Big Gulps Freed In Big Apple


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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345 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    This absolutely makes up for the likely gutting of the Voting Rights Act.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If we limit the government’s jurisdiction this far, might it not start us down a slippery slope where people might start arguing that the government shouldn’t have jurisdiction over our wombs?Report

  3. Avatar gregiank says:

    Well i was going to post a snarky comment but Mike and Jay got there before me. Of course that has never stopped me before. But anyway….good for freedom and NY and buckets of sugar water. Maybe just one person for a day will clam up about the all encompasing nanny state which is coming to get us.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      But they’re still mandated to do stuff like show calorie counts. What if I WANT to be ignorant about the fact I’m gulping down 1200 calories?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Mister “Whining About How Ignorant He’s Not” sure spends a lot of time reading.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        The calorie counts can be printed in pink, so they’re invisible through your rose-colored glasses.Report

      • Avatar gregiank says:

        See that is how subtle and nefarious the eviiiillll nanny state is. They’ll let you have your 112 oz Mr. Pibb but sneak in knowledge while you are whirling in your sugar high. This really just proves uni health care is all a plot.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Snidery aside, this actually doesn’t tell us much about the limitations of the nanny state. It tells us that a mayor can’t do it unilaterally and can’t have loopholes the size of a Mack truck.

          But here I am being all paranoid and crap. No one wants to outlaw big drinks. That’s a nanny strawman. Or at least it was, right up until someone did. (And used government health care in the rationale, to boot.)

          In other words, if I understand the ruling correctly, this really isn’t much of an indication that those concerned with nanny-statism are being ridiculous or paranoid.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            Michael Bloomberg is and has always been a special case of nanny statism. If you want to generalize about the state of the creeping nanny state from him rather than seeing him as the special case he is, you can, but people not in NYC (or in NYC!) can think you’re a bit paranoid for it.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              Things that start in certain places have been known to extend beyond where they are initially tried. The pushback on this actually gives me comfort on the issue. At least for now. The judicial result, on the other hand, doesn’t. Because it doesn’t actually limit the expansion, done more carefully.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                So I should start worrying that Joe Arpaio-style immigration enforcement is coming to my town before there’s any sign that it actually is?

                Sure, practices spread. How do we know which ones are going to? Because they start spreading. But if you refuse to recognize outliers as outliers, you’re consigned to general fear about the spread of such measures rather than actual reaction when it occurs. And people think you’re paranoid.

                I’ve lived in NYC under Bloomberg. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Any time anything remotely out of the ordinary happens, he’s on the TV telling you what to do like your know-it all uncle. Michael Bloomberg is a one-off. A special case.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                So I should start worrying that Joe Arpaio-style immigration enforcement is coming to my town before there’s any sign that it actually is?

                I was worried about it. Perhaps not Arpaio in particular, but when Arizona passed that law, it mattered to me beyond the state of Arizona.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                But those are two different things, the state law and Arpaio’s excesses. Bloomberg’s soda ban was much more like Arpaio’s abuses IMO. Bloomberg rammed it through on his own initiative responding no broad-based public outcry that it be done. A state legislature passing a law due to a clear trend in public opinion certainly is cause for more concern (I was more concerned about the precedent, which isn’t quite the same concern), though, still, did any other state pass such laws?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                A handful of states did. Not either of the states I was worried about, though.

                I’m less worried about Arpaio on his own than Bloomberg on his own because New York City is one of the most influential locales in the US and Maricopa County is not.

                Bloomberg’s actions were not replicated in large part because of the public’s reaction. Had the public’s reaction been different, I believe we would have seen it replicated. As mentioned, I’m not worried about soda bans expanding because the public never got behind it. But the more general thing is still is a concern. I’m particularly worried about salt.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                My mistake on the immigration laws. Again, there is indeed great popular sentiment on that issue, so it was a bad example.

                I honestly feel like the rest of what you say is the very stuff of paranoia, though. It didn’t spread because people didn’t like it, but if people had liked it, it might have spread. But they didn’t and it didn’t. And it was pretty clear they weren’t going to like it, but he did it. Why? Because he’s a weirdo. Not because it’s a measure with latent popularity that just didn’t manifest in this case.

                If you have general fear about measures like this spreading, that’s fine, but you can’t say others are somehow unreasonable to think you’re a bit paranoid when you essentially see even cases of the exact opposite of that spread as somehow still evidence for the idea that it should be generally feared. Some actions of the nanny state actually do generate negative reactions, and, more to the point, are actually localized peculiarities.

                Are there places where salt is being restricted in some way?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It’s sort of gotten lost in this conversation, but I said that I find the response to Bloomberg’s actions as relieving some of my worry. It’s a good thing! I don’t see the court’s ruling as relieving in any way, however, because of the specifics of the ruling (it didn’t argue that soda bans, or like things, are actually wrong).

                As I said… these things don’t happen until they do. The soda ban did happen. Or would have but for this ruling. That it wouldn’t happen where I currently live would be cold comfort if I actually lived in New York City.

                Though you conceded it as a point in my favor, I really actually thought my home city would never ban cigarettes in bars. I thought it would be a holdout forever and ever amen. I was wrong. So I don’t take “that won’t happen” with a grain of salt as much as I once might have.

                I do feel pretty comfortable that soda bans aren’t going to happen anymore. I want to see what happens with salt before I stop thinking that’s a real possibility.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I agree we lost track of the issue to some extent, or nerver had it well-defined. What I wanted to advance was the idea that this action by Bloomberg, indeed most of Bloomberg’s governance, should not be seen as evidence one way or the other about whether to be afraid of the advancing nanny stale outside of New York, because he’s a truly (in my view) a one-off phenomenon who has a record of generating pushback in his own community on issues much like this as well as this one (a community that I think is otherwise more accepting of government regulation than probably just about any other in the country), and wields his reputation as a superior manager to get these things through despite that.

                In my view, a commitment to seeing his governance as a harbinger of the advancing general nanny state and refusing to recognize the uniqueness of Bloomberg indicates a disposition to see really any available data as potentially evidence to support a pre-existing fear. To me, that’s the behavior of someone with mild (even figurative) paranoia on an issue. Now granted, not everyone has the experience of living in NYC under Bloomberg to use to contextualize his governance. So hatI guess w I was saying was that you weren’t paranoid in your own mind, but that functionally from the perspective of people without your predilection on the question, your lack of perspective makes your opinion functionally equivalent to that of someone with mild paranoia on the question.

                Now, I suppose you can say that, hey you care about the people of New York too, not just the implications of Bloomberg’s actions for the current status of the nanny-state nationwide. In any case, the people of New York, whose mayor *actually is Michael Bloomberg* are certainly not paranoid to be worried about soda bans (obviously!), but also about what he’s got on his sights next (nor to wonder wether Christine Quinn or other potential successors plan to follow in his footsteps on questions like this). To the extent that is what you are saying, that’s legitimate and not paranoid.

                But my impression is that you are concerned about what Bloomberg’s actions portend about the future path of the nanny state if not nationwide then at least you the nation, perhaps in a place close to you soon. And I’m not saying you ought not to think it’s reason to fear the spread of the kinds of things he’s done. All I’m saying is that if you give no evidence of taking into account that Bloomberg is really something of an outlying zealot in terms of pursuing and pursuing these kinds of measures and not indicative of any broader trend (that I can perceive), then I’m going to think that your assessment of these particular data points speaks more to the way you’re inclined to view these matters than to this data (Bloomberg) really constituting further reason for fear about the creeping of he nanny state, which in my view is a degree of paranoia. Or, I’ll conclude you for some reason don’t see that Bloomberg is an special case (you’re far away!), and think you’re searching for things to support fear about the advancing nanny state, but just don’t have the information necessary to put this guy’s cations in proper context, which I’ll treat as the functional equivalent of a mild paranoia as applied to looking at that evidence.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Michael, your point about the uniqueness of Bloomberg is a good one. I tend to give heavier weight to what NYC does due to its large cultural influence. California, too. However, Bloomberg=!NYC and his successor may assuage what concerns I have.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                ..Also, it’s really not about smoking versus soda versus salt. It’s about looking at what actually is happening politically. I’m not aware that there was just one place and in that place just one extraordinary figure that made smoking bans as high-profile as Bloomberg made this soda ban. Rather, my recollection is that it quickly became obvious that there really was a national trend toward such bans (because non-smokers liked being able to go to bars and come home not smelling the way they did!). At the earliest point at which you could show evidence that that trend was gaining any steam at all, I’d have no problem with your talking about it as a creeping phenomenon. (Nanny state, that’s a different question, of course, as with smoking we’re not talking about a purely personal choice, if the economics dictate that you can’t compete in the bar business while instituting a voluntary smoking ban if similar kinds of bars (i.e. not tobacco-themed ones) are allowed to have smoking. But I digress.)

                So you were right to fear that the clearly spreading smoking bans might come to your town, certainly by the time they were clearly spreading, even when they were spreading at all. But I think you were pretty clearly worried about this Bloomberg ban before it was clear what the reaction would be, and certainly before it’s clear there’s any evidence of spreading. And to be clear, I don’t have a problem with that. They’re your fears; have them. I just have personal thoughts about it as well, and yeah, they include perhaps a slightly stretched use of the word paranoia. In the larger context, I can’t accuse you of outright paranoia, and I’m not. But to me, seeing just one action by one truly extraordinary local leader and thinking it indicates something about the broader national path of the nanny state without discounting for the particularities of the example (even before it’s clear what the response to the action is… after all, if the response turns out to be positive, and the idea to explore the measure clearly does spread, one can always be fearful then) indicates a predisposition to look at data like this in a particular way that, I guess, I’m not all that worried about distinguishing in my own mind from a mildly paranoid attitude about the issue.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:


                Sorry to talk your ear off. I should likewise acknowledge that it’s reasonable for you to discount how much the peculiarity of Bloomberg (which, I want to be clear, I don’t even hold you responsible for fully understanding having not experienced it; I wouldn’t have the same feeling about it had I not lived there for a couple years) makes his actions in NYC a bad indicator of of broader trends on these issues because of the degree to which NYC is a national trendsetter. I actually wonder how much that is true; surely you agree that there is a certain amount of opposite reaction in much of the country to a lot of what comes out of New York. On the other hand, I also think that, despite Bloomberg’s outlier status on these issues, it’s also true that he occupies something of a special place in the national media as a kind of “leader above politics,” and I think it’s reasonable to fear that the power of that national profile could help change national attitudes on really whatever question he chooses to apply it to. (I think that ability is perhaps somewhat overestimated, but it’s reasonable to be wary of it.) Luckily, so far, he’s focused that power mostly on education and climate change at the national level. But obviously, if and when he does run for president, I would for second blame you for immediately wanting to know whether things like the big gulp ban were going to be part of his program.

                I guess essentially what I’m saying is that I’m happy to whatever extent you want to peg your concern directly to the personage of Michael Bloomberg himself, because I think there is reason to be wary of pretty much every view the man has given his national profile. But as question of local policy spreading from New York, outward, I think there’s not much reason to fear organic spread of policies like this. This is a function of the special case that is Michael Bloomberg, and best seen in hat light.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                But fair enough. Perhaps the Arizona example was a better one by way of demonstrating a difference between a case of the threat of spreading statism and one where a particular figure’s policy aims lead to unpopular policy in a particular place. Immigration law enforcement isn’t a question of the nanny state in any case, rather just the state straight-up, so perhaps it was just not an on-point example.

                And you do have smoking bans on your side. Those have certainly spread.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

        If the size of the soda and the sugary taste aren’t enough information for you not to drink it, the number “1200” isn’t going to help you.

        You could require gross pictures of diseased hearts and the corpses of people who died from obesity on sodas that are too large, in the same way that they require such gruesome warning labels on cigarettes in some places. That might help, but calorie info won’t.

        I for one am glad that our courts have protected the rights of all people to be suckered into buying too much soda, amounts of soda that will not improve their life (even in temporary gustatory pleasure) in any conceivable way and in the aggregate may worsen a few children’s diabetes and obesity problems resulting, in the aggregate, in dead children (and adults).Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          “suckered into buying too much soda”

          I would just like to say that this thought process is alien to me.Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            Sadly, the thought process about the delayed costs are also alien to the thought processes of those who so get suckered.

            My take is that we’re subsidizing the soda companies so that they can sucker folks with health care costs. We, you and me, pay for that suckering in our insurance rates, our and our inflated health care costs. Do you have a fair way to get at that other then slapping on a sin tax, like we do with alcohol and tobacco?Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              /disclaimer: I just finished slurping down a black cherry soda. And I loved every drop. I’d happily pay a sin tax to do it again in a week or two.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I suppose “make people be responsible for themselves” is really unfair to people who aren’t privileged enough to be able to do so.

              We need a better way to husband these underprivileged.

              Perhaps we would have better luck with them (and provide better individual attention to each of them) if they weren’t breeding so much?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Well, if we want to let them all just drink up health care costs; perhaps we should offer the corn-sugar syrups for free but lace it with birth control hormones. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about the sick ones breeding.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                You’ve probably just started a new meme/theory for the Alex Jones/black helicopter/Rand Paul base crowd.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                That would be interesting.

                But I think it’s been done before in the annals of sci-fi, I can only take credit for being green and recycling.

                But I don’t think that crowds into government-provided birth control, though maybe they’d like the paranoid notion that government’s lacing the food with fertility-blocking substances.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I’m wondering about this.
                Should we tax the living crap out of table salt?
                Stuff’s not good for you, ya know.
                Salt ba-a-a-ad— bad, bad, bad.
                So why not tax the stuff?
                Or is the increased risk of heart disease sufficient?

                Where exactly is that line between “You shouldn’t be salting your food so much” and “You can’t be walking around with a ballonful of heroin shoved up your ass”?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I do believe they will go after salt at some point. It has class implications all over it, which is one of the ways you know a movement like this likely has legs.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Is going after salt content in say, canned goods really that horrible a thing? I’m pretty sure canned goods manufacturers can make their stuff with less salt, they just choose not to.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I’m not so sure. I see “low sodium” options for a lot of things… but very rarely for canned food.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Out of curiosity, if the canning process required trace amounts of say lead or arsenic, would you be adverse to having those regulated?

                While I’m sure salting is important in the canning process, they can probably make versions without using as much sodium (to the point where a can of say beats has a 25% of your daily sodium intake) just that it’d make their margins lower.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Out of curiosity, if the canning process required trace amounts of say lead or arsenic, would you be adverse to having those regulated?

                I could be convinced otherwise, but my inclination is to say “no.” It would depend, I guess, on how necessary it was and in what amounts.

                I am mostly skeptical that salt – even some of it – is as dispensable as you think it is. Is there another preservative remotely as good or affordable for such things? Anything that could keep canned foods as inexpensive and long-lasting as they are?

                I’ll look next time I am out, but I just don’t see “low sodium” canned food options the same way I do for other things (I am working my way through some low sodium wheat thins now). Which suggests to me that it is quite necessary.

                I think soft drinks use salt nefariously. I think for canned foods it’s more of a necessity (in larger amounts). I would love to find out that’s not the case, and might even support nanny laws depending on the specifics. I can always add my own salt.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I question all this harshing on salted foods. Too much of anything is bad news. So many good things are salt cured.Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                Low sodium salt (usually potassium chloride) is actually far more likely to kill you, at much lower doses and far more quickly than regular old NaCl. It can cause cardiac arrest in surprisingly small doses.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Overlawered. lots of freedom stuff….didn’t see anything about new laws in Arkansas. Guess lawyers aren’t involved in that.Report

              • Avatar dand says:

                great way to change the subject.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Sorry. I’m still against the BG ban. My trust in the piece over at OL is not that high since, as i noted, they are…ummm ….very focused on certain things but not others. They are advocates. Good for them. Advocates are great at pushing their point of view but tend to see their view as the most important and only view.Report

              • Avatar dand says:

                it’s just one man and he’s also posted lots of stuff on overly restrictive intellectual property laws so it’s not like he’s also against large corporations that are overly litigious.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I do believe they will go after salt at some point. It has class implications all over it…

                I’m not entirely sure of this. High-end restaurant food is notoriously salty.

