for the most part, a good thing.

        Until I see you offer basic respect for the fact that people should be allowed to enjoy their lives on their own terms, I don’t see any reason to respond to anything else here. Your argument is basically just authoritarianism, and I have no use for that.

        Also, obviously, I simply disagree with you about drugs. I see no reason to think that drugs can’t enrich someone’s life. The easy example is pot. Others might be harder, I suppose, but thankfully it isn’t my job to tell people their preferences are wrong.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          1. I’m not saying anything about enforcing certain rules. Nothing about saying that x person can’t sell y person sugar, water, and amber food coloring.

          2. No where in the world are people allowed to “enjoy their lives on their own terms.” The world is too big and complex for that. I dont’ work on my own terms. I don’t buy products on my own terms. I do hardly anything on my own terms, except maybe think (thank you Descartes). I do things on aggregated terms. In so far as I do things on aggregated terms, there is always going to be push and pull on the boundaries of what is exceptable. Murder is clearly unacceptable (in most circumstances). As is driving over the speed limit. As is walking around with a bomb strapped to my stomach. Then there are “border cases” in so far as they are disputed in our democracy, like taxing soft drinks, or limited the dimensions of the containers in which they can be distributed.

          So while you might see that last example as authoritarianism, it is different only in degree, not in kind, from the previous examples which I assume you do find exceptable instances of authoritarianism.

          3. I am serious in this line of question: do you believe in moral principles or the fact that “ethicality” is a property of actions or outcomes that can be “judged?” Do you think that some things can be “better” or “worse” in the world, or that some lives can be “better spent” than others? If the answer to all of these things is no, then we will probably not get anywhere in an argument, but I’ll know where you’re coming from.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

            Now we’re actually getting somewhere. This is much better than the OP. And, I think, insofar as it contains any policy-type proposals, not that different from my original idea: we should deal with externalities (perhaps by taxing soft drinks or limiting their container sizes).

            Of course, dealing with externalities does imply that you accept the basic framework of capitalism, which is that people should be free to buy and sell products on mutually agreeable terms. I’m still not convinced that you really believe there to be positive ethical content in that idea/framework, which is why I take the hard line I take. That is, if you think there is nothing particularly virtuous about free trade between people on mutually agreeable terms, then there is nothing particularly vicious about prohibiting it. And that’s where I see this fundamental lack of respect for the preferences of others.

            On the last, of course I think we can judge actions and outcomes, and that some lives may be better spent. The point is, one of the key ways we determine how well a life was spent is by reference to how closely the life lived matches the preferences of the person living it. As you say, we are free to place some restrictions to prevent harm to others – which is why it’s probably okay to tax soft drinks – but the basic principle of all of liberalism is that giving people the space to live the lives they want is the bedrock of social ethics.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            But the very title of your post is still wrong.

            What does it mean for something to be “bad for you”? “Unhealthy” is not the only definition of “bad for you”.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            No where in the world are people allowed to “enjoy their lives on their own terms.” The world is too big and complex for that. I dont’ work on my own terms. I don’t buy products on my own terms. I do hardly anything on my own terms, except maybe think (thank you Descartes). I do things on aggregated terms.

            I’m trying to think of a single policy that could not be pushed on this basis.

            I can’t even think of one.

            Does that indicate a problem? At all?Report

            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              As much as I generally don’t like slippery slope arguments, Jay does sort of get at the breath-taking authoritarian-ness of this notion.Report

            • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

              I don’t like what I have a problem with, or my preferred policies or politics, to influence my line of reasoning where I can help it.

              So if you think there’s an incorrect valuation, or falsity in that quoted part, we should get at that. The fact that we may or might not like the implications of it speaks nothing to its validity as reasoning.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Sure it does. It’s reductio ad absurdum. If your preferred line of approach to this problem leads to a world in which you wouldn’t want to live, then there is probably something wrong with your approach.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                What makes you think there has to be something wrong with the approach? Maybe the approach is just showing that I need to reconcile my preferred outcome/world with what my approach is getting at?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                What makes me think that is that that’s how argument works. I’m not making this up.

                Of course, you’re right that it doesn’t *have* to be that. This isn’t math, so reductio may not always work. Maybe your approach is totally right and also leads to a pretty sweeping totalitarianism. I do certainly worry sometimes that that might be the case.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                By this logic, I could say that because I don’t actually want to live in a world where I should sacrifice most of my possessions and income, there is something wrong with Peter Singer’s reasoning, in so far as that’s the world he arrives at.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                In which case, I certainly hope you would say that. I don’t think you’re obligated to sacrifice your possessions and income, and I don’t think you believe you are either.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                But that would have to come from a problem earlier in the reasoning, not as an assumption given my disagreement with the end result.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Obviously. Do you not know how reductio works?Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                For it to work you have to show why the absurdem part contradicts an earlier part.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I think too many people confuse “reductio ad absurdem” with “slippery slope” or “strawman.” Both of which are fallacious.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Not all slippery slopes are fallacious. It only becomes fallacious if you argue that further slippage is inevitable rather than saying it is possible. The former implies foreknowledge that nobody has.. But sometimes slopes are actually slippery.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If A -> B -> C -> D is not true, then A -> D is fallacious and an example of a slippery slope.

                If, however, it *IS* true? Then it’s an example of “Modus Ponens”.

                (Additionally, pointing out examples where A led to D in the past in response to the accusation of the slippery slope fallacy is a decent enough counter-argument to the point where the follow-up ought to be on the part of the person who is arguing that D won’t happen this time.)Report

              • Avatar Rod Engelsman says:

                If your preferred line of approach to this problem leads to a world in which you wouldn’t want to live, then there is probably something wrong with your approach.

                This leads to a question I find interesting: Does anyone actually form their political/moral/ethical opinions through rational reasoning?

                IOW, have you, or anyone you know, actually adopted a political position that they didn’t already prefer as the result of rational deliberation? Or is the “rational deliberation” actually just ex post rationalization?