                Of course, if there’s a salt tax, we can always exempt restaurants, to get the appropriate level of odium on the lower classes without splashing any on their betters.Report

              • Avatar aaron david says:

                We would just exempt independent restaurants, chains would be expected to pay the salt tax. In fact, larger chains make so much money, and use so much salt, that they would be required to pay progressively more, to help with “salt justice.”Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                How do you tax the amount of salt served in dishes at restaurants?

                When we talk about something called a salt tax, what is it that we have in mind? I’m having a hard time seeing where it’s taxed by quantity after the point at which it’s sold as “salt” by a company that sells “salt” to other companies or people who want to buy “salt.” But perhaps I’m not thinking creatively/deviously enough.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                the appropriate level of odium

                I see what you did there. But you should have gone with “sprinkling any on their betters” to keep it going.

                (Which would be “a-salt on better-y”).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                How do you tax the amount of salt served in dishes at restaurants?

                I think it would be fairly easy (in theory, not necessarily in practice), if we just followed the guide on boxes of food that lists serving sizes and amounts of sodium, etc., per serving. We’d just have to decide what counted as a serving for restaurants, and any regulatory bureaucracy could create a rule (better or worse, in various cases, but a well-defined rule nonetheless) defining that.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Are you against automobile safety laws, seatbelt laws, etc.? Should we worry about the loss someone feels from not being able to drive without a seatbelt (no loss at all) or should we protect people from themselves in certain circumstances?

                Also, lots of kids are getting the big sodas, too. The government has a legitimate interest in protecting children and, on occasions where there is no real loss to individuals (as in requiring seatbelts, and cars to meet certain safety standards), the government has a legitimate interest in regulating the sale of products that can be dangerous, as too much soda is to large numbers of people.

                IMO, the right to drink large quantities of soda in one cup is analagous to the right to drive without a seatbelt. The cost to overall rights and freedoms is as close to zero as possible and the gain to human welfare and lives saved may (it was an experiment, after all) have been fairly substantial. If good and just government is about balancing human well being with individual rights, and not exclusively and ideologically pursuing one or the other, the large soda ban was entirely just and good government, or at least it could have proven to be so if the experiment had been allowed to proceed.

                Small changes to push people into healthier, safer behavior like the large soda ban or safety belt laws should be tried and if proven to work, replicated. That is how effective, pragmatic government should look.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                IMO, the right to drink large quantities of soda in one cup is analagous to the right to drive without a seatbelt.

                Look for my forthcoming book, Unsafe At Any Size.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                rimshot for GlyphReport

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Perhaps we could just have a certain amount of Birth Control in the junk foods. If people eat or drink past a certain amount… DING! We don’t have to worry about them having children that would inherit these same poor eating habits, or worse, suffer from the abuse of inflicted obesity.

                If we agree that we can’t trust them to make decent food decisions for themselves then it must be fairly easy to admit to having misgivings when it comes to their parenting abilities.

                Parents who don’t wear seatbelts have kids who don’t wear seatbelts, after all.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                if the experiment had been allowed to proceed.

                Am I allowed to have this phrasing creep the ever-living shit out of me?

                Because this phrasing creeps the ever-living shit out of me.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Changing any law or reg, more or less, is an experiment. Life is an experiment.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Seriously, look up “Human Experimentation” in The Google.

                Do you identify with the scientists? If not, do you assume you’re in the control group?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                The only thing i’ll do is not take that phrase in the absolute worst , least charitable manner.

                Do you really think the intent was “let me inject some crap into this concentration camp prisoners eye?”

                And i do recall recent questions, in other threads, from you about whether there is evidence for this policy or that. If you are looking at evidence, you are admitting that a policy is being tried and you are testing hypothesis. What is that typically called?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How important is “consent” when it comes to human experimentation, Greg?

                Remember, we’re talking about “if the experiment had been allowed to proceed” here. Were the people who were being experimented upon people who supported the policy?

                If not… exactly how charitable should I be?

                How’s this: I’m sure that the people who were experimenting on others without their consent were doing so because they were thinking about the greater good.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Again Jay, you are insisting on taking that statement in the absolute least charitable manner. Why not just start calling Nazi or Lysenko or whatever.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The use of the phrase “if the experiment had been allowed to proceed” was *NOT* mine, Greg.

                You can only get *SO* charitable with that phrasing which, might I point out, I said creeped me the hell out… and being told that I should read it more charitably are doing a lot more telling than showing.

                I mean, if we had used the phrase “we need to act like responsible parents”, would it be uncharitable to ask exactly who are the children here?

                If we’re talking about running an experiment, it doesn’t strike me as uncharitable to ask “who are the scientists? who’s in the control group?”

                Seriously, if we’re doing sciency stuff? We shouldn’t get huffy when people ask questions about the degree to which we’re following the method.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Is there really a control group here? Are there shadowy scientists with clip boards? Is there an actual experiment or the turn of a phrase? You are reading a lot into that, but i’ve already said that, and we are going nowhere. I’m going to read a book.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Are you creeped out by the experiment of charter schools. What about experimenting with vouchers?

                You seem like a really smart guy, but a lot of what you say mystifies me.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Do people leap at the chance to get into charter schools? Do they throw elbows in order to get to the front of the line for vouchers?

                Do they enthusiastically *CONSENT*?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                BTW Shaz…taking lead out of gas and paint, and CFC’s out of the air might be better examples.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Some do some don’t. Some vote for and some vote against. If I want to send my school to publci school, but my state is going all in on vouchers, is this bad simply because some people want to keep their right to a public school?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                taking lead out of gas and paint, and CFC’s out of the air might be better examples.

                If we want to conflate self-harm with harm to others. I don’t see the externalities in salt and soda.Report

              • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                should be tried and if proven to work, replicated

                The problem isn’t the willingness to try & replicate, it’s the unwillingness to stop when the efficacy is not demonstrated, because the ideology can not accept the lack of evidence that is supposed to support it.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              As I’ve said before, the notion that the government subsidy of our health care allows them involvement in our consumption choices does not make me enthusiastic about the government subsidizing our health care.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Isn’t that arguing against the weakest and worst logic of Uni HC proponents?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Perhaps, but it’s an argument made by very intelligent people. For many, it seems to provide legitimacy for government involvement in our consumer choices.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                From what I’ve seen & read, it will likely be more corporate “wellness programs.”
                Kind of a weird spin on OSHA, eh?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Keep an eye on Linky Friday one of these weeks.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Oh people make the argument and i wish they did it less. But that certainly isn’t the entire logic behind UHC.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Not even close. It’s an argument against UHC they don’t seem to realize they’re making.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Look at what happens in places with fully subsidized care. Costs go down and quality of care improves.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Then maybe we shouldn’t use the costs of government-subsidized care as a rationale to intervene in our consumption choices?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                No, because healthcare must be subsidized partially or entirely to bring about one set of goods (universal coverage, lower costs in total, preventing lower-income seniors from dying in the street, etc.). And if we pass small-bore laws that push people into healthier behavior that will lower medical costs even more.

                We have to subsidize (and even a system with entirely private insurance and emergency rooms that can’t turn away the dying entails subsidies) to bring about good X. And once we subsidize (which is ethically necessary) we have the right to regulate certain behavior to reduce costs to all individuals.

                No man is an island.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Shaz- Part of the problem with this kind of law is it does almost nothing to affect obesity. If all we had to do was limit garbage cans of soda and obesity would go down dramatically i might say it was worth the cost.

                To really address obesity by limiting what people consume you 1) need people to make better choices on their own and 2) for them to know what those better choices are. Limiting one of the hundreds of crappy things people can eat will do squat. And not even a healthy squat thrust exercise.

                If you want gov to really do this then you need to go whole hog and close down or write the menus for fast food joints, pizza places, quickee marts etc. There is no way this will work without massive intervention. Intervention which WILL infringe on freedom.

                Education is a far better solution along with UHC so people can see a doc or nurse or nutritionist.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                So, then, having the government run our health care system comes at a cost to my freedom, it would seem. I recall someone saying that once. Correct-thinking individuals scoffed at the notion.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                And once we subsidize (which is ethically necessary) we have the right to regulate certain behavior to reduce costs to all individuals.

                No you don’t. You really don’t. If you didn’t know your conception of the good or our place in life, would you choose sux a principle behind a veil of ignorance??Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Will- There are also people who say that SS is a threat to our freedom.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Is SS used as justification for limiting my consumer choices?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Seems to me there are at least two options, each with its problems.

                Option 1: regulate the food with stupid bans filled with loopholes; obvious problems, documented in this post.

                Option 2: Sin tax. Yup, falls heaviest on the economically challenged and the least able to afford the health-care bills they engender; and yes, it creates another government addiction to a revenue source, much of which will be diverted from actual health care and education; but it doesn’t take away people’s choice.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                SS isn’t used to limit your choices. So therefore i’m convinced Gov can have a large role in something, where i would argue its indispensable, without crushing freedoms like so many bunnies.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Zic, on both an ideological and a practical level, I have less of a problem with sin taxes than I do with this. I have a problem with using government-subsidization of health care as a rationale for either. If you want people to drink less sugar because you think it’s unhealthy and not a valid consumption choice, own that as your reason for a tax or ban or whatever.

                I don’t care if meth costs us money when addicts roll up on our ER’s, because I want ER’s to treat people who can’t pay and so it seems wrong to say that they have an obligation not to do something because of something I want the government to do for them. I do care, however, that meth destroys lives. Hence, I want the government to curb its use however feasible.

                That is my particularly high horse for the day.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Gov can have a large role in something, where i would argue its indispensable, without crushing freedoms like so many bunnies.

                I agree. I just take issue with such programs being used to actually curb freedom. UHC doesn’t inherently involve soda bans, but I still find government-subsidized health care being used as a rationale to be problematic. That’s all I’m really arguing here. (That and that this particular effort is dumb even accepting the stated aims.)Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Will, living in society where we pay for the poor, the blind, etc. also comes at a cost to your freedom, i.e. your freedom not to be taxed. The moment that hospitals were required to not turn away the poor, you were no longer free, because now your payments for your illness went to subsidizing the,.

                You are not free to not wear a seat belt and not pay a fine. You are not free (I guess now you are) to buy a lot of soda in one cup. You aren’t free to buy toys from a company that hasn’t been inspected for lead, you aren’t free to not subsidize payments for lead-inspection via taxation, etc., etc.

                However, you are free to live in a society that has a functioning social safety net that will protect you or your loved ones should you fall.

                Good government balances small reductions in individual freedom (particularly in cases where you are limited fom doing something that couldn’t possibly be more than marginally good for you like drinking a lot of soda in one cup instead of two) for overall well-being.

                Any social program that has any costs or regulatory impact will limit some freedoms. That hardly means we should shout Paternalism! at every attempt of government to improve human welfare. Good government balances individual autonomy with human welfare. The soda ban was such an attempt at good government as it restricted freedom in the smallest way and had the chance of making substantial improvements in overall well being.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Shaz, I want hospitals to be required to take care of people who are sick. I don’t believe that my desire for this imparts an obligation on the part of the people I want to see treated.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:


                The argument is that risky behavior liking drinking too much soda, not wearing a seatbelt, smoking cigarettes, etc. has a cost for members of society more generally and so members of society have a legitimate interest in regulating those behaviors, though that interest must be balanced with other interests, most especially respecting individual autonomy, and making sure the social and economic costs of the legislation don’t outweight the gains. The large soda ban had little cost (a few cents of soda and cups, no cost to the drinkers really), limitted freedom (the right to drink lots of soda and not in two cups!) in only the most marginal way, but had a good likelihood of substantial positive impact on well being.

                There was a chance the thing wouldn’t have worked. But that’s an empirical question. And trying had virtually no cost, including to individual autonomy.

                Do you believe that the sole factor that we should consider when determining what policies we should institute is the autonomy of individuals? Or do you believe a just government should balance considerations of autonomy (even while favoring autonomy heavily) with other interests, like lowering accident rates, improving health, preventing disease transmission, improving the overall economy, etc.?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                UHC doesn’t inherently involve soda bans, but I still find government-subsidized health care being used as a rationale to be problematic.

                I dont get why this sort of disconnecting action and reaction is so problematic. 1. We have enormously overpriced health care. 2. drinking large amounts of sugary drinks regularly drives health care costs higher. 3. there’s tremendous pressure to ‘bend the cost curve down’ on health care spending.

                Those things are connected. Saying, ‘you know, maybe we shouldn’t be slurping like that,’ rather it’s through food regulation, changes in AG/food subsidies, tax policy, public education, or some combination seems a natural result.

                So it might limit your freedom. Boo hoo. My Sweetie used to play in smoke-filled bars all the time, and I cannot say it was romantic. Making the smokers take it outside actually worked out okay. I suspect sugar drinks will end up going the way of tobacco; barely tolerated.

                I’m looking forward to some nice alternatives to Coke or Pepsi, even a cold water with a squeeze of lemon, herbal teas, or a variety of fresh-squeezed juices at prices comparable to the house wine.

                You see choice about to be limited in the name of health care. I don’t drink much soda pop at all, and I can’t drink alcohol, the typical other offering in restaurants. Sugar-water beverages have crowded the other options out; they limit my choices now.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:


                No, I don’t think autonomy is the only metric. I think that some laws very much can be justified simply as a public good. I oppose the soda ban mostly because I think it is dumb. I’m iffy on a sugar tax, but I have less of a problem with that. I support the illegality of meth (at least on an ideological level, I could be convinced that it is logistically ineffective).

                What I don’t like is using the fact that the government pays for our health care as an invitation for government intrusion. Said government intrusion should be justified on its own merits. It is creating a freedom-cost to universal health care. It validates the arguments of those who would say that socialized medicine does inhibit freedom.

                If you want socialized health care, it’s not a good idea to use it as a justification to tell us what we can and cannot do.

                (This leaves aside the fact that I feel a lot of it is disingenuous to begin with. When I cite a study suggesting that health care costs would actually go up if everybody stopped smoking, not a single person has actually paused to even consider changing their mind. It’s not about taxpayer costs. It’s about unpleasantness and/or death.)Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Zic, see my response to Shaz. Wanting (a) the government to pay for my health care and (b) using the fact that it does to limit my consumption choices… doesn’t win a friend in me. It makes me more skeptical of government-run medicine.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                What I don’t like is using the fact that the government pays for our health care as an invitation for government intrusion.

                This is not why the discussion of health-care costs should be linked to sugar water. It’s because we all pay for health care; not just the government. I pay for insurance, both my husband and I are in our ’50’s, our health-care insurance is extremely expensive. And one of the reasons it’s expensive is because of the burden of subsidized sugar drinks — subsidized through the farm bill and through disassociating the cost of the product from its repercussions. So we pay for the drinks our diabetic neighbor quaffed a decade ago.

                The government could pay for zero health care, and it would still be a discussion to have because of the multiple layers of cost shifting going on to make that nectar so damned near free and freely available.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Zic, that’s a fair point. It still taps into community risk and the like, and could be better mitigated through risk assessments. That would be harder with soft drinks than tobacco, though.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Sorry Will, you’re a bright guy but this is such a weird argument:

                “What I don’t like is using the fact that the government pays for our health care as an invitation for government intrusion.”

                You are mischaracterizing the issue. We have a moral and practical need to subsidize healthcare, either through Medicare for all, or through indirect subsidies to emergency rooms that have to provide care for those who cannot afford insurance or out of pocket care in a fully private system. We cannot choose to not subsidize healthcare unless we are willing to tolerate horrible and unjust suffering amongst the elderly, the poor, the unemployed, and the physically and mentally disabled.

                Given that we have to subsidize healthcare, there are a series of questions that arise. One of them is

                ” Said government intrusion … is creating a freedom-cost to universal health care. It validates the arguments of those who would say that socialized medicine does inhibit freedom.”

                The “freedom cost” that you are referring to is implicit in any system, even a privatized insurance system, not just universal healthcare. If anything, a fully socialized “Medicare for all” system would get people to see the doctor more often resulting in better health, and such socialized systems are proven to reduce costs while improving or leaving quality of care the same.

                This “freedom cost” is not a cost to socialized healthcare specifically, it is just one of many consequences of the fact that we all have an obligation to each other to provide help in certain circumstances and conversely an obligation to put some level of effort in to not needing that help.

                If you don’t drive with a seatbelt or if you smoke you are more likely to need more costly medical care, so we have a legitimate claim on incentivizing you to do so. Of course, that legitimate interest must be balanced with respecting individual autonomy.

                Finally, everyone is right to point out that the large soda ban was not likely to have a massive effect on health and it was untested. But I hear a whole lot about trying out charter schools, privatized Medicare, and all sorts of other systems on a state or city level to see what works around here. (States and cities are the laboratory of democracy.)

                Moreover, even if the benefit of the soda ban was only a few dozen lives in the aggregate extended or improved, (maybe 10-20 kids whose parents took them to fast food almost daily, which they carried on doing through their 20’s and 30’s) note that the cost was virtually nothing at all: the loss of the ability to drink a lot of soda in one cup. No one would notice this policy after a few months. I guarantee that it would be entirely forgotten. Hell, people don’t even whine about seatbelts anymore and that actually was annoying to do when it first became a bigger thing. In terms of balancing costs and benefits to individual rights and overall well-being the large soda ban was a good policy or at least had a good chance of being a good policy, just like you all think about charter schools or whatever experiment.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:


                Yes. Frombehind the veil a rational person would choose a basic structure that would allow for exactly this sort of policy.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Shaz, it’s very much the notion that government-subsidized health care gives the collective “you” a “claim” on my health care choices that I very much see as an argument against government-subsidized health care. If an employer demands I participate in a wellness program, that’s an argument against taking the job.

                That I drink a lot of soft drinks actuarily means I am likely to cost the system more-than-average money. Tobacco, though, is a different matter. If I cite a New England Journal of Medicine article indicating that my smoking habit will save the system money (I’ll die sooner, racking up less hospital bills in the overall and collecting less Social Security), can I then argue for a rebate? Or will the argument still need to be that I need to pay for my unhealthy activities regardless of whether it saves or costs the system money in the overall?

                My experience, in discussing with people who talk about what my obligations are to the government-subsidized health care system, is that it ultimately doesn’t matter whether I save or cost the system money by doing that disgusting and unhealthy thing that I do. The pertinence is precisely the disgusting and unhealthy nature of my habit. Which is another reason I consider the system-cost argument to be bogus.

                If it’s actually about health, I honestly don’t mind approaching it as such. I just don’t think it’s about the cost. I actually find the possibility that it is about cost to be even more unsettling.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                And once we subsidize (which is ethically necessary) we have the right to regulate certain behavior to reduce costs to all individuals.

                This is why I am not a liberal.

                Changing something from a generic good of some sort into a public service does not turn it into a public good. Nor does it change my obligations. Nor does it change your rights.

                It fundamentally alters the power dynamic, which – if anything – means you have a huge burden on you to justify placing restrictions or obligations on people. Because, you know, you are at the end of a massive power imbalance.

                You want to talk about ethical burdens, if you have an ethical burden that demands you put something in the commons, you’re stuck with the ethical burden of paying the price for that. Not shouldering off the costs on everybody.

                If you want to put something into the commons, you’re obligated to justify restrictions you place on access. Every single one of them.

                Not the other way around.

                If you take insurance out of the private market (where, to be clear, I *totally don’t think it belongs*, because microeconomic basic principles say there are huge problems with insurance in a private market), you have to justify every goddamn thing you do to regulate it.

                You don’t have a “right” to regulate it. You have a responsibility to regulate it. It is in service of the public, not the other way around.

                I am unconvinced that it is in the service of the public to insist that their BMI falls into a particular range.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                once we subsidize (which is ethically necessary) we have the right to regulate certain behavior to reduce costs to all individuals.

                Where do you draw the line on that regulation? Because I’m not seeing that you’re providing any basis for adjudging where the line should be drawn. Certain folks are saying, “that regulation goes too far,” and your response is simply, “no, it doesn’t, we’re subsidizing you, so it’s legitimate.”

                That’s not a standard that allows for any limit on regulation of our behavior, and you can’t persuasively say “we’ll be sensible about it,” because you already have a substantial number of people who think we’ve already crossed that “sensible” line.Report

              • Will,

                Wanting (a) the government to pay for my health care and (b) using the fact that it does to limit my consumption choices… doesn’t win a friend in me. It makes me more skeptical of government-run medicine.

                I understand and share your distaste for the argument that b/c government helps pay for health care, it has the "right" to limit consumption choices. But to me, the argument that the Bloombergers raise seems to be using UHC as more of a rhetorical trope than anything. Other than providing a flimsy rationale to pass a bad law, I don't see UHC really doing much more here.*

                I suppose the soda ban and UHC might come from similar places, from the desire "to do good and in the process limiting choices." That, I admit, is a good reason to be suspicious of the calls for UHC. Although I don't think (and I don't think you were suggesting) that that is by itself a good reason not to have UHC.

                *I might be wrong; I haven't been following the issue, and I haven't read the court decision or the briefs; maybe there is something in the ACA that gives a very strong incentive to local policymakers to pursue such ridiculous measures.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                once we subsidize (which is ethically necessary) we have the right to regulate certain behavior to reduce costs to all individuals.

                Patrick commented that this sentiment is why he’s not a liberal. James H asked where we draw the line. {Harumph.}

                Here’s my two cents. Subsidizing certain people’s needs doesn’t give anyone the right to regulate behaviors which may adversely effect the cost of the subsidy.

                What it does do is introduce an additional and non-trivial consideration wrt maintaining those subsidies. People can disagree about the consequences of any particular policy based on those considerations, of course. But I think denying that government has a stake in limiting unnecessary expenses is generally viewed as a good thing.

                So, the answer James concern about where you draw the line, I’d say that there is no principled way to do that. The line is squiggly and vague, determined on a case by case basis.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Even case by case bases are usually analyzed using some kind of standard or principle. To do it without that is to say that, “yes, perhaps absolute total control would be legitimate; at least I cannot say why it wouldn’t be.”

                I understand your harumph, but I counter it with my own raised eyebrow.Report

              • Avatar clawback says:

                When you introduce a moral hazard it is necessary to take measures to mitigate that hazard. This applies to deposit insurance and fire insurance and, yes, health insurance. You’re not allowed to burn down your house to collect the insurance money regardless of whether you think that restriction violates your sacred freedoms. It’s not a question to be resolved by moralizing about rights and responsibilities; it’s simple economic necessity. Granted, the moral hazard posed by Big Gulps is different from that posed by arson, but the difference is only one of scale.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                The difference is that insurance is a choice. Proponents of UHC seek to make it not-a-choice. This isn’t saying “You can’t burn down your house and collect the insurance you want.” This is saying “Nobody can have a space heater because we are insuring everybody.”

                Of course, in some cases, we’re talking about taxing space heaters. Maybe there is an argument for that. Or rewarding people who don’t get space heaters. But even in its lesser variations it sour me on the idea of universal fire insurance to some degree or another.Report

              • Avatar clawback says:

                Not interested in one more tiresome debate about universal health insurance, just pointing out that if you have it it’s necessary to mitigate the resulting moral hazard. Certainly I agree that taxes or incentives are a far better way to handle problems like space heaters or sugar water; but sometimes outright bans are necessary, as in the case of arson.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                This is one of those things that I wish more than just crazy concern trolls had mentioned *BEFORE* we passed Obamacare.

                “We, as a society, have a responsibility to provide health insurance for everybody. BUT THAT MEANS THAT YOU FATTIES WILL HAVE TO START MAKING SOME SERIOUS CHANGES!!!”

                Perhaps we might have had a different debate entirely.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Laws against arson can be justified on their own merits. Whether you’re insured or not, really. The “collecting insurance” thing is (if you lie about having committed arson) a matter of fraud or (if you tell them the truth) something you can’t collect on regardless of whether arson is legal or not.

                If a law against something can be justified on its own merits, then go right ahead. I think a lot of the tobacco laws and taxes can. Arguably, maybe a soda tax can as well. But justify it on that basis and own it. I’d much prefer that than assigning an obligation on my part because of something you think the government should do for me.Report

              • Avatar clawback says:

                The “collecting insurance” thing is … (if you tell them the truth) something you can’t collect on regardless of whether arson is legal or not.

                Right. Insurance contracts have such clauses to mitigate moral hazard. Even if there’s no fraud involved the hazard still exists.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Which brings us back to the fact that insurance is voluntary and a contract. Except when the government does it, then it’s the law. All an insurance company does is refuse to honor the claim. The government does something else.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Which brings us back to the fact that insurance is voluntary and a contract.

                Which also brings us back to whether we, as a society(!!), want to provide healthcare for the poor or not.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                … and then seek for me to change my lifestyle due to your generosity.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                we, as a society(!!), want

                You said that just to hurt me, didn’t you? 😉Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Will, if you could design a system in which people could reject taking the “generosity” while they’re healthy so’s not to deal with whatever uncomfortable burdens might arise, and they’d also reject the generosity when so that we – as a society! – let them die, then have at it.

                Personally, I think you’re confused on what individual rationality really means. People who are dying want to live, and if they’re poor that means that other people pay their way. And other people, for the most part, think they should be taken care of.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It’s not the rationale for UHC that stumbles me. It’s using this thing that is for me as a justification to control me.

                If I were to accuse liberals of doing this – using financial support as a justification of behavioral control – it would honestly feel unfair. And yet, here we are. Talking about how I need to change my life because society has chosen to take care of me if I get sick. The obligation I have incurred.

                As TPG said:

                If it weren’t for the evidence before my eyes in this very thread I would swear that anyone making the argument was a conservative being a giant concern troll.


              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Will, it’s not a liberal, or conservative, issue. It’s a fact of the matter. The costs to government of individual decisions are in this case are specific and verifiable. You can say that government ought not have a role to play on curtailing those costs, of course. But the fact is that government – ie., taxpayers – are bears the burden of that cost. There’s nothing moral about that fact. It’s just descriptive. THe decisions we make in light of that fact are normative. But it sounds to me like you’re just complaining that government actually has an incentive to reduce the total cost of healthcare in relatively benign ways. Ways that to you amount to controlling your behavior.

                If everyone agrees to bear the burden of increased healthcare costs (ones that actually negatively effect the individuals quality of like, mind) then that’s the democratic solution given that society (!!) is already paying for – via taxes or insurance premiums – the increased costs.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                It’s not liberal to note that some behavior results in higherhealth care costs in the aaggregate than others. It is, apparently, liberal to use the safety net as a justification to restrict personal behavior. Which conservatives and libertarians have long said: the safety net comes at the cost of personal freedom and the government taking care of us gives justifies more government control over us.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Will, I think you’re confusing a bunch of types of arguments here. One is that simply receiving subsidies entitles government to dictate individual behavior. Another is a moral argument that justifies certain types of actions independent of subsidies or the people who receive them. A third is that government has a legitimate role to play in curtailing the costs subsidies given that those subsidies are both the law as well as being accepted as the morally (and maybe even pragmatically) right thing to do.

                I’m not sure which particular argument you’re accusing liberals of holding. Or to what extent your criticism is an ndictment of liberals generally or as a group specifically.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                Still, I should not have spoken of “liberals” generally. Though this conversation has reminded me of the distance between myself and liberalism, different liberals are making different arguments here and I should have acknowledged that.

                The distinctions you make I see as being differences of degree and not kind. To say that economic support justifies interference in my consumer decisions on the basis of their cost to the government initiatives you support because these initiatives give the government a “stake” in my health is a sweeping statement whether you intend for it to be one or not. That you would personally only advocate using it in a limited manner doesn’t change the alarming scope of the rationale. It’s ultimate meaning is that the government is justified in a lot due to the stake it has in my health.

                But mostly, it vindicated some of my deepest concerns about allowing the government into my economic life in even the most seemingly benign ways (like health care).Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Just want to say that all of this is not a function of being a proponent of a new UHC program, or Obamacare. These cost issues are entirely as much in play wrt to Medicare. We should be addressing each other on this topic not as theoretical-UHC-program supporters or not-thats, but as people who live in a country where a system in which these cost problems issues are very much in play is enacted, fully functional, and strongly entrenched. People aren’t advancing these ideas to help control costs in order to allow for a broad, UHC system to come into existence; they’re advancing them to help us deal with what we have – even what we had before Obamacare.

                Obviously, one’s position can be that these kinds of measures are something that makes you want to scale back the extent of a program like Medicare (which is the program where a large fraction of these accumulated costs eventually end up). But you should acknowledge that such resistance implicates your own position on these existing programs, and what you think should be done to address their costs if you think they should continue – not just advocacy for new programs that it’s suggested people are doing.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                Michael, it does indeed go back further than current proposals and recent law, but every step further that the government hasastake in my health, thth more of an obligation I have incurred to minimize their costs. Bloomsburg liked to cite the Medicaid costs of obesity. How much more would that figure be if we had single payer?

                The liberals’ saving grace here is that I think the given rationale is full of crap, and since I don’t buy it I don’t feel as uncomfortable supportung government involvement in health care as I would if I took the argument more seriously.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But mostly, it vindicated some of my deepest concerns about allowing the government into my economic life in even the most seemingly benign ways (like health care).

                Dude, the government is all over your economic life, mostly in ways that you approve of.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But you should acknowledge that such resistance implicates your own position on these existing programs

                Agreed. That’s an important point, I think.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                And so what aspect of my life does it not have a stake in?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Not to get all microeconomicy, but I do think that there are four major factors to consider when we talk about government intervention.

                One, to what extent is the thing a pure public good. Is it non-rivalrous? Is it non-excludable? Is it non-congestible? If there are externalities, are they positive ones or negative ones?

                Not that the government *only* has business getting involved in public goods, but the types of market failures that are common are generally matched with certain properties of certain types of goods, and this actually (IMO) provides guidance about what sorts of interventions are likely to work in the first place.

                Two, to what extent are we correcting a power imbalance vs. moving a power imbalance from one place to another? If there’s a power imbalance, or information asymmetry, correcting that is unlikely to present justice problems. Hey, you still want to smoke, go ahead. But suppressing data about how dangerous smoking actually is ain’t kosher, and it’s fine for the government to get involved when the information asymmetry is decidedly imbalanced.

                But if we’re moving a power imbalance from one place to another, who are the newly disadvantaged, and is it okay for us to do that? Poor people may be highly dependent on their welfare check (and this dependency may be time-sensitive). Is denying them that check because you’ve got a queue for drug testing okay (no). Is denying them that check because they suddenly came up as “possible illegal immigrant” okay (no). Leveraging power against people who are already at a power imbalance is very often terrible policy. The burden should be on the government to show you no longer qualify for welfare, not on the recipient to prove that they are.

                I’d write a whole post about this, but I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in ten days. Maybe at some point, soon.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:


                I just want it to be acknowledged that this is a problem in programs that we’ve had for decades just as it is/would be in new programs. It’s fair for you to say that it’s reason for you to resist further expansion of public health care provision, but it’s also fair for me to ask how you justify rejecting these mechanisms to manage costs if the only programs on the table were Medicare and Medicaid.