                My money’s on the latter.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Hey Rod, your point is well taken…I agree that probably 90% of the way humans operate is “gut feeling/emotion, THEN use logic to justify that.”

                But personally, as someone who used to be pro-life and pro-death-penalty (and can still construct what I feel are valid and logical arguments in support of each) I have come to somewhat reluctantly oppose criminalizing abortion (though reasonable regulation or restriction, subject to local democratic processes, is not completely out of the question – hey, kinda like gun control!), and to strongly oppose the death penalty, in both cases based on my increased awareness of how the state (can) operates, and the according conviction that there are just some areas in which we really don’t want the state to have authority.

                Would I qualify? I mean, those are two major hot-button issues on which I have swung almost all the way from one pole to the other, even if my justifications are slightly different than some people’s.

                But I’d say in those cases my head led the move, as evidenced in part by the fact that my gut is not always completely happy with the current outcome.Report

              • Avatar Rod Engelsman says:

                First, thanks for noticing my late comment in this thread. I was sort of surprised to get an answer.

                Do those count? Sorta… maybe… not quite. Take the abortion question: Do you still believe abortion is “wrong” and have just come to the conclusion that prohibiting it is useless and/or counter-productive? Then I would say no. I guess I was trying to get at something more foundational than policy preference, something more like moral beliefs.

                Take the death penalty for example. My position is now similar to yours, although I was never strongly in favor of it. But I do, and have always, held that some people are just monsters that don’t deserve to continue to breathe the same air as you and I. In fact, I read of some crimes and my gut tells me the appropriate punishment would be death by slow and painful torture.

                But my head tells me that won’t happen anyway, and we’ve sanitized the death penalty and drug out the appeals process to such an extant–and rightly so!–that there’s scarce point to it anymore. A sentence of life in prison without parole, as we have as a possibility in Kansas, ultimately amounts to the same thing. The convict can no longer hurt anyone and ultimately dies in prison. Maybe it takes 40 years to get there instead of 10 or 20 but it’s a lot cheaper and it leaves open the possibility of correcting a wrongful conviction.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Let’s say that I wanted to push for a policy of Marriage Meaning One Man And One Woman. Maybe Serially, Whatever, But Definitely Not Two Dudes.

                Could I use that argument?

                How about a policy of Boys Being Circumcised At Birth To Prevent Them From Masturbating?

                Could I use that argument?

                It seems to me that if we could use a policy justification not only as justification for a particular policy but also as a policy to prevent masturbation? It’s overly broad.

                (From my cold, dead hands, etc.)Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                How about a policy of Boys Being Circumcised At Birth To Prevent Them From Masturbating?

                I think all you need to do is ask a circumcised male or three to determine whether or not that’s effective…Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                (hint: it’s not.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Who gives a shit if prohibition is effective? We only care that everybody agrees that we, as a society, have a right to prohibit any given practice from any given corner of any given part of your life.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                (hint: we don’t.)Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                Where do rights come from Jaybird?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Agreement from me and my white friends on whether you have them?Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                I was asking seriously.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Does that answer not work for your preferred policies?

                My real answer has to do with emergent properties, essential humanity, and so on.

                If I wanted to tell you how to live, however, I’d point out that you’re living under my roof and while you live under my roof, you live by my rules.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                Nothing prohibits anyone from discussing those policies, and their aim, on the merits.

                So it seems like here all we’re really arguing about is how stratified democratic procedures should be for legislating certain things. Right now the “government,” as in the system of laws, votes and people which participate, can do whatever it wants if it has enough consensus. Masturbation could be made illegal, as alcohol was, if there was enough support.

                This kind of potential authoritarianism in practice is just a how it goes.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      My grandparents like the free-market capitalism of lead paint, too. It covered better with one coat, clung better, and lasted for years.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Also, it prevented Superman from seeing you in your unmentionables, so that was good.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Serious question…

        Was the danger posed by lead paint present simply as a function of it being in the environment? Or was it the consumption of paint chips or other particles?Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          My understanding is that while it’s new/good shape, it’s not much of an issue (of course, while applying it you’d need to be careful). I think the inevitable flaking and chipping and “particulation” of the dried paint later was the problem. IIRC.Report

        • Avatar Bob2 says:

          Lead is reportedly sweet and children enjoyed eating lead paint chips, but the main danger is that lead paint, like everything, turns into dust as it ages and once it’s in your system has deleterious effects on your brain, kidneys, etc.

          You could read all the studies about the dangers of leaded fuel as well if you wanted to find the additional environmental issues. Kevin Drum has been banging the hammer on this one lately.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Thanks, Glyph and Bob.Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            Living in a place where there’s a lot of aging housing stock that was once covered in lead paint, inside and out, I was told by my children’s pediatrician to have the soil tested for lead next to our house; it accumulated there through paint and car exhaust.Report

  4. Avatar Coke-Encrusted Hollywood Exec says:

    Baby, can you imagine trying to create an ad campaign for any product consumed for pleasure/leisure, that both presents the product 100% accurately, and also makes it look appealing?!

    “Jet Skis: They Can Kill You, But Also Can Be Fun!”

    “Coca-Cola: Tastes Good, Yet Makes You Fat!”

    “See The Rainforest on our Eco-Tour, and Destroy the Atmosphere On Your Flight Here!”

    Why, people would think you were on yet another weeklong bender!Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I thought the smaller sized cans were to keep the product fresh when it was used in cocktails, myself, so seeing them touted as “portion control” sizes strikes me as bit of a whitewash.

    But other than that, the commercial touts Coca-Cola’s products aimed at meeting a demand for sweetened beverages with little to no calories. I don’t see what’s wrong with that. The commercial is not intended to be health advice. It’s intended to sell product.