                But that’s neither here nor there if your position is that measures like this simply are not justified by the need to control costs in such programs, period. That does still raise the question of where you stand on these programs, and what your position on cost control is, however. I take you to support having Medicare and Medicaid in place. Please correct me if I am wrong. If I am correct about that, then it seems to me that your position is that it’s legitimate (and righteous) to be for a significant degree of socialization of health costs thru the government, but to oppose taxation on behaviors that increase the costs those programs have to cover meant both to disincentivize those behaviors, and to defray some part of those additional costs. I don’t think there’s anything obciously wrong about not supporting those cost control measures, but I also don’t see why that justification has no purchase for you at all, i.e. why you don’t feel such arguments at least justify those kinds of taxes to you at the level of “I don’t prefer this cost control measure, but as I want these programs in place and accept the need to control costs in them, I understand and accept the logic of it, and accept the responsibility to offer alternative cost control proposals, (and maybe mitigate the outrage with which I respond to the proposals I don’t prefer, given the givens stated and the necessity to presume good faith in others.” (Again, if any of the stipulations in that don’t apply, please speak up – that’s exactly what I’m asking after.)

                In other words, I understand your opposition to these kinds of taxes completely, Will, but, unless I am wrong about where you stand on programs like Medicare and Medicaid, I don’t really get your outrage about these particular proposals. Proponents of social health costs systems have a responsibility to address costs, or in any case shouldn’t be seen as nefarious by other such supporters when they advance ideas to help do so. If that makes you reassess your support for such programs, that’s completely fair, but that’s really on you. I don’t see where you’ve shown that these kinds of proposals to address costs are so unjustified given a shared support for socializing a significant portion of health costs in society, that it’s on the people who propose them that the mere proposals outrage you and cause you to reassess your support the programs. That’s just where you’re at with these issues. Which is not to say you need to support these proposals. Another place you could stand is, “You know, I don’t much like that idea. Here are some ideas for controlling costs that I prefer.” I don’t know where you’ve shown that the degree of righteous outrage with which you respond to these ideas is justified.

                And I’m not really clear what cost control measures you prefer, nor why you preference for those over these is so righteously correct as to justify outrage and denunciation of the justification for these other ones as bullshit. Because it seems to me you need to articulate those alternative cost control proposals you prefer, or else you’re left supporting publicly provided health care support (until/unless you don’t…) while righteously rejecting cost-control proposals offered in good faith by others who simply thought they agreed with you that some degree of public provision is desirable, and assumed you would agree that if costs are ballooning, then it would probably be appropriate to conceive of and propose some cost mitigation measures.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …Sorry, ‘full of crap’ was what you said, not ‘bullshit.’Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Michael, it’s not really the proposals I object to, it’s the rationale for the proposals. And the rationale for some proposals (bans) is worse than for other proposals (externality taxation).

                Leaving aside the disingenuousness (which is, in a way, its saving grace) I see in the argument, it touches a nerve because it suggests that government-subsidized health care gives the government a vested interest in my private behavior. That’s intensely personal to me. I actually object far less to actual nanny-statism than I do this notion that government health care incurs obligations on my part to minimize the cost. Everything I do, from having sex to eating to smoking to driving a sports car, can be scrutinized on the basis of what I owe everybody else for chipping in for my health care. Not that I think liberals actually want to go there, but it’s all laid out in the rationale, as far as I am concerned.

                I do support the existence of Medicare. I do not support using Medicare as a justification for elbowing us to do certain things or not do certain things. Or at least I am very wary of doing that. The use of it for those ends sours me on the project. Not to the point that I don’t support it anymore, but to the point that I would look less favorably on expansion of government health care than I otherwise would. If, that is, I took the rationale more seriously than I do.

                I oppose Bloomberg’s ban because it’s stupid. If it wasn’t stupid, and if it would actually accomplished the aims it set out to, I might actually support it. But it’s stupid and it’s unjustifiable.

                I oppose using Medicaid as an argument for the Bloomberg ban, though, for the reasons listed above. It undermines my support for programs that I want to believe in.

                More generally, if some intrusion cannot be justified on the merits of public health, and we have to rely on arguments about taxation, I take that as an indication that we shouldn’t do it. So justify it on the merits of public health. I’m not a libertarian. I’m open to it. I am just far less open to hear about my obligation to the system due to my unhealthy habits.

                I mean hey, I’m a smoker. Statistically I’ll probably save you money. You’re welcome.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                As far as cost controls go, I am pretty pessimistic. But I support IPAB. I think we do need to take a closer look at what we are paying for and how much good it actually does. I do support using a dour prognosis on someone who made poor lifestyle choices against them when it comes to heroic measures around the time of death and especially transplants and the like. If their liver is shot because they drank too much, or their lungs are dying because of smoking too much, I’m not sure how worthy it is to spend significant resources trying to elongate their lives. They made their choices. I view this as different from limiting the size of pitchers that can be served, or forcing canned meats to reduce sodium, or preventing a family from sharing an XL drink at a sports game.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I can’t really continue right now, but I have to say that even if I could, I’m not sure I’d be inclined to when I have to try to figure out what help-yourself statements like, “leaving side the disingenuousness…” refer to. I honestly don’t know what/who you’re talking about. It seems to me that the people who say these taxes would be good policy are trying to tell you as directly as they can why they think that’s the case. I genuinely don’t know what you’re referring to here.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …But I’ll say this much.

                As to this,

                it suggests that government-subsidized health care gives the government a vested interest in my private behavior

                I don’t know exactly what work “vested” does there, but as to an interest, I don’t know what to tell you. It does give government that interest. You can think whatever you want about what the government can legitimately do wrt that interest, according to whatever reasons you think are right – that’s exactly what I’m trying to get you to speak to. You can even say that you don’t regard the interest as legitimate, whether or not it’s there. But it gives it the interest. That’s just a fact. If you’re for any significant degree of near-universal government-subsidized health care (and Medicare counts as that – a lot), then you actually are for government having that interest, at least in a world where it’s become clear that a person’s behavior has a significant effect on his health.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …And on the measures that you’re resisting, you’re still fixating on ones you know you’re against (bans, production regulations), and avoiding addressing the ones I’ve been asking about for a day now – light to moderate taxes (i.e. the only kind that will pass) on behaviors known to impose significant extra costs on health systems.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                @Will Truman
                different liberals are making different arguments here

                Indeed, and yet they criticize libertarians for not all being on the same page! Motes and logs, folks, motes and logs.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:


                I speak of bans because that’s the thing that spawned this discussion. I missed where you said you specifically wanted to talk about light taxes. I don’t like the rationale for light taxes, either, though with the light taxes it’s easier to justify other ways. Namely, you tax what you don’t want people to do. Since things that cost the health care system money are typically things that aren’t good anyway, it doesn’t raise my hackles as much.

                But again, I don’t like the justification of “Hey, what you’re doing is costing us money!” as though it’s my obligation to keep costs low.

                First because I believe it is often being used disingenuously. Sorry if I was cryptic there (I had a paragraph, but removed it for length). When I have challenged somebody on the notion that “smoking costs the government money” by pointing out that it doesn’t, I have never once had someone respond “Oh, then I guess we should leave it alone.” They simply move on to the next reason. Which is fine insofar as there are plenty of reasons. But I rarely feel that it is actually about the money, and that it’s usually about other things but using money makes it sound sensible.

                Second because, (I’ll keep this short because it’s mostly what I’ve been saying) while the government may have an interest in the technical sense, that shouldn’t in my view give it a stake to act on. It’s the difference between my being interested in Microsoft because I use their products and their actions affect me, and my having an interest in Microsoft and getting to vote on its board.

                Lastly, it’s been my experience that the leaders of “tax it” movements really do want people to stop doing it. If it were simply a matter of capturing externalities, I might be less agitated (though that would have problems on a more logistical level).Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Not interested in one more tiresome debate about universal health insurance, just pointing out that if you have it it’s necessary to mitigate the resulting moral hazard.

                Likewise, if you have social insurance, it’s necessary to mitigate moral hazard. Laws against having children if you don’t have enough income to support them, for example. Maybe laws against quitting your job if you don’t have a certain level of savings, too.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “As I’ve said before, the notion that the government subsidy of our health care allows them involvement in our consumption choices does not make me enthusiastic about the government subsidizing our health care.”

                In very few words, you make a really great point here. The kind that makes me go, “Hmmmm….”Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                It’s possible to have both, but it takes a mature understanding of what an externality is.

                To declare that x imposes an externality on y is to declare that x has violated the rights of y. This was the central point Coase made in The Problem of Social Cost, even if just about no one picks up on it – externalities can only exists in a framework of rights.

                This is what’s so disturbing about the proposition “your actions are costing the government money, so you must pay”. It amounts to saying “Your body is the property of the State, and if you don’t use it responsibly you owe us compensation”.

                If healthier choices would save the government money, the proper approach would be to subsidise those choices. Since it only makes sense to apply the subsidy if it saves money on net, the subsidy wouldn’t cost anything and it still aligns public and private interests. But the implication is very different, now it’s saying “Hey, it’s your body and all, but we’d really appreciate it if you tried drinking more water.”

                We can un-slip this slope if we put our minds to it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


                Thank you, sir.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                The claim is not so much about owing government. Rather, the claim is this: Your actions are costing other individuals in society whom are paying to help you, thereby making it harder to help others, therefore you have a moral obligation to act so as to need less of that help, amd the state will sometimes write that obligation into law when doing so is possible without draconian violations of individual autonomy.

                We live in a world of mutual obligations to help each other and to not misuse that help. Unless you are a hardcore, Nozick-style libertarian who thinks that the only factor we should look at when deciding what is good and just policy is to ensure that we don’t violate individual rights.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t see the difference between your first sentence and the rest of that first paragraph.

                I agree we live in a world of mutual obligations. I agree we have obligations not to misuse that help.

                I think “draconian violation of individual liberty” is hauling all the weight in your argument, though.

                Is it a draconian violation of individual liberty to prevent people from doing… what?

                What constitutes draconian?

                At what point do I get to say, “This behavior, generally, is correlated with enough risk of expense that we cannot allow you do do this thing?”

                Seems to me that “race car driver” would be off the list well before “drinking a Big Gulp”.Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                So first some people come along to help you. And then having helped you they now say you have an obligation to them. That’s not help any more, giving someone something unsolicited and then demanding consideration in return is a dick move no matter who you are.

                And what are the limits on your logic? Can the government justify restricting or banning anything that adversely affects your help? How about sex between men, since that has a higher disease risk than sex between a man and a woman?

                I get that society is a good thing, but the term for a society that accepts no private sphere is totalitarianism. I don’t want to live the life of a “rugged individualist”, but I really don’t want to live in a society that acts like it owns me. The purpose of a society is to benefit individuals, not the other way around.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Interestingly, Shazbot wants to enforce regulations commanding people’s good behavior. JamesK wants to offer people subsidies to encourage that good behavior.

                Oddly, the person emphasizing “morality” is the one who wants to simply command behavior, rather than encourage it. I think that is, for me, sufficient condemnation of the role of moral thinking in these types of policy debates.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                the claim is this: Your actions are costing other individuals in society whom are paying to help you, thereby making it harder to help others, therefore you have a moral obligation to act so as to need less of that help

                I keep coming back to this, because it bothers me. One the one hand we’re told we must have a publicly funded health care system because so many people can’t afford their own costs, and that funding must be more than a bare minimum. And then we’re told that we’re not supposed to impose our costs on others, at least not beyond a bare minimum. Give as much as others need, but minimize your own need.

                It sounds like there are moral obligations going in two directions here. We have a moral obligation to fund other people’s health care, but also a moral obligation to minimize our demands on others’ funding of our health care.

                These are not contradictory, but they are disturbing, in the sense that there is no escape from such a neat system of dual obligations imposed upon the individual by others. Where is individuality in such a system? Is the individual ultimately an autonomous actor in any way, or just a unit in a system, to be moved around at the will of the operator?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                They get to act like children, we get to act like parents!

                It’s a mutually beneficial relationship!Report

              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

                I have no patience for the argument that publicly subsidized healthcare justifes law trying to shove people into healthier life-styles.

                If it weren’t for the evidence before my eyes in this very thread I would swear that anyone making the argument was a conservative being a giant concern troll.

                1) just stop it with things like soda size bans
                2) if you support people without massive piles of cash getting good healthcare without losing their houses and going bankrupt, never tolerate the argument ‘He shouldn’t be allowed to do that thing that drives up healthcare costs’
                3) if we really must engage in a legislative solution can we try changing our agricultural subsidies so that we stop funneling 1.2 billion into junk food antecedents before telling people they can’t buy a big gulp? Let’s try some government inaction.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                I do have to say that I’d like to see what the “soda bans are necessary” group thinks about the idea of mandatory drug tests for welfare recipients.Report

              • James Hanley,

                Shazbot wants to enforce regulations commanding people’s good behavior. JamesK wants to offer people subsidies to encourage that good behavior.

                Oddly, the person emphasizing “morality” is the one who wants to simply command behavior, rather than encourage it. I think that is, for me, sufficient condemnation of the role of moral thinking in these types of policy debates.

                Yes, but the “let’s subsidize good behavior” is also a command, although it works indirectly, by,f or example, taking money from taxpayers and allocating it to those who meet the government standards, or perhaps by granting special tax exemptions to businesses. I’d prefer the subsidy route over the command-thy-neighbor route, but they are not completely unrelated.

                Also, I share your discomfort with the “you have a moral obligation to do x, therefore the state ought to have the power to compel you to do x.” I don’t like that reasoning, either, even if I indulge in it sometimes. But I don’t see how we can fully get away from moralism. Moralism informs the “let’s subsidize good choices” route, and it also informs the “first do no harm” principle that appears to be your preferred approach. (And it’s not a bad approach, either.)

                Of course, I realize there’s a difference between the facile moralism you and James K and others are critiquing, and the type of moralism I’m accusing you (in fact, everybody, in the reductionistic way I do things) of engaging in. I just have a hard time parsing it outReport

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                If healthier choices would save the government money, the proper approach would be to subsidise those choices.

                If in a given instance a healthier choice is to not buy and consume product X, then by your lights is taxing buying the product then a proper instantiation of this proper subsidy? And is it still proper if the state’s interest in the health of its citizens is made more pressing because of a decision it has made to bear/support some part of their health-care costs? Or, in other words, is it indeed proper, or, more to the point, improper, for the state to take on part of the burden of the citizenry’s heath-care costs, thus creating a fiscal incentive to promote heathy choices that lower those costs? Or is the creation of that incentive a reason that it is improper?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                First sentence a quote of James K, of course.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Food isn’t just fuel, is part of the problem.

                I’m not sure that a healthy life is always better than an unhealthy one. I’m pretty sure you’d find a long list of really quite excellent people who would argue that their unhealthy life was unspeakably more enjoyable than the healthy alternative being offered to them.

                To the point where you can’t even perform a utility calculus.

                The tradeoffs have no meaning. Five more minutes, or two more years, of a life not smoking and not drinking and not eating red meat and not enjoying wine with friends and riding a horse with the wind in your hair and parachuting off of a cliff… those are tradeoffs some people not only wouldn’t make… they’d regard it as positively onerous if you forced them into it.

                A prison.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I guess I don’t see a problem here. There’s some point at which I think a democratic argument for government support for health care sort fo takes over. Every relatively wealthy country makes this choice, and it’s massively popular pretty much everywhere. You can say that the preference to ride horses without a helmet (was that the implication of the problem with that activity?) is a reason that the tide of this opinion should be bucked, but you’re not going to win the argument. Some part of those costs are going to be socialized. You fall off and sustain massive brain trauma, become a semi-functioning adult, eventually you hit your insurance policy’s maximum payout limit for long-term care (if you had any such coverage), and your net worth is consumed, as well as that of the people who love you most. At that point, the cost of your care is almost certainly to be borne by the state. It;s just not a choice we’re ever likely to finally reject.