    I’m not sure what you, or Sully would have had Coca-Cola do instead of this. Discontinue all their product lines other than (the admittedly high-profit) tap water? Start selling exercise instructional videos?Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      This is probably the wrong time, and will also make me the League looney, to say that I think the world would be a better place if coco-cola did not exist, but rather that industrial venture, and the labor and capital involved, was put to a different use?Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

        That may be true of any number of things. The world would certainly be better off if you were treating malaria in Africa rather than blogging right now, right? What does that imply about your social obligations?

        (I believe the answer is “nothing”, but you seem to disagree.)Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I think you’re positioning the optimal as the enemy of the better-than-the-status-quo.

        A 10-cal light lemonade may not be the optimal choice for a healthy lifestyle. But it’s still a better choice than the 160-cal fully leaded Coca-Cola.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Besides, I was the League looney yesterday in the IP thread. It’s someone else’s turn.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

        Ryan–Yes, that’s quite the case. Arguments about the extent of social obgliaton are in fact very difficult. But with the case of coke, it’s about whether or not they produce a product that is more harmful then benficial (you know what side I’m on), and to what degree they are decietfully marketing it or not. That’s a different case all together than whether a company that makes a good product couldn’t be trying to benefit the world in a different way.

        First do no harm.

        Likko–To the above, I think we first have to get to the benchmark of “no harm.” Of course, we probably disagree about whether coke’s business, predicated as it is on as many people as possible consuming its product, is doing harm or not.

        As to incrementalism, that is indeed the question, and one I’ve been grappling with especially in light of Lincoln (but also just in general, all my life, as someone prone to holding radical and/or extreme positions on things).

        During the charity symposium I mentioned a baseline at which point you’re in the clear, but below which it’s not enough just to make an improvement. After all, how do you condone someone doing X because its an improveemnt, but then expect them to do better since it’s still not good enough. On this subject in particular, I think our baselines are different, and we can have an argument over where they should be (I’m not comfortable with the relativism Ryan seems to be getting at in which I can’t judge other people’s preferences i.e. without that ability I don’t see the point of democracy or public discourse).

        That would be the deteriming factor in whether this incrementalism toward a “better” product is enough to stop it from still being a “bad” product.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

          With what metric do you measure the benefits of Coke? If we want to be crass, let’s compare the total amount of money people spend on buying their products to the total amount of money the increase in obesity due to Coke costs our health care system. That might be a good place to start this kind of discussion.

          Also, what I’m objecting to isn’t the notion that some choices might be “better” than others; it’s the arrogance and glibness with which you claim the moral high ground and decide which buckets those choices go in.Report

          • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

            Where have I been arrogant or glib? It’s an off the cuff post, referencing other people’s arguments in relation to a new ad.

            In so far as we’re talking about health, I thought that might be an area where there would be the most consensus on what decisions are “good” ones or “bad” ones. I’m not judging people here or inviduals, which you keep coming back to. I’m judging aggregate outcomes, which result from aggregated desires and large systems, like free market capitalism. In this case we have Coke. Coke and its industry is farely new. The world never really had coke. Would a world in which coke and other soft drinks just never sort of happened, be worse?

            I understand if some people don’t subscribe to philosophic traditions which strongly or loosely have a concern with “the good life” or “virtue ethics.” But putting for arguments which result from those traditions is hardly about moral high ground or self-righteousness.

            Don’t make this about me. Or about you, or about individual people and individual people’s preferences. This is about a big company, who makes a lot of products, and sells them to a lot of people. Reducing it to individuals, in so far as we’re talking about forces that are much larger than individuals, will obscure more than it clarifies.Report

            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              How does this big company make products and sell them to people? By targeting their preferences, perhaps? Do people buy Coke for some reason other than they want to buy Coke?Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                First, there’s a lot of room for marketing. Or else Coke wouldn’t still do it. Everyone knows Coke, so why are there still ads everwhere? Why do they still pay olympic athletes to drink it? Would coke be coke if it have never marketed itself like it historically has?

                Then there’s “they want.” I’ll stop here and say that I think “wanting” is a very complex thing, and has many varients. Perhaps this is a good place to pause while I spend a couple days putting together a post on Plato’s Gorgias as a means of discussing what I find problematic about considering people’s choices as simple things which should necessarily be considered as the direct result of what “they” decided or wanted, and must be therefore respected as a result.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:

                Coke is ubiquitous when you go out to eat and if you’ve traveled some, you’ll notice all soda/pop/soda pop is called Coke in the Southeastern United States regardless of brand.

                There is research that shows sugar is addictive if you want to start on that point as well. Sugar is virtually unavoidable when you eat these days as well since it’s in virtually everything, and the evidence on negative effects of many sugar substitutes has been damning.

                But if you want to start on the point of freedom rather than data, that’s your prerogative. We can start on something on which you might agree in that corn subsidies artificially drives the price of sugar and sugar using products down and thus it’s not a free market when the available foods that are cheapest are priced poorly because of cheap sugar.

                There’s really a lot going on here and discussions on nutrition and education probably would go further. Of course, there’s always Bloomberg and proposals to tax soda.Report

            • Avatar Bob2 says:

              Interestingly enough, there are a lot of other products that are historically new other than Coke that have similar effects on the body. White rice, white bread, the ubiquity of pear/apple/grape juice in drinks.
              Putting the onus on Coke products, while a major factor, is kind of missing the forest for the trees in a lot of ways in this discussion when the impact of readily available simple sugars and carbs and how they impact humans in terms of pleasure.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                This is true, which is why the above provocation was actually born of an earlier argument about whether, outside of the practical economic implications for labor, peoples jobs, and that someone else would just make their products instead, etc. Hostess closing was a bad thing.Report

            • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

              But it IS about individuals. Individuals have their own desires. Some people do not value physical fitness as much as others. Some people want to enjoy an occasional soda. You yourself said you enjoy doughnuts. There is no difference.

              It is the willingness to disregard individual preferences that leads down the road to totalitarianism.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:

                I think you’ve taken it to the strawman conclusion that sugar should be banned, and that’s not at all what was said in what I saw?