                So what is the necessary ask as a result? We act like it’s banning sizes of soda, or legally requiring riding with helmets (which, to be fair, yes we do do that in some cases), but of course it isn’t. There’s a public cost to these behaviors, the extent being the only question – how much of health costs do we make public; all that’s necessary is that people who want to take actions that increase the costs they impose on the public system pay something to offset that cost. The real risk of personal tragic experience continues to be borne by them. I’m not hurt all that much by the few dollars I pay to help treat the guy who only eats red meat his whole life and then gets bypass surgery aid for by Medicare. it just might be a good idea to tax the behavior. That’s why I asked james the question about *taxation*.

                I won’t say it’s a straw man to talk about bans, about experiences being now not available to people when we have such a dumb example of a ban right before us. People in government do dumb things. But here the question was about *taxing* costly behaviors to defray the resulting public costs (or: to promote health behavior for its own sake – not mandate, but promote it). So when it;s laid out that explicitly, I wish you wouldn’t suggest that the proposal is to make the experiences unavailable to people who are willing to help pay for the costs they create. If your point i that any dollar of tax that’s added to the cost of doing these things as a result of having some degree of public sharing of health-care costs is a tragedy that should be morally avoided, great, say that. You’re not for public health care programs, because they cause people like me to think that it might be a good idea to tax red meat a bit or riding a horse with no hemet.

                But in response to a question exactly on that point – is it proper for such taxes to be raised by states that have instituted public health cost sharing to some degree or other, please don’t suggest that the issue is that people then can;t choose those behaviors – that they’re being “forced” to trade them for a bit more life. No, they’re just being asked to help pay for some of the additional costs they impose on a system that most of their fellow citizens want to have in place to help assure that they’ll have the care they need when health care tends to get really expensive. At least, that’s all I was asking about here.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                My primary issue is that so many of these laws are aimed at particular subsets of our society, which tell me they are more about social control than appropriately accounting for externalities.

                Why ban large sodas but not BASE jumping, sky diving, bungee jumping, obstacle runs, skiing/snowboarding, and steaks? All of the latter carry inherent health risks and costs, yet I never see them mentioned in such conversations. Do you think it purely coincidental that their exists massive demographic differences between the groups that indulge in that which we seek to ban and the groups that indulge in that which we don’t?

                Why was Starbucks exempted? And alcohol? Couldn’t risk upsetting the middle- and upper-class white folks… oh no…Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Those are good questions, Kazzy. but I sort of really wish you were directing them to a different part of the thread, as the whole point of my question on taxation is to move beyond “If you ban large sodas then why not…” questions. That’s a completely fair question for these comments generally (of course, I’m guessing BASE jumping is already illegal in NYC), but James made a point of saying that subsidizing healthy choices is appropriate (under some set of assumptions?), and my question is really just whether taxing less healthy decisions is a legitimate way to carry out that subsidy (as well as whether James actually thinks that the kinds of programs that give the state an acute fiscal interest in the health of citizens are “appropriate” on the same set of assumptions, or on some other set of assumptions that he thinks are good ones to make.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I don’t want to get into whether they’re “appropriate” in and of themselves, but I am willing to say that if we assume the appropriateness of government intervention in such matters, using carrots to change people’s behaviors seems to me almost indisputably more appropriate than using sticks.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                That’s a valid opinion, James H. I’d be more likely to be persuaded to agree with it if there was an argument attached, but it’s still valid.

                Of course, you’re not the James who offered up the idea that such subsidies are appropriate in the first place. So I’m still quite interested in what James K. thinks about whether a tax is a legitimate way to carry out the subsidization he talks about.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I guess also… “more appropriate”? Are you saying that a less-than-maximally appropriate measure can still be sufficiently appropriate so as not to be inappropriate, i.e. wrong? Because that’s all the assent for these kinds of ideas I’m really interested in gaining from you guys, unless you can interest me in your first-choice options.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I guess also… “more appropriate”?
                It’s not to say the use of a stick is never appropriate, just that when we can achieve the same results without use of the stick, we’ve done something more….noble? elegant? moral/ethical?

                Are you saying that a less-than-maximally appropriate measure can still be sufficiently appropriate so as not to be inappropriate, i.e. wrong?
                Oh, sure, it’s not a binary variable at all, in my mind. There are very very few true binary variables in the universe, imo.

                Because that’s all the assent for these kinds of ideas I’m really interested in gaining from you guys, unless you can interest me in your first-choice options.
                Oh, I’m only agreed on the idea that such things are, sometimes, in some places, under some circumstances, appropriate. I’m not committing myself on the specific policy proposal of subsidizing the avoidance of drinking big gulps. 😉Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Err… okay.

                I’ll just say it’s gonna write out a lot of the kinds of choices we can promote if those promotions can only take the form of a check in the mail or credit for an affirmative act rather than including the possibility of avoiding the inverse of those (with comparable magnitudes) by choosing not to take some act. When you have a broad policy objective that you’ve agreed on as legitimate, in my view that kind of consideration pretty quickly becomes material to determining what means are appropriate for pursuing it. I.e., if a subsidy is more appropriate but the inverse of a subsidy is less but still somewhat appropriate, and excluding the use of that inverse eliminates a huge part of the set of of measures that could be taken to pursue what we thought was an agreed-upon objective, then I think that will just get a group of people back the the question of whether they really agree about the objective. (Which we may not.)

                In any case, it’s either sufficiently appropriate for you to be okay with it, or it isn’t.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Means are not justified by their ends. So we can view ends as legitimate, but see some means of achieving those ends as illegitimate without contradicting ourselves. If that leaves no legitimate means to achieving an end, that’s just tough shit, and neither appealing to the end nor suggesting the opposition to means means we’re actually opposed to the end is a logically defensible position. Or if the unavoidable outcome is only partial accomplishment of our legitimate end, I’m comfortable with that.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                I was replying to broader ideas in this subthread, not necessarily your comment. Sorry if it seemed non-sequitur.

                To your question, to me, subsidies and taxes are simply different sides of the same coin. You’re ultimately charging one person more for engaging in a particular action or behavior. I’m skeptical of such approaches because the government has a poor track record of identifying that which is good for us.

                On this particular issue, the government long-advocated making carbs the primary staple of our diet… which directly contributed to the rise of childhood obesity.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Certainly, James. But these are related means (as Kazzy says, different sides of the same coin on one way of looking at it), about which you’ve only said that one is “more appropriate” than the other, and won’t even say that the less appropriate one is inappropriate or insufficiently appropriate for you to accept it for this purpose. So in that context, if we said we agreed on an end, and we agreed that the more appropriate means was appropriate, and you wouldn’t even say that you think that the less appropriate one was in fact inappropriate, but you were still unwilling to embrace its use, and excluding its use precluded the majority of what could be done to achieve the end, I’d be back at wondering if we agreed on the end. (Which in this case is just an assumption for the argument in any case, so it’s no wonder I’m left wondering that in your case.)

                But of course, where this started was with me asking the other James whether he does actually think this end is potentially appropriate, and then whether this means (though in my view it’s an instantiation of the means he said is appropriate) is appropriate. I’d invite you to give your actual view on that, too, if you want to.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Kazzy –

                I shouldn’t be so particular about what questions the threading implies a comment is addressing. My issue was that literally the entire rest of the section was where exactly what you raised was being raised, while this one maximally-indented thread was the one place I’d been clear I was trying to carve aside to specifically talk about the question of *taxation and not bans on conduct* as means for addressing the cost burden that unhealthy behavior places on socialized health cost systems, once they’r ein place.

                But still, shouldn’t be such a stickler for threading.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Heh… and I saw a thread marginally related to what I wanted to talk about it, ignored the indenting and said, “This looks like a good spot!”

                To the point at hand, part of my objection to such practices is that immediately invalidate any conversations about “rights”. Imposing a penalty of one kind or another on behavior because of the externalities it creates, externalities that exist solely or primarily because they are exercising a “right” (in this case, the right to health care), it ceases to be a true right, no?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                For my view, see my response to you down below. For JamesK’s view, we’ll probably have to wait for morning in New Zealand.Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                If in a given instance a healthier choice is to not buy and consume product X, then by your lights is taxing buying the product then a proper instantiation of this proper subsidy?

                The marginal incentives are the same, but for once I’m not talking about what’s happening on the margin. This is an issue of whether the government can impose an obligation on you because of a service it provides you. I thought the government was suppose dot be there to help?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Isn’t it a question of whom it places the obligation on, once you’ve granted that the service will be in place?

                I.e., will those who cost the system more through elective actions of their own pay a bit more for doing so at the time when they take those actions, or will that additional cost (obligation) to pay for the care they are eventually guaranteed be fully incurred according to whatever the tax scheme is absent those adjustments? If you assume the health cost socialization (the degree thereof not really mattering much as a theoretical matter, though obviously if you;re willing to accept a morally flawed result because of the necessity of some socialization, you won’t be willing to accept any more of that result than is necessary) and the behavior, then the obligation to pay the increased cost relating to the behavior will be incurred by someone. Why shouldn’t at least some of that be borne by the person who chooses the behavior?

                Now, this can obviously be a reason to oppose any socialization of health costs. And that’s what I’m asking.Report

              • “the notion that the government subsidy of our health care allows them involvement in our consumption choices does not make me enthusiastic about the government subsidizing our health care.”

                I don’t know exactly how Bloomberg justified the ban, but maintaining public health has long been assumed to be one of the prerogatives of local government. Of course, there’s a danger in citing “tradition” when justifying policy (because at least here, there’s no obvious stopping point), but my point is that bans of sugary foods can fit in that tradition without invoking state subsidy of health care.

                As a second point, the local governments usually subsidize health care in many ways, both pre-ACA and post-ACA (and pre-New Deal and post-New Deal).

                Now, it seems your point is that some people (e.g., Bloomberg) believe their claim is stronger because the state subsidizes health care. I guess that’s a legitimate beef tofu. But I think the better critique is to argue the wrongness of his policy and not jump from there to government subsidized health care. (You didn’t mention the ACA specifically, but I see it as implied in the criticism. I don’t think your concern is entirely wrong, but I think it’s a separate argument.)Report

              • p.s. Sorry, this will have to be a driveby comment. I gotta go to work.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                maintaining public health has long been assumed to be one of the prerogatives of local government.

                That’s a very good point. I think the response is that there seems to be a big difference between the older meaning of that (creating a sewer system and picking up garbage regularly) and the newer meaning.Report

              • James,

                You have a point. But what I meant was, that for a very long time, the local-level government (or at least some of them, I know it was true of Cook County (Ill.) as early as the 1880s) did subsidize health care, such as hospitals for the poor, and not just sewage conduits and slaughterhouses, etc. (I won’t comment on whether they were good hospitals.)

                My broader point is that the “oomph” that comes from “the state ought to do it because the state bears some of the health care costs” is not appreciably increased by post 2010 health care reforms, and doing away with those reforms–however good a thing doing away with them might be (I want to keep them, but I see the counterarguments)–won’t lessen that “oomph” all that much. We’d have to roll back precedent a lot further. Again, I realize that “tradition” and “precedent” ought not be a carte blanche for justifying anything.

                Now, I admit there might be a margin here. And the more robust the government subsidy, the greater the likelihood a moralizing, power-hungry politician will appeal to the fact of government subsidy when justifying stupid policies. But I think the margin is a very thin one.

                The principal exception would be if, for example, the actual subsidy sets out a mechanism whereby local governments are empowered or given a strong incentive to enact stupid, Bloombergian laws. But I’m assuming that such is not the case.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I agree with your conclusion Pierre. I’d go a bit further than you do, tho. You’re argument – which is a good one, I think – is that evidence from a single bad policy ostensibly justified by government subsidization of health care should be viewed as a bad policy rather than reflect poorly on government subsidization more generally. Those two things ought to be kept distinct, it seems to me.

                The addition I’d make to your argument here a two-parter. The first is that government doesn’t subsidize healthcare, individual tax-payers do. So insofar as certain individuals incur additional but preventable costs born by someone else, the bearers of that cost aren’t government, but individuals with the ability to pay (taxpayers). How those people feel about a taking on their property is relevant here, it seems to me, for all the standard reasons.

                The second part is that if someone claims that the only reason we have an institutionalized taking from individuals to fund healthcare for the poor is because of government, then we’re back to discussing one of two options as a remedy. Either deny that we – as a society! – have an obligation to provide for the healthcare of the poor (kick em to the curb, so to speak), or to honor that social commitment thru generous – but voluntary! – donations to private charities. Neither of those options seems to have much support.Report

              • Stillwater,

                Thanks for your comment. I think you understand my argument pretty well. My only caveat is that if policy A (e.g., health care subsidies) strongly encourages bad policy B by a clearly identifiable mechanism, then it might be important to revisit policy A.

                I think I see your first pointsa little differently. The taxpayers do subsidize health care, but the vector is government, and saying government subsidizes anything is, for the most part, to say that taxpayers subsidize it. (There may be alternative sources of revenue, but I assume they don’t add up to much.)

                For your second point, I do think that “we as a society” owe poorer people our assistance. That probably is why I still identify as a liberal. However, libertarians do have a point when they point out that presuming obligations to abstractions like “society” and “the poor” can do a lot of damage when it comes to empowering others to act in the name of “society” or for the ostensible benefit of “the poor.” (That’s just a comment about something I’m working out for myself. I sometimes fall back too readily on “society” to justify certain things.)Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Ultimately, I think it’s crummy to fake generosity in wanting to take care of people, then using the fact that your taking care of them to impose an obligation onto them. Government, taxpayers, I don’t care. It leads to a general mistrust on my part.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Like getting a bill in the mail from The Good Samaritan?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Ultimately, I think it’s crummy to fake generosity in wanting to take care of people, then using the fact that your taking care of them to impose an obligation onto them.

                I don’t want to reduce things to simplistic terms here, but you’re argument is a criticism of moral justifications for imposing obligations on the poor, justifications which piggyback – and this is you’re criticism, I take it – off the extension of certain benefits. The argument I made upthread didn’t have any moral dimensions to it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Sorry, even that’s not quite right. Your argument seems to be against the imposition of a particular conception of morality on people who receive public subsidies. Some people make the moral argument, but there are others.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Still, I took your argument to lend (moral? I hadn’t thought of that word, but I maybe) justification on the part of the taxpayers to use agreed-upon subsidies to justify obligations on the part of the recipient. If that’s not the case, then it’s all good. If it is the case, well, I’ve said my piece I think.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Just saw this, sorry it took so long.

                Still, I took your argument to lend (moral? I hadn’t thought of that word, but I maybe) justification on the part of the taxpayers to use agreed-upon subsidies to justify obligations on the part of the recipient.

                No, that’s not the argument. It’s not agreed upon subsidies that justifies the action, but agreed upon costs. That’s an important distinction.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Costs that exist because of the subsidy. So I get the distinction you see, though from where I sit they are a part of the same.Report

              • Avatar dand says:

                The second part is that if someone claims that the only reason we have an institutionalized taking from individuals to fund healthcare for the poor is because of government, then we’re back to discussing one of two options as a remedy. Either deny that we – as a society! – have an obligation to provide for the healthcare of the poor (kick em to the curb, so to speak), or to honor that social commitment thru generous – but voluntary! – donations to private charities. Neither of those options seems to have much support.

                there are other ways to do that without moral hazard. namely create a negative income tax large enough so that everyone can buy insurance on the open market.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Pierre, it actually wasn’t meant as a potshot against PPACA. It was meant more generally. Using government assistance as a basis to limit consumer choices makes me more suspicious of government assistance more generally. Which is what Bloomberg was doing. Which I find a lot of people who support single-payer do. That’s really the only point I was making.Report

              • Thanks, Will, I do think I jumped very quickly from your critiques (which I agree with a lot, just not completely) to a critique against the ACA.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        The calorie listing is the kind of public health measure I support. It provides the information and then lets people make up their own minds.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I agree. I think calorie listings are great. They have a positive effect on my consumption habits. Yet, oddly, research suggests they don’t actually do any good.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            I suspect that the changes that we see at our level are minor.