                What do you think about higher taxes on smokers is perhaps what I’m asking now.
                Bear in mind that almost nothing we have in the world is priced by a truly free market.Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                I am opposed to higher taxes on smokers, but I am also opposed to forcing people to pay for other people’s healthcare. Let smoker’s smoke, and let them pay for those choices. This can be done through taxes, but I would rather see them pay for the actual harm, not potential.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 says:

                Given its highly addictive nature and that cigarettes were once marketed as good for you and as medicine, and that the science initially was quashed by tobacco lobbyists, it’d be hard to make anything workable because of their ability to inject probable doubt into science.

                I think your proposition goes against our general nature. You’d have to deny them emergency room care for smoking related disease. There are always negative externalities when it comes to disease and smoking, and I’m not sure what you propose is workable. Taxing cigarettes and increasing the health insurance premiums for them was a coup for health by the statistics for preventing lung cancer and other issues.Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                Well, I do not think that ONLY smokers should be responsible for their own healthcare costs. I think that should be true for everyone. The more healthcare costs are shared among everybody, the less incentive individuals have to worry about their own health, and the greater incentive to meddle with everyone else’s choice.

                It leads to the mindset that an individual should be able to dictate what others are allowed to enjoy because he or she might have to pay for the results.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                RR,

                So do you disagree with group insurance in general?Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                I do not disagree with group insurance in general, but the insurers need to be able to price according to individual risk. Current practices such as employer provided insurance (encouraged by tax law) and regulations that dictate what must be covered make that difficult.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I agree generally with this, particularly the problems with tax law encouraging a certain form of insurance system.

                But what do you say about people who have a congenital condition that is prohibitively expensive or just impossible to insure?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                (And I’m not trying to “trap” you… that is where I get tripped up personally…)Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                But what do you say about people who have a congenital condition that is prohibitively expensive or just impossible to insure?

                If memory serves, the standard conservative line is something along the lines of “Then they should die, and decrease the surplus population.” (With credit to Dickens).Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                Honestly, I am not sure how best to handle those situations.

                I would like to think that, between familial support, churches, charitable organizations, university medical research, etc, there might be answers. When all is said and done, those sorts of conditions are difficult in any case. I am sure there are people that will fall through the cracks, but that happens with the systems we have now.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                And I’m pretty sure RR has said nothing to indicate he thinks anything of the sort, MA.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        Define “better place”, by the Kaldor-Hicks criterion, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    What is false in the commercial?
    What is deliberately misleading?
    Where has the free market failed you w/r/t this commercial?Report

  7. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I can’t see the video, are they going back to their original formula?Report

  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    We evolved in an environment where concentrations of calories (e.g. sugars and fats) were scarce, so we acquired a taste for them, which remains now that we can distribute them in huge quantities. The result is an almost universal desire for stuff that’s bad for us. I don’t think you can blame any particular economic system for that.Report

  9. Avatar Glyph says:

    Comment count on this post continues to rocket, because Ethan hit the blogging jackpot: contrarian opinion + food-related.

    Had he posted about Oscar Mayer hot dogs, we’d have to lock up the knives, or nobody’d walk out of these comment threads alive.Report

  10. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    Since it’s been mentioned too many places, I’ll address it here.

    Defending coke on the basis that it provides joy (utility) needs to also account for why such utility couldn’t be gotten from something else that was less harmful.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      What if I take it the other direction, and defend Coca-Cola on the basis that it provides joy while being *itself* less harmful than say, Jack Daniel’s? Can *you* account for that?

      IOW, these things are all relative; so if you want me to say “people should make better choices”, I respond, “that’s up to people”, and also, “where does it end”?

      At the end of the day, do we only not regulate that one thing (water) which, if pure, has no ill effects whatsoever (and, it is in fact possible to overdose on water believe it or not, so I guess not even water is safe from inquiry?)Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

      No it doesn’t. That’s nonsense. People should be allowed to get utility the way they want. Now you’re directing people to maximize utility according to your precepts of how to do that. For Pete’s sake, does this ever end?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        And of course, Ryan makes the point more pithily 🙂Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

        I’m simply asking if you’re making the claim that utility from coke is irreplaceable, i.e. that utility is fundamentaly different from every other.

        If you’re suggesting that, in so far as utility is subjective, it’s unknowable to everyone but the individual, then obviously utilitarianism fails right there.

        That would also deal a blow to any concern about externalities and such as well though.

        Calling them *MY* precepts means nothing. I’m putting forth an argument, if you it’s wrong, than just say that, but going on about the fact that I’m the person saying it is a distraction, unless you in fact are suggesting that as a person I can not legitimately speak to anything that’s outside myself, in which case as I said, we’ve got other problems.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

          I think that you cannot legitimately speak to the preferences of other people. It’s not your argument that’s wrong; it’s your assumption, in its profound and towering arrogance, that you are capable of determining what the “correct” preferences are for other human beings to have. You simply cannot. This is axiomatic. You brought up Descartes before, so I would think you’d get that. You can only know your own preferences.

          Maybe some people think the utility from Coke is irreplaceable at its cost. That’s up to them. You are fundamentally incapable of arguing that they’re wrong.Report

        • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

          Utility is subjective. Not everyone enjoys Coke. For those that do, it would be very difficult to find something that gives the same utility.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          So we’re dispensing with utilitarianism then, right. It doesn’t work beause there would be know what to compare utility across people?

          In which case I can never judge anyone else for anything they do to themselves.

          Of course this still leaves the children. And children have parents. And they need people to take care of them. And now it’s no longer “anything goes,” correct? Who will articulate the utilities of the children?Report

  11. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    How do people feel about diet coke?Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      (gets torch and pitchfork from shed).Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Coke Zero is the only kind of Coke I can stand to drink personally.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          In my experience this tends to be the consensus.

          Which makes me wonder who are all those people buying over-carbonated diet coke?Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Some people like the bitter taste of nutrisweet. Coke Zero attempts to taste like actual Coke. Diet Coke kind of blazes its own trail. I read that Coke Zero was actually the product of trying to make Diet Coke taste more like Coke, only to find out that a whole lot of the diet market didn’t actually want that.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              As I understand it, Coke views Coke Zero as Diet Coke for men. Which makes sense, at least based on their advertising. I don’t know if there is any science regarding variant taste buds between men and women and a resulting different in preference, but it wouldn’t shock me if A) it existed and B) Coke knew about it.

              I enjoy Coke Zero much more because I do think it tastes more like Coke. I don’t like Diet Coke at all.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Actually, it’s more that orginial marketing for diet soda were to women, thus, diet soda became a ‘chick’ drink. As a result, to convince males to drink low-calorie soda, they needed a seperate product to sell.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              umm… New Coke was the result of Diet Coke with sweetener.
              20 years later, they managed to make original formula Coke, now diet.

              And yup, plenty of people loved new coke’s taste. Mostly dieters.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                New Coke underwent extensive taste testing and different remarkably well. It’s used in business classes as an example of a product people likedbbut didn’t want.

                Anyhow, I’m not referring to New Coke. I’m referring to when they weretesting out aartificial sweeteners.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                New Coke was them testing out artificial sweeteners. They wanted one processing line for both regular and diet. Hence New Coke.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who drinks Diet Coke. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Personally, I would rather have real sugar in my body than whatever is in the artificial sweetener. And I’d rather have real sugar than HFCS. Plus I enjoy the taste of regular coke more than diet coke (but find Coke Zero to be much closer to the “real thing” than Diet Coke, but I understand that the formula and marketing are targeted specifically at men).

      That being said, I drink very little soda as a personal choice. Maybe one serving a month.Report

    • Avatar Bob2 says:

      Artificial sweeteners have not been proven to make people less fat from lower calorie consumption. In more recent studies, the opposite may be true due to several factors including their ability to increase appetite.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Yeah, I had seen this as well. Give people low-fat/low-sugar alternatives and they just eat more of them.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          There is actually reason to believe that the same holds true for p0rtion sizes and calorie listings. That, broadly speaking, when we forgo calories here we very often end up just picking them up elsewhere. I know that when I eliminate soft drnks from my diet, at least if I do so too suddenly, I live in a constant state of hunger and end up eating more.

          And from what Bob2 says, there is reason to believe that artificial sweeteners in particular create satiety problems.Report

          • Avatar Alan Scott says:

            I regularly switch from drinking mostly soda to mostly water and back: I move between the town that has great tap water and the town that has terrible tap water every few years — and get my drinks from the kitchen sink or 12 oz cans respectively.

            This has absolutely no effect on my weight.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      Goes great with Menthos.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I drink it, or more typically, discount store-brand sodas cloning it because all colas taste pretty much the same to me. (YMMV.) I don’t fear aspartame or sucralose or the other ingredients because I don’t drink enough of it to match the weight of my liver in daily consumption. While I realize it’s a sub-optimal beverage choice, the health harm that will come from the contents is only likely to manifest if I consume Brobdingnagian quantities of the stuff. I do much more harm to my health with beer, wine, gin and whiskey than I do with cola, however it is sweetened. And I’m not about to give up beer, wine, gin or whiskey.

      I don’t drink full-sugar/HFCS fizzy drinks typically. The reason is the calorie count. The utility (pleasure) I get from the aspartame/sucralose sweetened beverage is the same I get from the sugar/HFCS beverage, and it costs the same.

      If all fizzy drinks were to be discontinued tomorrow I’d miss diet tonic water a lot more than I’d miss diet coke.Report

    • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

      That stuff is nasty.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

      I drink Diet Mountain Dew religiously. I’ll drink Diet Coke when I’m out and don’t want a real adult beverage.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      I know people who live on it, because it’s a painless way to get caffeine without sugar.Report

  12. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “Kazzy, will you meet me at the bottom of the thread to discuss “People should be largely free to pursue their own ends.” in further detail?

    Could you provide an outline of your grounding for that claim?”

    Hey Ethan,

    I believe pretty strongly in autonomy. I believe that humanity is so complex that to know the “point” of it is almost impossible; and it is even harder to attempt to know or determine someone else’s “point”. I believe there is great variance within the human race and so much that we don’t or can’t know about “goodness” that absent firm answers, we should allow people to make such determinations for themselves and to pursue those accordingly.

    Is that better? I sort of assumed my initial statement “goes without saying” so am a little bit unsure of how to flesh it out, but hopefully this has helped.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      “I believe pretty strongly in autonomy. I believe that humanity is so complex that to know the “point” of it is almost impossible; and it is even harder to attempt to know or determine someone else’s “point”. I believe there is great variance within the human race and so much that we don’t or can’t know about “goodness” that absent firm answers, we should allow people to make such determinations for themselves and to pursue those accordingly.”

      now how do you get from this to making any kind of law?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I think the laws we create should be designed to protect or further the ability to pursue ends. We’ll get into the weeds when we encounter competing ends, admittedly.

        I struggle to see how limiting portion size helps any individual achieve a desired end.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          “I think the laws we create should be designed to protect or further the ability to pursue ends.”

          I don’t know, I’d have to see some data on how it affects behaviors before I could give a more infomred opinion on portion sizes.

          But to my original point, if Coke sold only sugarless drinks and or low surgar juices (I’m speculating), and didn’t dishonestly market them (see Vitamin Water), and used more of the money to build schools in developing countries without much freedom to pursue individual ends, we should then legislate that, no?Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Legislate what? You lost me…Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              Legislate better behavior on the part of Coke, I think he’s saying.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Oh. No. I don’t think we should do that. At least not in the forms he seems to be suggesting.