            These sorts of behavioral changes (hey, that’s an awful lot of calories in that Big Mac) take a generation or two to work their way into default behavior. It took a while for cigarettes to become unpopular.

            Because… well, just because you have new information doesn’t mean that you’re going to revisit your norms. Just because you choose not to eat that Big Mac right now doesn’t mean that you’re not going to eat something else high cal tomorrow. Because we’re already engrained in a high-cal diet.

            That’s not something that you change overnight. Or even, probably, in our own lifespans.

            But the next generation, they grow up with the information available from formative years. What that means, hell, we won’t even know until we see what 40 year olds look like in 20 years.

            I’ll guess that they look a lot different from 40 year olds, today.Report

        • I like calorie listing, but it comes at the cost of increasing businesses’ expenses, especially those smaller businesses who don’t have the resources to analyze the calorie counts of their foods. (Or, if “small businesses” are exempt, then there’ll be at least some businesses on the margin who find their expenses increased.)

          I generally don’t like advocating for small businesses, as I’ve noted on other threads. And I actually support requiring the listing of calorie counts. I’m just saying they come at a cost.Report

  4. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    A friend of mine described this as “Hat on a Stick” legislation, which I find rather appropriate (despite Bloomberg’s stated rationale).

    I just can not fathom how\why the voters of NYC have tolerated this joker this long.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    The right decision. Give that the law was clearly targeted at a specific segment of the city (i.e., Starbucks drinks were exempted because they had milk in them…. or some bullshit), it had more to do with control than health… as most laws do.Report

    • Avatar Dhex says:

      Starbucks was just gonna ignore the law. 7/11 was exempt. And booze too.Report

    • Avatar Michelle says:

      I agree that it was a good decision, although I think Bloomberg did have some concerns about health but this was not the way to address them. Requiring a display of calorie count and ingredients would likely be more effective if the concern was health, as long as the law applied equally to Starbucks and McDonald’s. Placing an additional tax on sugar-laden drinks might also work.

      I’m never quite sure what the Big Gulp ban was designed to accomplish anyway, since you could easily bypass it by purchasing enough smaller-sized beverages to equal the larger one. It was a dumb law all the way around and I doubt many judges would uphold it.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        I feel as though I should’ve asked Jeremy Robbins about this when I saw him over the weekend.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I’m never quite sure what the Big Gulp ban was designed to accomplish anyway,

        There is a term for it. Signifier or something. A puritan nation expressing its disapproval for unseemly actions.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          Something like a blue law for soft drinks?Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          The nation spoke through Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, that day?Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            This particular manifestation of the impulse was not widely popular. The impulse, though, is what it is.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              It may have been that impulse (though I think it’s complicated to say whether Michael Bloomberg’s attitudes should be described as Puritan). And the nation may have that impulse. But this was not the nation expressing that impulse. It was at most a expressing that impulse, though it clearly wasn’t that either. It was more like one guy and his closest allies expressing it.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I agree that this was not the nation expressing the impulse. The nation has the impulse. This was an expression of that impulse. Agreed, not an expression by the entire nation.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        “I’m never quite sure what the Big Gulp ban was designed to accomplish anyway”
        Huh…it was aimed at giant buckets of sugar water which are one of the many things that contribute to obesity. It was pretty darn straight forward. Was it well designed, sensible, not filled with stupid loopholes and a good way to try to deal with the problem. No.No.No and No but obesity was the target.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          it was aimed at giant buckets of sugar water…obesity was the target.

          And here we see the downside of NYC gun control laws as well. All that aiming and targeting, and they couldn’t even hit the broad side of a 7-11 customer.

          +1 on the OP pic.
          +2 on the right Hon. TinglingReport

        • Avatar Michelle says:

          Huh…it was aimed at giant buckets of sugar water which are one of the many things that contribute to obesity. It was pretty darn straight forward.

          And the work around is pretty darned straightforward as well. Just buy more of the smaller sizes. Or buy a liter of the stuff at your local grocery store. I still think a surtax on soda would be a better approach.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Yeah it was a stupidly designed law. It wouldn’t’ even do what its trying to do.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            I’m not saying it’s a good or a smart law, but what it’s aimed at is the incentive to buy a trash-can sized soda for a small enough surcharge over a normal-sized one to make it look like a good deal. And unlike a liter at the grocery store, it’s not resealable, so to avoid wasting it, you have to drink it all now. It’s like a perfect storm of what seems like sensible behavior leading directly to adult-onset diabetes. Of course it doesn’t stop people drowning themselves in sugar water, but it reduces the incentives to do so and makes it less convenient — thus it lessens the behavior.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              I don’t drink soda, but personally, I’d pay more for, say, a smaller chocolate bar. Because I know I’m going to end up eating whatever I buy.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            Just buy more of the smaller sizes.

            The price isn’t linear. You get much more soda per dollar with the larger sizes. It’s also harder to carry multiple cups. A ban on large sodas likely would indeed result in people drinking less. Especially poor people. They need to be protected from job offers and cheap food, because they’re not smart like us.Report

            • Avatar Michelle says:

              Since when is soda food?

              While consumption might decrease somewhat, I doubt it would be enough to justify the ban or make a dent in obesity. How many people actually buy and drink 32 ounces of soda at once, even if it’s cheaper?

              My preference is for a sin tax similar to those imposed on cigarettes and alcohol and education. Granted, a sin tax will hit the poor harder but given the social costs of obesity, I think it can be justified.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              The McDonalds franchises in this area have gone to $1 for the soft drink, no matter the size (the other fast food changes have not followed that lead). In some of them, whether you ask for a small or a large, they just hand you the largest plastic “cup” they’ve got (closer to a small bucket). They look at me strangely when I hand it back to them and ask for the small cup instead.Report

  6. Avatar North says:

    It was never going to be a consequential law and it clearly overstretched so good riddance.Report

  7. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Just returned from a run to Rouse’s, where I just picked up a few two litre bottles of Diet Pepsi. While strolling the aisle, I observed Diet Pepsi sold in five different sizes.

    Bloomberg is a bright guy, too smart by half, perhaps. What was he thinking? I always thought this was a stupid law: if he was serious about obesity or some other perceived threat to public health bubbling in the stew of his mind — why not just raise the taxes on junk food? Why attempt to ban a particular serving size? He should know better: this is a guy who runs a city and a market news service. Such a law could never have stood up to scrutiny.

    The only part that surprises me in all this is how long it took for a judge to strike this down.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      The part that surprises me is that is was struck down for being “arbitrary and capricious.”
      If they keep overturning laws on that basis, we should be down to about half of the current lot by next year or so.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        in public health, like italian cooking, you gotta throw pasta at the wall to see what sticks.

        at least until pasta is banned but you get my meaning.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        It was arbitrary and capricious. What’s wrong with this man? I went to the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, they eat something there called fried cheese curds. It would never have occurred to me in a million years to throw perfectly good cheese in a deep fryer. My girlfriend loves ’em. They’re not bad — but jeebus.

        It’s not hard to see how this came about. Bloomberg ostentatiously rides the subway, sees some slob with a gigantorous Squishee drink and a spring came loose in his gear works. Nothing would do but what he’d never have to set eyes another of these brobdingnagian beverages aboard his subway,

        It stayeth the young man’s courting
        It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth
        between the young bride and her bridegroom
        They have brought Squishee Drinks for Eleusis
        Corpses are set to banquet
        at behest of Kwik-ee-Mart.

        -an abuse of a bit of Ezra PoundReport

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Ohhh! This explains much. A Do-Gooder, aaaand a doctor, a hellish combo. Why does that scene from The Road to Wellville come to mind, with Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Broderick?

            Dr. K: “I prescribe 15 gallons of yogurt.”

            Will: “15 gallons?! I can’t eat 15 gallons of yogurt!”

            Dr. K: “Ohhhhh, you’re not gonna get it in that end, Mr. Lightbody . ..”Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            The phrase MYOFB doesn’t seem to be part of Farley’s vocabulary. From the article:

            “When I see someone who’s 45 years old with obesity and diabetes and hypertension taking five pills a day and struggling to walk around because of their arthritis from their obesity, that doesn’t seem like a lot of fun to me.”

            No, when you put it that way, it doesn’t seem like a lot of fun. But has Farley bothered to ask that 45 year old what matters most to them?Report

            • Avatar dhex says:

              in his defense, kinda, public health as an endeavor is a necessarily macro view. kinda like how people think economists are cold hearted because they don’t see the puppies that have to be sold in order to buy suzie new shoes just so your ipad costs 20 bucks less, etc etc and so forth – their whole thing is a bird’s eye view of ants.

              he’s a bit of a tone deaf robot but contra mr. drew in this thread i consider the bloombergian current a kind of governmental avant garde; an artistic laboratory for the molding of the human future. monseiur billionaire jerkwad is indeed sui generis among american mayors, but no one involved in the process is going to really decline governmental oversight and power, even if only in an attempt to plug the gap at the city hospital end with more and more desperate measures.

              i’ve been telling wee ones an MPH is a good degree path investment for those interested in the public sector. it’s not like we’re going to see less government involvement in healthcare anytime soon, anyway.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          I didn’t know the Northern Wisconsin State Fair was a thing. That’s awesome. It makes me slightly concerned about there being separatists movements I’m completely unaware of. But it sounds great nonetheless.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Dude. The county fair is a staple for any rural area.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            My g/f, (from Eau Claire) says Northern Wisconsin is seceding from Milwaukee. There’s also a Central Wisconsin State Fair. Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              That’s what it sounded like to me from the inclusion of the word “State.” In any case, obviously I’m well aware of these tensions in the state. Just interesting to see this manifestation of them.

              I live right down the street from the Minnesota State Fairgounds in St. Paul. I don’t get the same sense of alienation from the Big City from people from other parts of Minnesota as I do from the people of north and central Wisconsin toeard Milwaukee & especially Madison. Maybe I haven’t been here long enough to encounter it. But it seems like people pretty much take it for granted that the State Fair should be in the Cities here.

              Of course, the State Fair is a completely different animal up here. It’s a really signal event that captures people’s imagination every year for whatever reason. Never had that sense about Wisconsin’s.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Maybe it’s time to let Northern Wisconsin and the U.P. join together to form their own state.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                My impression is that most of the UP would be happy to pair with Puerto Rico for statehood, so long as it removes them a bit more from the mitten.
                Of course, the big area of disagreement there would be the yoopers insistence on hunter orange & camo being the colors for the state flag.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I know that area of Minneapolis pretty well, coming up Snelling to Como. The big Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis is sorta the same sort of animal.

                The regional state fairs are wonderful, though. Here are a few images I made. The last is Fried Cheese Curds.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                You got it. I live three blocks off of Snelling.

                But culturally, and also in terms of the acreage and size and extent of the permanent structures that have been built on the fairgrounds, the two don’t really compare in my experience. (Except inasmuch as you can pretty much get whatever you want deep fried and/or on a stick). I never heard anyone talk about the State Fair in southern Wisconsin the way I hear people up here, who have plenty to do on any given August Saturday, talk about the State Fair. It’s, like, A Thing. Kind of a weird thing, tbh.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Great photos, btw. I’d love to get up there sometime.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I love the smell of county and state fairs.Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

          “It’s not hard to see how this came about. Bloomberg ostentatiously rides the subway, sees some slob with a gigantorous Squishee drink and a spring came loose in his gear works. ”

          I do have to say, repeated comments about “buckets of sugar water” and “garbage cans of soda” do leave me wondering whether this is as much about health as we’re told it is.Report

  8. Avatar NewDealer says:

    While the science behind the soda ban is sound, this is the right decision for liberty. Sometimes civil liberty is anti-policy and anti-technocrat, it involves allowing people to make their own decisions for good or bad even for very silly things.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      The science behind the soda ban is less sound than its proponents argue. Yes, it’s true that large serving sizes contributes to obesity. However, the ban overlooks calorie substitution and the extent to which loopholes undermine it. Liberty aside, I really don’t think it would have worked.Report

      • There is something else that makes the science less than sound: the science behind the ban is premised on the effects of larger serving sizes when someone is only offered one size. It does not take into account the fact that in virtually all instances where this ban would be relevant, people already have choices as to which size they would like to order.

        Point being that the “science” behind the ban at most supports requiring restaurants to offer at least one drink size below 16 ounces. It does not have anything to do with prohibiting options over 16 ounces.Report

  9. Avatar greginak says:

    So how is that NY trans fat ban going?
    Do people have the same reservations about banning them? Its not like people go out for a cup of transfats. (well maybe in the South where they deep fry them..i kid..i kid) I’m for banning TFat’s but against the BucketSodaBan.
    Compare and contrast.Report

  10. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    And no one has yet offered praise for my ninja-like Photoshop abilities…Report

  11. Avatar Chris says:

    Hey, at least NYC still has disposable plastic bags in stores!Report

  12. Avatar Citizen says:

    Thanks for this Burt, I find Milton A. Tingling is as much a story as the ban itself.Report

  13. Avatar Damon says:

    I was going to post this in the sub thread between Will and Michael but I think it fits here as well. Notwithstanding Bloomberg’s “unique-ness”, the idea that nanny statism isn’t spreading is bogus. Recently in my county, we had a PR event with the local commissioner. He brought in a buch of white sand to represent all the sugar the school kids are eating and is / did get a law passed removing a lot of this stuff from the schools and other places.

    My governor is also on the band wagon with Bloomberg and NY state’s anti gun regs and is working to pass similar legislation. I could go on and on.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      1. Not at all claiming that it’s bogus that it’s spreading. The issue is just how we see this particular initiative of Bloomberg’s in his city – as further evidence of that or not.

      2. Kids are the people for whom nannies are actually appropriate. The reason the nanny state ought to be objectionable to the extent that it is is that it applies paternalistic controls on responsible adults.

      3. If everyone here who’s against the creeping nanny state wants to jump on the train you’re on in whose relativistic frame gun control laws constitute part of the creeping nanny state, that could get pretty interesting pretty fast around here, if anyone would still have the energy for that after the 1Q/’13 we’ve had around here, which I think I would not.Report

    • I’m fully on the side of both Jameses and the others who have serious problems with the War on Sugar, and agree that it is nanny-statism at its worst. I also couldn’t agree more with ThatPirateGuy’s points that were it not being advocated in this very thread by HCR supporters this type of thing would otherwise be dismissed as concern trolling by HCR opponents.

      However, I can’t agree that trying to get sugar out of the schools is nanny-statism. At the very least, it’s no more nanny-statism than any other type of dietary decision made by the schools. The fact is that, once we’ve decided that schools will provide food options at all, they have a limited number of options they can offer their students. The only question is which set of options they should provide. The push to get unhealthy foods out of school cafeterias is nothing more than a decision that, regardless of whether government has a role in discouraging unhealthy diet choices (and I think it absolutely does not have such a role), it surely should not be actively encouraging unhealthy diet choices.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I have a question in to both Jameses on whether & what & why they’re actually against in the War on Sugar. It’s easy to be against bans, but what about taxes? One of them (James K.) says it’s appropriate under some circumstances to subsidize healthy choices (when it saves the government money). To me, this clearly raises the question of why a tax is inappropriate when a choice to do something is unhealthy, if we indeed accept this premise (and I’m not sure who does or doesn’t, even the person who enunciated it). The other James hasn’t really been clear on that point either. In the past, you’ve said it such taxes might be appropriate is we assume socialized health costs, but you’re not willing to assume them, at least as an ethical matter. But as a practical matter, we can</i assume them, to some degree. So where does that leave us?