                I think there is a legitimate place for regulations. I do believe in truth-in-advertising and truth-in-labeling laws, because I think having the opportunity to use information goes a long way towards people successfully seeking ends. But I’m a bit odd in that I wouldn’t require any specific language, only that whatever language a company DOES include need to have certain accuracy and verifiability. So no one is required to offer calorie counts. BUT if they choose to offer calorie counts, they must be accurate.

                Does this put some imposition on Coke’s ability to seek its ends? Yes. But “Coke” isn’t an individual, it isn’t a person, and thus is not entitled to the same rights and liberties as individuals. And even if Coke were a sole proprietor, wholly owned by Coke McCokerson, I’d still PROBABLY err on the side of the consumer, though it’d be a harder case to make admittedly.Report

  13. Avatar Jim P. says:

    Message:

    We know you are buying less coke because everyone is trying to lose weight and be more healthy, but we made versions with less calories and smaller portions so as long as you keep burning calories you can still drink our product. [insert last shot of woman at football game with giant fucking Coke Soft drink cup]Report

  14. Avatar Jim P. says:

    Had this been released while sales were up it be a different story.Report

  15. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I assume this ad is in response to the Vitamin Water lawsuit.

    I wish people in the threads were framing their debates around that specific issue, since ignoring it and talking about whether soda should be regulated kind of misses the entire point.Report

  16. Avatar M.A. says:

    Pasting this downthread to try to get some readability again. From above as a response to Kazzy’s question.

    But can you give at least ONE example of an area that you think should be completely hands off to government regulation?

    I think that the government has no business being involved in who, what gender(s), or how many people I can convince to engage in sexual congress with me, either on disparate or similar occasions.

    Provided that they’re all consenting adults.

    Well, hm. Guess that’s a regulation.

    How about you? Suggest one. Let’s see if you can come up with one I’ll agree with.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I think people should be free to ingest any substances they like, full stop.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        So, children should be free to ingest lead paint chips, and some seller should be able to sell them a product such as “Bag o’ lead paint chips”?

        Ethylene Glycol in wine?

        Fugu prepared by an unlicensed amateur?Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I think that regulations on the behavior of children are entirely different from regulations on the behavior of adults, and there is plenty of research that discusses the agency (or lack there of) of the former and how this should impact their ability to exercise their autonomy. And, for the record, I’d put the age of adulthood far lower than 18 based on the research I’ve seen.

          But, more importantly, you are really mixing up my focus. If you WANT to drink wine with ethylene glycol (whatever that is) in it, you should be able to. If you WANT to eat fugu (whatever that is) that is prepared by an unlicensed amateur, you should be able to.

          And both of those things are different than wanting wine free of EG or fugu prepared by a trained professional and being deliberately misled into doing something otherwise.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            And when the necessary consequences of such behavior come calling back to the commons?Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              What commons are called if a person engages in a risky behavior and harms only himself?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Should we start with the emergency room staff or the coroner’s office?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                The problem is this logic, that self-harm is a collective or commons problem, is that it can take us in directions we do not wish to go. It also supplies an argument against having the government take care of us, if the that’s going to be used to regulate our private behavior.

                I actually agree that some self-harm should be prevented. But it’s a mistake to make it an issue of the commons, though.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Will,

                What form of self-harm do you think should be prevented?

                There is a part of me that is tempted to view parents engaging in self-harming behaviors as a problem of the commons, because of what is to be done with their children if they meet an untimely demise. But that is tricky to. And does that mean we should look at other people who also have folks depending on them and limit their behavior? For instance, if there is a brilliant doctor on the verge of a cure for cancer, should we ban him from sky diving until he’s done?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                And I realize that children:parents is not perfectly analogous to patients:doctor. But the broader idea seems to be about people’s ability to put a claim on others and, thus, restricting their freedom.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I don’t have a problem with seat belt laws and I can go either way on motorcycle helmet laws. I would actually get on board with soft drink regulation if I thought that it would do good (or enough good to counter the downsides).

                Basically, I try to approach these things in terms of a cost-benefit analysis as much as anything. What is having to be sacrificed? How much good will it do?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Will,

                Where do you stand on gun control?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                So the coroner’s office should only handle the deaths of people who did nothing to bring about their own demise?

                Please, man. You’re just being silly at this point.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I don’t think that’s what he’s saying. I think he’s saying that because people who harm themselves end up in emergency rooms and coronor’s office, both of which are publicly-funded, it’s a commons problem.

                The problem with this logic is that… so is risky sexual behavior.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                So is risky sexual behavior.

                Hmmm. Seems too…

                So is risky sexual behavior.

                … Yeah, it was too specific. There’s other kinds of risky behaviors that can easily land you in the E.R.

                Like driving.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                But EVERYONE is going to end up in the coroner’s office. So who cares if it is because of cancer or fugu?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I used “sexual behavior” in part because it’s something that MA said should not be regulated. (While I was writing my comment, KenB was apparently writing a comment elsewhere along the same lines.)

                But yeah, it does apply to a very wide array of behavior. A lot of which is regulated, of course.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Out of curiosity, do you believe we should outlaw breweries? Beer has the same issues with unnecessary sugar-based caloric intake that soda does, plus its alcohol content poses even greater health risks.

                I ask because I’m struggling to determine if this is really a pro-health stance your taking, or an anti-large corporation stance.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                We already regulate breweries.

                We regulate ingredients and health standards, we regulate sizes of what they can produce, we regulate marketing campaigns, we regulate beverages that are produced to look “too similar to” things that would appeal to kids. Four Loko has been forced to make significant changes to their products in this regard.

                Do I think we should outlaw breweries? Hell no, and I’m a little tired and offended by the constant “well should we outlaw X” strawman people keep throwing around here.

                But they are, and should be, subject to reasonable regulation.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                “We already regulate breweries.”

                ???

                I’m not sure I understand this point. We regulate mass-produced food as well, including soda.

                What is it, exactly, that you’re hoping for?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                In my locality, you cannot – legally – offer “all you can drink beer.” There can be specials such as dollar beer night at certain sports bars, but it cannot be “one price, drink all night.”

                Likewise, there are restrictions on how much beer can be allotted per serving (in fluid ounces).

                Would a similar regulation on soda REALLY be so terrible? What is it that allows people to see no problem regulating beer that way, but has them freak out and have a right wing apoplexy about the idea of their “small coke” actually being a single 8-ounce serving and their “Large Coke” being the size of a pint?Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                They restrict the amount of beer you can drink? I’ve never heard of that being tried before; where do you live?

                Most places I’m aware of restrict either the amount of beer you can serve, or the amount of beer you are allowed to consume (or more accurately, the amount of alcohol you are allowed to have in your bloodstream) prior to doing certain activities where you can put others in immediate danger (e.g.: drive a car, operate heavery machinery, etc.)

                But now I’m curious… How do they enforce the amount you consume?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m a little tired and offended by the constant “well should we outlaw X” strawman people keep throwing around here.

                The problem is that it’s hard to figure out what is a strawman relative to your position and what is not, because the standard you proposed–it’s a commons issue because it can end up costing the public–doesn’t provide a clear line to draw at any activity. As Tod noted, it does apply to sexual behavior, because that can be risky–it can produce communicable diseases, unwanted children, and violent bouts of jealousy, for example. It could even apply to sitting alone in my house not bothering anyone else, because when I die nobody will know until my neighbors smell me and have to call the police.

                Your standard needs refining so we actually can figure out where the line between a legitimate issue for regulation and a strawman is.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                How do they enforce the amount you consume?

                I shall be more clear.

                A restaurant, pub, or other business can’t sell you a “beer” larger than a certain size in fluid ounces. If my memory’s right the top size is 20. 40-oz containers in gas stations or grocery stores are similarly disallowed, though there has occasionally been argument over the fact that someone can buy a 6-pack of beers but not a “fotie.”

                And a dining establishment or pub can in no way offer “all you can drink night.” The closest is special pricing, such as “happy hour” or “dollar beer night” (which always seems to be $1 half-pint servings, though I’m not sure if that is a business decision or the result of some regulation I’m unaware of).

                There are also laws on the books requiring servers to refuse service to someone deemed “too inebriated.”

                So again, my question – what is it that makes the elimination of the all-you-can-drink soda fountain an ultimate threat to the entire existence of a free society?Report

              • Avatar Reformed Republican says:

                He does not want to ban soda, he just wants to regulate it by banning certain serving sizes.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                MA,

                Where do you live? I know of (and have frequented) two bars that serve 96-ounce boots of beer.

                I have also lived in more heavily-regulated states that had stricter laws.

                But I don’t know if there was ever actually a legal limit on the amount I can consume. Bars might opt to cut me off at a given point because of a certain responsibility they assume, but I don’t think that is a legal requirement.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Now I want to see Kazzy chugging a 96 ouncer.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Kaz-zee! Kaz-zee! Kaz-zee!Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I very likely might during the final night of Kazzymas on Sunday.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Fun fact: I held up the right leg of the son of a (non-judicial) statewide elected official of my home state as he chugged from a keg.

                I don’t know how that ranks with the time I was pointed to by former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.Report

      • Even their next-door neighbour?Report

    • Avatar kenB says:

      I think that the government has no business being involved in who, what gender(s), or how many people I can convince to engage in sexual congress with me, either on disparate or similar occasions.

      But more sexual partners means statistically higher chance of getting an STD, so on average that would come calling back to the commons. I’m afraid we can’t allow you to have that freedom.Report

  17. Avatar matthew says:

    The problem with saying that “people buy coke, thus they prefer it, thus by railing against coke you’re ignoring their preferences” is that it assumes people have preferences that are relatively constant and time consistent. This is a stretch in general, but especially when applied to diet/obesity and addictive substances.

    As a model, let’s use a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde agent. For 23 hours a day, Dr Jekyll would rather be thin than fat, will say they’d rather be thin then fat, will eat light meals, purchase specialty products and services for the purposes of weight loss and commit to “resolutions” that he intends to lose weight. Once a day, Dr. Jekyll is exposed to a chemical that turns him into Mr. Hyde, who would much rather eat food than be thin, will eat nothing but rich food and drink to excess, and generally screw everything up. Is it moral to sell things to Mr. Hyde? Although actual human beings aren’t anywhere near as stark as Jekyll/Hyde, aren’t they often more like that then rational actors with time-consistent preferences?

    Note that this is different than taking advantage of the stupid/ignorant/lazy, although I also disagree with that. Neither Jekyll or Hyde in this example is being irrational or stupid, they just have conflicting preferences. Smoothing them into one “agent” is what causes the issue.Report

  18. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    To the larger point, soda w/ HFCS or other such sweeteners is pretty damn evil that might need regulation. Sodas with sugar seem to have not caused the same problems that HFCS have in other parts of the world.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Jesse, I am not trying to argue this point per se, because I think it is at least still remotely possible that HFCS is processed slightly differently by the human body and this is a cause of deleterious health effects; but at this point most everything I’ve read shows no definitive evidence of this theory, it appears that HFCS is processed by the body just like sugar (because it is, basically).

      I think the more likely candidate is, subsidizing HFCS made it so cheap and abundant (cheaper than sugar) so manufacturers started putting it in everything, even in things to which sugar used to not really be added, because it’s cheap; and we’ll buy & eat & drink more of stuff that tastes sweet.

      So we just started getting way more sugar (in the form of HCFS) than we used to (and portions got bigger, and food got cheaper so we bought/ate more, etc. etc.)

      So HFCS may be implicated, but not from a “chemistry/biology” POV, more from an economic POV.Report

  19. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    Clearly I need to start blaming the failures of Zero Dark Thirty or the drone war on the free market.Report

  20. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I’m impressed at how many comments this thread has gotten already.Report

  21. Avatar ktward says:

    This is one of the ways in which free market capitalism fails us.