        Anyway, the point is, as long as bans are on the table, it's easy to say you're against the War on Sugar, when that's what it consists of. Would a soda tax even be part of the War on Sugar? I assume so. So we should try to continue to work out what exactly is on the table wrt to measures like this (whether they're part of a War or not), because socialized health costs are part of our reality now (and that's got not really all that much to do with Obamacare; that fact predated that system). And as of right now, it actually seems like there's more disagreement among the folks you mention as the Anti-Sugar Warriors (or Sugar Anti-Warriors? yes, that's more right) once we get past the fact that the the stupid proposal that we can all agree is stupid that embodies this War is in fact not really going anywhere, and these questions about incentive-based policies are much more what we're actually going to face on these issues going forward.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          …And yes, I know the response will be, “Get rid of corn subsidies!” I don’t know what to say to that. I’m not against it, so if that’s just where you guys want the discussion to sit, then that’s where it’ll sit. It just seems to me that it’s possible that if that were done, there would still be health behavior issues that any degree of socialized health costs will eventually create pressures to treat with incentive policies.

          So I guess I’m just saying, first, is it the case then that that’s a sufficient reason for you (each) to be against all such systems? Meaning, we ultimately shouldn’t have Medicare because of the creation of those incentives for the government to address cost issues in that way? And then, assuming that a Medicare-like degree of socialization of health costs is going to continue and that those kinds of pressures remain in place even after agricultural subsidies are addressed, where does that leave you on this kind of measure (whether subsidy or tax, or if there’s a different answer for each, then for each)?Report

          • Avatar James K says:

            I don’t think it’s necessary to do away with government-subsidised healthcare.

            We just need to accept that there is a private sphere, within which individual rights matter more then government interests (note that government interests and the public interest aren’t quite the same thing). Yes that means your healthcare programme will cost slightly more than it would otherwise, but that’s the price of living in a free society. Plus, I doubt the healthcare cost is particularly large, people who die younger save the government a lot of money in social security, I believe smokers are actually a net windfall to the taxpayer for this reason.

            What I will say is that when people start talking about how we have to stop such and such because of how much money it costs the taxpayer do I start to get a bit leery of this type of programme. That argument is basically a declaration of war against anyone who is even semi-libertarian, and my hostility to it shouldn’t be surprising.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Wait. Isn’t the whole libertarian program that we should end some (or most) government programs precisely because they have too high a cost?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Isn’t the whole libertarian program that we should end some (or most) government programs precisely because they have too high a cost?

                That’s one of the justifications used, sometimes, sure.

                But let’s say that a government gay marriage ban, or a marijuana ban, or an abortion ban was free (perhaps only the cost of the sessions required to pass the law in the first place).

                Libertarians would still have a lot of grounds upon which to stand while they whined about the government overstepping its boundaries.

                It’s just that a lot of people don’t believe that the government should have boundaries and so the argument that the government is overstepping them sounds like the grownups in Charlie Brown. So we talk about something costing millions when it’s not worth millions. That’s a concept that can be grasped by more people more immediately.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                precisely because they have too high a cost?

                Adding to Jaybird’s comment, I think this is not comprehensive enough of the libertarian approach unless we use a very broad definition of cost, so that we can say the cost in terms of (negative) liberty is too high to bear. But, in line with JB’s comment, that’s a claim/standard that doesn’t carry as much weight with liberals as with libertarians, because of the type of liberty (negative) it focuses on. Some simply don’t get it as a meaningful constraint on liberty, others (the clear majority) get it but counter it with another value, whether positive liberty or equality, or communitarianism, etc., that carries more weight with them, but less with libertarians.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Adding on to the add on…

                I would say that even if negative liberty had no value in and of itself whatsoever, that it would still be valuable as a technique or a means.

                Meaning that it is logically possible that someone could place zero value on liberty as an end, and still place massive value on it as a means. To put it in perspective, one can both hate math, and view math as one of the most important breakthroughs ever of the human mind, that is essential to modern welfare of humanity.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              We weren’t talking about stopping things. You talked about subsidies, and then I asked about taxation. The idea behind taxing certain unhealthy behaviors in a society that chooses to socialize a significant part of heath costs through the government is not to stop those behaviors – not even remotely. It’s merely to discourage them it a little bit while not taking away the freedom to accept their costs and do them, and 2) to defray a portion of the costs to the public health system that, if you agree we want it in place, then we agree we want in place.

              I guess you have to decide what all of these things mean vis-a-vis your convictions about the prerogative of the private sphere. It doesn’t sound to me like you have that quite figured out, even in an ad hoc way, set aside in a consistent, principled way. (I.e. why does your conviction about the impact of these kinds of taxes on the private sphere tell you to resist them, while your convictions about the private sphere don’t tell you that it’s necessary to do away with government-subsidised healthcare? Maybe that’s clear to you, but you haven’t made it clear to me.)Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                The difference is that one involves micromanaging people’s behaviour and the other does not. I can accept government programmes funded through a broad tax base, because the impact on people’s ability to do what they want is pretty mild unless taxes have to be ramped up really high. Sure they lose income, but a broad-based tax doesn’t distort people’s behaviour much, and that’s the important thing.

                But to tax soft drinks is to imply an externality, which is to imply the drinker has violated someone’s rights or damaged their property. Since the only thing being damaged is the drinker’s own body, that implies the drinker’s body belongs to the government. I hope you can see why I have a problem with that.Report

        • I’ve got definite problems with a sugar tax as well, though obviously less than with bans. But I don’t see how sugar taxes should even be on the table as long as we have sugar subsidies. In other words, we’re already all getting taxed so that we produce more sugar and keep the cost of sugar down. Now we’re going to get taxed so that we consume less of the thing that we’re already getting taxed to make more of? How does this make sense?

          In all honesty, one of my problems – which James H alludes to above with his carrot/stick point – is that there seems to be something in American culture that is unwilling to countenance the idea of someone else having fun while receiving any kind of government benefits (even in groups among whom the provision of the government benefits themselves is widely accepted). Drug test requirements for welfare recipients are broadly popular, and policies rendering someone ineligible for welfare benefits if they are a drug user are even more popular. Now advocates of PPACA and/or government healthcare programs are the biggest advocates of government regulation of dietary habits (even if only through sin taxes), using those programs as justification.

          While diet overall is a big issue in health outcomes, sugar specifically is only a small part of that issue, and it seems pretty clear that the far greater effect on health outcomes is from the fact that we tend to live increasingly sedentary lifestyles. The far greater benefit to health outcomes would be to subsidize things like gym memberships or running club memberships and the like (an easy, albeit minor, way to do this would be to simply remove existing subsidies of unhealthy products and replace them with means-tested tax credits for fitness memberships). But this isn’t even something that is proposed – the puritanical streak in Americans is too strong, so we automatically reach for the stick of a minimally effective but highly regressive sin tax.Report

          • Just to add to that last paragraph – diet is only really an issue because we don’t exercise enough. I’m Exhibit A1 of that, actually – a few years ago, I largely stopped drinking soda, and promptly lost 8-10 pounds. My diet is on the whole healthier than it had been at the time (not intentionally- it’s just sort of worked out that way). Yet I’ve gained all of that weight back plus an additional 10 pounds. Why? Because I don’t exercise nearly enough.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            It wouldn’t make sense. It would be a kludge. Obviously, if I could snap my fingers, first I’d want to end or phase out corn subsidies. But it may be that the political system won’t allow for that but would allow for keeping the subsidies and instituting a tax on the thing that the subsidies artificially lower the price of. I know that at some point it’s absurd to ask a libertarian to countenance that situation in order to rescue socializing health costs. That’s totally fair. I’m not so much trying to engage a real policy discussion here as to clarify the principle ordering, spurred by James K.’s suggestion that behavior-modifying subsidies could be appropriate. If you don’t want to engage in a more idealized discussion along those lines, I completely understand, but that’s what I’m asking about.

            Obviously, I know the real-world answer for you guys is, Get rid of the corn subsidies, and then come back and talk to me. That’s fair. But I also don’t really think I can do that, so when I’m actually ready to engage the issue as I find it in the world for real, what I’ll actually probably do is just move along and talk to other people who I can work with to actually implement policy instead. In the meantime, we can either talk about my questions about idealized principles given certain assumptions and conditions, or not.Report

            • Part of what I’m getting at here is that it’s really odd that sugar taxes are viewed as more politically feasible on the whole than eliminating sugar and corn subsidies. Indeed, I suspect you’re right about that.

              But what makes that so odd is that it can’t be explained simply by saying “the sugar lobby is a powerful enemy.” Surely, the agricultural industry is no less opposed to sugar taxes than they are to the elimination of sugar subsidies. To me, the explanation is the puritanical impulse to which I refer to above. I view that impulse as extremely dangerous indeed.

              You pointed out above that countries with socialized health care are generally happier with their systems than we are with ours and I don’t disagree with that assessment. But I am also not at all certain that those countries have the puritanical impulse that we seem to have here.

              This is somewhat disconnected, I suppose, but ultimately it seems like the budding pro-sugar tax coalition lacks a justification for the sugar tax beyond “this is where the action is, no matter how ineffective and non-sensical it is,” all while ignoring that they’re the very reason that the action is there.Report

              • Avatar gregiank says:

                I think people are less aware of subsidies for one thing. Also a tax is directly aimed at doing whatever while it is less clear that removing a subsidy will do the same thing.

                Making the argument that Americans can’t be trusted to have UniHC because we are uniquely screwed up is a more reasonable argument than many that are proposed against UHC.Report

              • One more thing while I’m rolling here…. if sugar taxes are adopted by a good number of localities, without any meaningful focus on sugar subsidies, etc., what will happen to sugar subsidies? Answer: the agricultural industry will make sure that they are increased (we’re struggling and need more help!), at least partially offsetting the already minimal gains from the sugar tax.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                A sugar tax could be designed to be impermeable to subsidies on the production side similar to minimum price per unit of alcohol taxes, for instance.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Surely, the agricultural industry is no less opposed to sugar taxes than they are to the elimination of sugar subsidies.

                I guess I’m not that sure of that. I don’t really know.Report

              • Think about it this way – in order for a tax to offset the harmful effects of the subsidy, it has to reduce sales by more than the subsidy increases production. In other words, it needs to take as much money out of the industry’s pockets as the subsidy puts into the industry’s pockets. The industry must thus of necessity be just as opposed to taxes on sugar as they are in favor of subsidies.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                They might perceive them differently and accept the hit more readily in one case than in the other. I.e., they might think that whatever special status they have on the American landscape is under attack if the direct subsidy looks to be withdrawn, while accepting that the country would have a legitimate interest in addressing resulting (or maybe not even in their mind resulting) overconpsumption of their product (though they might not even view sodapop as “their” product) via a tax.

                “The industry,” after all, is not just the shadowy, cynical lobbyists in Washington (who probably do think as you describe), but it’s also the farmers themselves, who to some extent I think buy into that kind of romantic self-conception as a justification for the subsidies they receive, or perhaps even the reverse (i.e. buy into the subsidy as a continuing societal acknowledgment of their special status, even as they perceive that status to be dwindling over time due to factors that could be as much cultural as they are economic).Report

              • Perhaps, but nowadays the lobbyists aren’t getting paid directly by the farmers themselves, but instead by the Monsantos and large agribusinesses of the world.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                True, but it’s also not clear that the lobbyists and agribusinesses are all of the reason that the subsidies persist.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …large agribusiness, that is.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                ” it’s also the farmers themselves, who to some extent I think buy into that kind of romantic self-conception as a justification for the subsidies they receive.”

                I think it goes even deeper. The farmers and agribusiness investors are now primarily INCUMBENTS. They bought into business based upon the existence of subsidies which were reflected in the stock prices, commodity prices or land prices. If we eliminated them, they would be harmed, through zero fault of their own. They entered into the business fairly based upon existing subsidies, and would be unfairly hurt by their removal. The same situation exists for those of us that bought houses with a mortgage subsidy.

                I say this not to argue for subsidies, but actually as a warning of how destructive they become once implemented. We can argue that rent seekers are wrong, but later entrants into the market are not even wrong. Incumbents can become victims, and thus are justified in fighting against the elimination of something which was once wrong.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                They bought into business based upon the existence of subsidies which were reflected in the stock prices, commodity prices or land prices. If we eliminated them, they would be harmed, through zero fault of their own.

                This is an astounding thing. Same argument could be used to defend just about every single dime our government spends. Someone, somewhere, has a business that benefits from that spending.

                Interestingly, I presume this ‘not their fault’ philosophy only applies to business ventures, not individuals who might benefit from a government entitlement program.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Except it ISN’T an argument for. It is an argument against, and as you suggest, it can be used against many government “entitlements.”

                I also thought about including an example of government worker pensions. Some of us see them as exploitative, but this doesn’t mean those getting the pensions did anything wrong. Indeed, they planned their lives around the existence of these pensions, and would now be unfairly harmed by their elimination.

                And to repeat, this is part of my argument AGAINST monopolistic pension setting, not for it. It creates a chain of events which will end badly for all.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …Also, it needn’t be the case that a soda tax completely offsets the price effect of corn subsidies, either as a matter of politics or even policy efficacy. The industry might well have anticipated this public sentiment already, and have concluded that the profit effects of soda taxes are likely to be less than of subsidy discontinuance. As a result, they may have a position of benign indifference to soda taxes as a means to delaying/preventing the subsidy conversation. And it doesn’t follow from that that there’s no health efficacy to just taking them up on that indifference, even if the policy benefits to actually eliminating the subsidies are far greater.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            I do think that things like subsidizing gym memberships has been proposed. And I really can’t speak to the relative importance of choices like drinking too much soda versus not exercising enough in health outcomes. Nor can I speak to the relative effectiveness of subsidies versus taxes on influencing behavior. But I kind of question the idea that the impulse to tax is ultimately about the Puritan tradition. I think it’s more about a sense that in order to influence behavior, you have to address what people do choose to do that harm their overall health in addition to addressing things they don’t choose to do that would improve it. I understand and appreciate why subsidizing healthy behavior is more attractive than taxing unhealthy behavior. But that preference doesn’t mean we can count on the issue of whether taxes on unhealthy behavior are appropriate won’t ever be legitimately on the table. But there are enough other measure that you legitimately want to be embraced first that I’ll accept that preference rather than continue to push for an final expression of how you address the appropriateness of of taxes like that.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          In descending order of how problematic I perceive them to be:

          Leaving people to make their own (non-externality creating) choices without interference by the state

          I’ll give an example of taxes I support: tobacco taxes. I don’t support them because they’re a sin tax, or even because of the cost people with heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer impose on our health care systems. I support them because research shows that people who start smoking in their teens, before the brain is fully developed, are dramatically more likely to become physically addicted to nicotine, and higher prices on cigarettes are a particularly effective deterrent to teens. Here we have a) a physical addiction that even adults with great determination can have a hard time breaking, b) a sub-adult population that cannot be assumed to necessarily be competent to know their best interests, c) a policy response that creates incentives rather than being purely command-and-control, and d) no ready substitute that fundamentally undermines the purpose of the policy.

          I emphasize that case for two purposes. One, to show that I am not in fact anti-every single conceivable instance of nanny-statism. Two, to show that the specific details of each case are what matter to me before I’m willing to say whether I’m on board with it or not, rather than making generalizations about supporting a particular approach or taking a stance on a specific policy before I have learned the relevant details.

          What are the details on sugar, how does it compare to tobacco?
          1. Is there physical addiction (or perhaps even mental addiction, if there really is such a thing–I honestly don’t know–and it is similarly hard to break)?
          2. Is the sub-adult population particularly subject to becoming addicted, in a way that they can’t break as an adult?
          3. OK, we’re talking about an incentive-based approach, not a straight ban (and I’m not sure a subsidy approach could be effectively implemented).
          4. Are there ready substitutes that would undermine the purpose of the policy? (Yes, unless we’re broadening it to an “all sweeteners” policy, it seems to me. Currently, with the artificially high cost of sugar, thanks to tariffs, we substitute a lot of corn syrup–is that actually less bad than sugar? Hell, it is sugar.)Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            I erred in saying I had asked you about sugar taxes. I had really just said you could give your view about James’ formulation – that subsidies are appropriate where the government could save money (by reducing socialized health costs) by offering them, and then about my question about whether that means that taxes also would be appropriate. Appropriate/inappropriate as a binary question, that is, not simply preferable or less so. But I also didn’t insist that you give that view; I just invited you to. Just want to be clear I wasn’t somehow insisting you have a position on that absent enough specifics. I was just offering you the opportunity to answer the generalized questions I was asking James K. if you wanted to, since you’d chosen to become involved in the discussion at the level of generality that it had when you did.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Oh, I’m definitely not going to go into binary mode. 😉Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Depending on whether the set of factors you say leads to your support for cigarette taxes are necessary & sufficient for your support for taxes meant to influence behavior, it seems like I might have gotten you to anyway. 😉

                (It’s also interesting to note that the people on whose behalf you support those taxes also face a ban on their possession (or just purchasing?) of conditions. Do these conditions also lead you to support the ban that’s in place for non-adults? Would/do meeting those same sets of conditions lead you to support other bans?)Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …possession (or purchasing) of cigarettes, that is. Not conditions.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Eh, that ban is very ineffective. It’s easy for kids to get smokes. Not as easy as when I was a kid and would walk to the corner gas station with my allowance and get them out of the vending machine, but still easy. One of my objections to outright bans in general is that they’re nearly always very costly to enforce, while having very limited effectiveness. Prohibition taught us some good lessons, if we’re of a mind to pay attention to them.

                I suppose one of the very few things for which I support an absolute ban is child pornography, because I can’t see how any quantity greater than zero is acceptable. But I do agree with the SCOTUS ruling that virtual child porn cannot be banned, as a constitutional matter, and as a practical matter I don’t think it would be wise to ban it, because on the assumption that some non-zero proportion of the public is going to demand child porn, it’s a damned sight better to make a ready substitute available to them in the way of virtual child porn than to make the only option black market real child porn.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Telling me how effective it is or isn’t doesn’t actually tell me whether you want it in place, nor is it clear how costly you’re saying attempts at enforcing this ban actually have been. So to be clear, you’d like for your girls to be able to walk into a gas station when they’re sixteen or so and have as much legal right to buy a pack of cigs as a pack of gum?Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                What happens when he says “yes”?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Then we become clear on the point.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                So to be clear, you’d like for your girls to be able to walk into a gas station when they’re sixteen or so and have as much legal right to buy a pack of cigs as a pack of gum?

                This is bad framing, Michael, as it kind of misses James’s major objections to bans:

                One of my objections to outright bans in general is that they’re nearly always very costly to enforce, while having very limited effectiveness. Prohibition taught us some good lessons, if we’re of a mind to pay attention to them.

                By ignoring the cost of enforcing the ban, you’re asking James to choose between “letting his kids have the legal right to smoke” vs. “not”.

                The right comparison is, “Is the enforcement of a smoking ban worth the cost, given the benefits enabled by the ban”

                And in that second case, I’d argue no, they’re not.

                In my specific case, my kids will either smoke or not regardless of whether or not smokes are illegal. James has a valid point (caution: opinion here) when he says that smoking bans are largely ineffective at keeping smokes out of kids’ hands.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                smoking bans are largely ineffective at keeping smokes out of kids’ hands.

                Kept them out of my hands. That wasn’t the only thing, but it was a thing.

                I don’t see the costs of tobacco enforcement as being particularly high in the same way that costs of the drug war are.Report

              • Avatar gregiank says:

                Not to get to far off the point, but i think the vast limits on buying cigs has made it much harder for underage kids to smoke. I remember when every fishin place had cig machines.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Thank you, Pat. I do object to the framing of the question.

                As to the broader question of whether ineffectiveness tells you anything about my position regarding a ban, you can rest assured that ineffectiveness will normally be a reliable indicator that I don’t favor a ban.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I think there is nothing wrong with the framing. You either want the ban for your reasons or you don’t. If you don’t, then you want the legal right to buy them to exist (for kids). IIt doesn’t matter why you don’t want the ban. “I would want the legal right to end, but the costs associated with that are too high, so I don’t” is still wanting the legal right to continue. I didn’t ignore James’ reason for not wanting the ban; I took it on board. But the consequence is that his position is still what it is. One can also have the position of wanting the ban in place but wanting resources devoted to enforcing it sharply limited. That’s not the position James articulated.

                Incidentally, it wasn’t really that important of a question for me, and I have no problem with that position. But how I stated it was completely valid, given what James’ preference is.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Obviously, it matters as to whether you’re taking a wise position what you’re reasons are. But it doesn’t affect the fact that if you want the legal right for kids in your community to buy cigarettes to be restored, which is the very substance of the thing we’re talking about, not just an expected or intended effect, then you want your kids to have the legal right. I’m not sure why I have to field objections to that statement.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Because you didn’t ask if he thought it was the least-worst option, policy-wise.

                You asked:

                “So to be clear, you’d like for your girls to be able to walk into a gas station when they’re sixteen or so and have as much legal right to buy a pack of cigs as a pack of gum?”

                Now, this is getting down into the semantic weeds, but this question can be read at least two ways.

                And a perfectly honest answer to your question could be, “No, I wouldn’t ‘like’ that. ‘Like’ implies an affirmative preference. I don’t have an affirmative preference for children to have the right to smoke. I have a negative preference against the government spending funds attempting to ban cigarette sales to minors, when they could be using those funds more effectively, even on the problem of tackling underage smoking.”

                Just like, “I don’t have an affirmative preference for people to get abortions. I don’t like the idea of people getting an abortion. I have a negative preference against the government spending funds auditing doctors and women for the purpose of preventing abortions.”

                Or, “I don’t have an affirmative preference for letting mass murderers have the potential to break out of prison and kill a bunch of people. I have a negative preference against the government having the legal authority to end the life of a citizen.”Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I don’t accept that “He’d like situation X to be the case” doesn’t allow for the reasons (already given) for that to be all that they in fact are, all things considered, nor that it implies that if all the facts about the situation were different (from what they have been affirmatively expressed by him to be!), he might not like the situation to be X. But he said that the situation is what it is, and he said it was that way pretty close to inalterably in the case. Not much chance he thinks these bans will start being more effective and less costly this year or next, it doesn’t seem to me. This is the situation. The world is the world. And in the world, described as he describes it, he’d like X: for there not to be a law saying his kids can’t buy cigarettes.

                He also made no attempt to describe his perception of the costs that make the ban undesirable for him. Not even mentioning particular costs that lead you to feel that you want the ban eliminated me doesn’t leave me feeling that I’ve been unfair in saying that he’d like the ban to be eliminated. It’s not like he says how much he’d like it the ban could be there, if only the costs, which are thus-and-such weren’t so goddamn high. And he doesn;t engage with the notion that it could be possible to retain the ban while address the question of how many resources are devotes to enforcing it direcly as a separate question (which it seem to me is a commonplace and fundamental separation that hppens all the time between considering laws and considering law enforcement priorities.

                So basically, at the point at which I said that, he hadn’t remotely convinced me, or even made me wonder whether, he didn’t feel he would actually “like” for the state of affairs he was saying that on balance, all things considered, he preferred to be the the case, to be the case.

                So: whatever.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …And also, all I was trying to do was confirm his position – and point out that it would have real consequences of its own. I’ll defend my use of the word “like” as above, but it wasn’t a pointed use. “So to be clear, you don’t want it to be illegal for a convenience store owner to sell you cigarettes to your girls” would have been sufficient for my meaning as well. But the use of “like” doesn’t change that meaning at all – there’s no difference between, “I don’t want it to be illegal” and, “I would like it to be legal.”Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …But in case I am jut wrong here, I am very willing to say (reiterate, I guess) that my purpose really was just to clarify the position, and not at all to insist on the specific “you would like” terminology or any associated framing, to whatever extent it necessarily implies a frame that is different from the one James meant (which I dispute, and necessity there is important, since if the implication is not necessary, this all could be solved via charitable reading and not looking for reasons to find objectionable interpretations of the things we say to each other). All I insist on pointing out is that his actual preference in the world we live in, given the conditions that (he believes) he unavoidably faces as a result on each sides of the choice, is to have the world in which his kids can go buy cigarettes legally.

                And with that I am completely done accounting for this simple (and I would argue unnecessary) miscommunication (for which I believe I am not mostly to blame).Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        I don’t have any problems with schools getting rid of sugar IF the parents are the ones driving that buss, not the administrators. This is not the case in my example.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:


          Why do you draw the distinction? We trust/insist that administrators and other educators make all sorts of decisions about the best interests of children. Why stop at diet?

          Disclaimer: I am a teacher, albeit in an independent school.
          Concession: Not all individual administrators or educators deserve this trust, but we tend to put it in the system itself.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Yeah, to channel Buchanan, it can make sense to choose to give administrators that role. It could also make sense of course to not give them that role. Thus I agree with you and Damon. If parents drive that bus by giving this power to administrators, then administrators can make the decision. I do not believe we should assume they have been given this power though.Report

            • Choosing a cafeteria menu and what vending machines are on-site seems like a pretty clear matter of traditional government contracting to me. Put it this way – would it be within school administrators’ power to switch their vending machines from Coke to Pepsi? I think the answer is pretty clearly yes, in all cases. What about – as in the case of a school that lacks a cafeteria but contracts out with local restaurants for lunch, much as my elementary school did – switching from Popeye’s or KFC to Subway? Again, the answer is pretty clearly yes. So why would changing their food orders from their food contractor from a bunch of french fries and burgers to lettuce and fish be any different? By that same token, why would switching their vending machine contracts from Coke to Honest-Tea be any different?Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              Given the responsibility that schools bear when students are in their buildings (and even when they are not), I think it fair to give schools almost absolute control over what happens in those buildings.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            Frankly, I don’t trust bureaucrats anyway. I understand that their ostensible purpose is not the same as their real purpose–perpetuating the bureaucracy.

            That being said, it’s one thing for an administrator to say “school starts at 8am” and another to say “you can’t have chocolate milk at lunch” because WE think your kid doesn’t need it at lunch. You’ve just crossed the boundary to MY territory.

            If the administrators want to say “we’ve removed sugary drinks from the vending machines”, that’s completely different than “sugary drinks are not allowed in the school at all (packed lunches)”. Again, crossed the line.

            So it goes back to getting input from the parents, and not just the minority of parents that are agitating, a MAJORITY of parents.Report

            • I agree that regulating packed lunches is way over the line. Usually when we’re talking about schools trying to get sugar out, though, we’re talking about doing so by changing their vending machines and cafeteria menu rather than telling parents what their kids can and cannot eat at schools (the exception to this is the whole nut allergy thing, but that’s a slightly different question).Report

  14. Avatar Michelle says:

    And once again, Sarah Palin weighs in, tweeting a blow for freedom: “Victory in NYC for liberty-loving soda drinkers. To politicians with too much time on their hands we say: Govt, stay out of my refrigerator!”

    You tell ’em, Sarah!Report

  15. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    That the ability to have an unhealthy amount of soda in one serving, without having to go back for seconds, gets us a quick 200 comments is a sign that we’re all really going to be OK.Report

    • Avatar gregiank says:

      well yeah and as i’ve cryptically noted above there are stringent new abortion laws in Arkansas. the strictest in the nation i’ve read. how much attention are they getting? How do they affect freedom? Are we less free or more free now?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I have a hard time deciding which I think ginormous soda band are more akin to: seatbelt laws, or a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

        Whichever, I never cease to be amazed at the hills people will decide they need to die on, and the hills that no one seems to care enough to notice are there.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          How much of that is a function of our little group’s make up?

          How many of us hail from Arkansas?
          How many of us are directly impacted by abortion restrictions?Report

          • Avatar gregiank says:

            how many people are affected by a giant soda ban in NY? how many people couldn’t just buy two small buckets of soda if they really wanted that much?Report

            • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

              “how many people are affected by a giant soda ban in NY? ”

              How many people are affected by Kelo v. City of New London?Report

              • Avatar gregiank says:

                Not many people are affected by Kelo since most states passed laws to prevent that kind of abuse of ED.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                So, lots and lots of people were affected by it. A law that says “that won’t happen here” is an effect.Report

              • Avatar gregiank says:

                You are really mining for oppresion there Jim. The states dealt with an unpopular Supreme ruling by elimanting the problem. That sounds sort of like how a democracy should work.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                Why would they feel that they needed to “deal with” anything? What could possibly lead someone in, say, Texas to believe that they might be in trouble because of something that happened in Connecticut?Report

              • Avatar gregiank says:

                What is your point Jim? I thought Kelo was a bad decsion also. And i didn’t like the Big Gulp ban. And somehow i’m still a liberal. Are you going slippery slope? Are you going with everything is going to heck in a hand basket?Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

                I’m trying to get you to understand that setting a precedent can be a bad thing even if it happens somewhere else to someone else.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                IIRC, most states had laws already on the books to prevent that kind of abuse of eminent domain.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        Yeah, I hate it when government fell like they can micromanage the decisions people make about their own bodies. If only governments could learn to respect a private sphere within which our choices are not subject to government control.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Some of us prefer the cup to be FULL of ice. I mean ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP. By the time you pour the pop in there, you’ve only got, like, six ounces anyway.Report

  16. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    I just wrote for an hour and it didn’t post and now I hate God even more.

    Long story short, everyone but me on the internet is wrong.Report

  17. Avatar greginak says:

    Exhibit A why i don’t fear a nanny state. Why I don’t see us going very far at all down any slidey slopey thing towards gov controlling to much about what we eat and drink. The

    Key graf:”A bill now on the governor’s desk would bar counties and towns from enacting rules that require calorie counts to be posted, that cap portion sizes, or that keep toys out of kids’ meals. “The Anti-Bloomberg Bill” garnered wide bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature in a state where one in three adults is obese, the highest rate in the nation.”

    For whatever the merits or reasons behind this bill, people will not tolerate to much Bloomberg style law. A nudge one way, often leads to a nudge back the other way.Report

  18. This is very late in the thread to be offering my two-cents, but I have this to say:

    I believe, with most of the commenters, that the Bloomberg ban is foolish. I also agree that with the exemptions that it supposedly made, there probably wasn’t a legal justification for it (add usual disclosure that I’m not a lawyers, blah blah). But I think it’s incumbent for me to ask myself whether the local government ought to have the power to issue such a regulation, assuming no invidious or arbitrary exemptions, nothing in the city charter prohibiting it, and no doctrines (takings, dormant commerce clause) can be reasonably invoked to repudiate it.

    My answer is, I probably agree that the local government ought to have the power. Or, maybe a better answer is, my own idea of what local governments do encompasses regulating the terms by which commodities are sold, including sizes, weights, and quality. It’s not just an appeal to tradition, although I think Bloomberg-esque regulations, at least in their form if not intent, have been around for quite a while in American/Canadian/English local governance. But it’s also that I have trouble articulating a theory of what local government does in a way still permits local government to do what I would like it to do while prohibiting it to do what I would prohibit it (to do…..clumsy wording, I know!).

    These are ill-formed thoughts, I know, and it’s probably too late in the thread to debate them (and I have to go to the laundry mat in a few minutes), but it is a problem that is hard for me to avoid.

    I will repeat, however, that I think the Bloomberg ban, with or without invidious exemptions, is a very bad idea and is bad policy. But I also think it’s one of those (bad) policies that the state ought to be able to do if enough people support it. (Whether the Feds ought to be able, say, use cl. 3 to justify similar, and similarly ridiculous, regulations, I’ll leave for another day.)Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I’d agree with this. Not only does it fit the historical idea of governments having the general police power of regulating for health and welfare, but it also fits within the concept of subsidiarity (that political decisions ought to be made at the lowest level that affects all stakeholders). Arguing that policy X is bad policy is distinct from arguing that it is outside the scope of the governing authority’s powers (and those are intertwined with, but not identical to, arguing that the policy is illegitimate on some other theoretical basis).Report