    That seems a pretty extreme conclusion to me.

    I mean, as a Leftie I could make a tidy list of the ways in which I believe Free Market Capitalism Fails Society. This particular bit of Coke Inc marketing spin would not only not be on my list, it wouldn’t even occur to me to include it. In fact, I think this kind of thing is an altogether counter-productive distraction from what is an otherwise important list.

    The problem you’re evidently worrying about, Ethan & Sully et al, is simply that some number of consumers are still, despite a ubiquitous knowledge base, choosing to consume food products of dubious nutritional value in quantities that are decidedly unhealthy.

    I struggle with lending much importance to this particular brouhaha. Peeps are gonna do what they’re gonna do. That said, my greatest concern is whether or not folks have the opportunity to make healthy food choices. Food deserts concern me greatly. Marketing spin? Not so much. Not today, anyway.

    Actually, it’s within the food/nutrition industry that, to my mind, the free market has worked rather well. For instance, the expansion of the organic food aisle at our local grocery stores is not some a fluke, it’s a response to consumer demand.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      For instance, the expansion of the organic food aisle at our local grocery stores is not some a fluke, it’s a response to consumer demand.

      If you’re at least middle class, sure.

      Go to the “grocery store” off of MLK Blvd sometime and see if you can even find non-wilted produce.Report

  22. Avatar James Vonder Haar says:

    I was walking through a CVS the other day, and it was striking just how well-tailored the experience was to get me to make certain decisions. In order to pick up my prescription, I had to pass aisles and aisles of tempting but unhealthy chips, candies, and sodas. Libertarians are fond of dismissing “soft paternalism” as an imposition on our freedom, but if that is the case, it seems to me that we cannot avoid losing some freedom; our choice is only between soft paternalisms. CVS attempts to structure it’s marketplace to manipulate my psychology so Im more likely to spend money in snacks. Bloomberg wants to structure the city to manipulate my psychology so I make healthy choices. What’s the difference? If these are my only two choices, I’d rather go with the one that promotes my long-term health.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Nudge has at least some support in the libertarian community. I don’t have a problem with that, though that is different from what Bloomer is doing, which is more forceful and in some cases intrusive.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Libertarians are fond of dismissing “soft paternalism” as an imposition on our freedom, but if that is the case, it seems to me that we cannot avoid losing some freedom; our choice is only between soft paternalisms

      James makes a good point here. I think the literature on decision-making and marketing aptly demonstrate the limits of rationality–not that it is non-existent (not even close), but that it is significantly and meaningfully far from perfect. And over time the more thoughtful liberal authors and commenters here at the League have persuaded me that more thought ought to be given to the subtly coercive effects of some of these things; that libertarianish folks who think these effects are either non-existent or irrelevant are being too glib.

      That said, I find the response, “so we ought to regulate it” to also be too glib. I don’t mean that James is necessarily too glib here. He not only has a reasoned argument, but he also notes that the regulation is his preference “If these are [his] only choices” (emphasis mine). Regulatory glibness in these cases rests in assuming that there necessarily are only two choices, in either not recognizing the significance of the “if,” or using it as a soft substitute for “because.”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        To a limited extent, FTC have regulated false advertising claims. The question arises, when does advertising cross the line to the point where regulation might do any good? Conversely, where does regulation become so much moralising intrusion into private decision making, as in Bloomberg’s Nanny Statism?

        For godsake, you can purchase a cold two liter bottle of Buzz Cola and chug it on the street out in front of the very same Kwik-E-Marts (or as I prefer to call them, Offramp Tumours) where you’ve been denied the purchase of a >16 ounce cup from the fountain.

        Sure, you’ll never go broke underestimating the American shopper, or his terrible self-image or his substitution of tasty snacks for other routes to a fulfilling life. Periodically, my jones for Burger King Whoppers overwhelms me and I simply must have one. I was sitting in this BK, all alone, looking at the promotional stuff on the wall. One one wall, a happy group of well-groomed hipsters, with the prettiest girl going for a french fry. On the other, a wooden banquet table, loaded down with burgers and suchlike, the fries wrapped in paper cones stuffed into cornucopia wire holders, the colours oversaturated, an ersatz Thanksgiving table.

        This isn’t advertising. This is confirmation. Instead of a lonely, somewhat overweight man missing his girlfriend, all by himself on Airline Highway, watching the lights of the cars rushing by through rain-spattered windows, I’m regaled with images of feasting and friendship. Being the PoMo bastard that I am, it only made me lonelier and I suffered from indigestion all night.

        Post-Purchase Confirmation. That’s what Coke is doing here with these ads. We’re already buying the products. Coke wants to reassure us they’re on our side, that they understand our guilt and they’re concerned, that they’re diluting and downsizing and substituting. And if there’s some rationalising and sublimating going on, well, that’s all good, too.Report

  23. Avatar Glyph says:

    I found a real travesty here.

    And yes, I may sound snarky, but this is the sort of thing that could reasonably be called clearly false advertising; but I don’t doubt that Subway’s lawyers will claim that some variation is inevitable (true) and that no one can reasonably expect a “footlong” to be approx. 12 inches (false).Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Variation is fine, but “footlong*” is not in the same category as “quarter-pounder*”.

      *pre-cooked measurementReport

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Five
        Five Dollar
        Five Dollar sandwich of indeterminate length

        Just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          And here’s the thing – if this can be demonstrated to be a consistent thing, then Subway either needs to make ’em 12 inches, or rename ’em. Because we can’t have clearly false advertising.

          But I also don’t want to end up down the road with EU-style laws governing acceptable banana curvature (which is really, really fun to say – just say it. Banana curvature).

          Because that’s just silly.

          Banana curvature.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      But Glyph, many people have feet that are eleven inches long.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        But still it was determined by the ancients in their wisdom that there would be more verity in measurements by peeping out the tootsies than declaring the schlong to be the standard unit.Report