Scragged Takes a Drink and a Wrong Turn

Why is anything government's business?

The New York Times reports:

The [New York State] Governor is taking aim at obesity caused by sugary drinks; Mr. Eusebio worries that the proposed tax would slim down the beverage industry, which he said pays $6.7 billion in wages statewide and generates billions more for the economy.

But he also mentioned some far smaller numbers that startled a soft-drink drinker.

"A six-pack of soda is going to cost you approximately $4.99" if the penny-an-ounce tax goes through, Mr. Eusebio said, "where you can pick up beer from $2.99 to $3.99."

Is it really good public policy to make soda more expensive than beer?  One might suppose there to be some significant public-policy hazards which ought to be visible even through the deep-blue-tinted glasses of the New York Times.

Danger, Writers At Work!

Meanwhile, here at Scragged, our various authors keep an eye out for news articles that might be interesting.  Generally, articles such as this one are emailed around as links, with a brief comment, description, and often an opinion or two.  Some sink without trace; others become the germ of a Scragged article.

Every now and again, one of these links lights up a fierce internal debate.  So it was with this: is, in fact, beer more dangerous than soda?

Consider: unlike soda, beer contains at least a few useful nutrients in the form of fiber, starch, or even protein.  What's more, beer is more of an all-natural product than the total artificiality of modern soda, particularly given its reliance on highly-refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.  It may be that soda actually is worse for most people's health and that discouraging soda consumption in favor of beer would be justified by the science from a strictly public-health point of view.

Therein lies a lesson for all of us.  As writers of conservative thought, you'd think we'd all be well aware of statist traps, easily able to evade the seductive thought processes our liberal opinion-makers wish to draw us into.  This example is a clear illustration and warning: not so.

For, lost in our internal debate of the relative merits of beer vs soda, presentment of links to scientific research, et al, was the only fundamental issue of any relevance:

Who cares?

Does Government End?

Why, exactly, is it the government's business what you voluntarily choose to eat or drink?  What difference does it make whether you eat good, nutritious, healthy food, or ruinous polysaturated crap?  It is a purely private decision, affecting nobody but yourself.

It is the proper place of government to protect us from external threats by other people.  That's why we have a national defense: to protect us from foreign invaders (a point often forgotten).  That's why we have police and courts: to protect innocents from domestic enemies, either by deterrence, or at least by getting criminals off the streets.

A drunk driver on the highway is indeed a dire threat to other people as countless families have discovered to their grief; under the principles of good governance, it's entirely appropriate for DUI to be a crime punished severely.  A drunk on the sidewalk harms nobody save himself; a drunk behind the wheel is most definitely a deadly threat to the community.

What harm is a soda drinker?  They take up too much space on the sidewalk; they certainly do cause use the power of government to demand special privileges.  Left to their own devices, individuals and businesses are perfectly able to cope, with no government interference required.

Which brings us back to New York State's soda tax.  Of course all governments want to collect as much money as they can get away with; if not soda, government would tax something else.  Any kind of tax inherently affects behavior as people try to avoid it and save money.  Certainly, it's far better for government to discourage something via a tax than by an outright ban.

But as supposedly free Americans, we should all be concerned about a government which views every little choice in life as its rightful domain to encourage or discourage as it sees fit.

Who knows best about your life and how it ought to be run?  You?  Or New York State's governor?

Liberals always seek to expand the size and reach of government using whatever pretext comes most readily to hand.  Don't be suckered into debating on their terms, even on the grounds of science.

The proper question is, "Why is it any of your business?"  Except for a very few, well-understood issues, the answer is clear:  It isn't.

So butt out, Governor, and leave the people's beverage choices alone!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments
Oh come on! If our government were truly committed to making our food supply healthier they would work harder to prevent food contamination. Do you remember the recalls of peanut butter, spinach, tomatoes and ground beef? Speaking of beef, how about eliminating the hormones and antibiotics which are given to cattle? Do you enjoy the pesticides in your fruit and veggies? Does the bovine growth hormone in milk and dairy products make your mouth water?
Adding a tax to soda is just another excuse for New York to put its legislative hand in your pocket!
February 9, 2010 10:07 AM
Actually, speaking for myself, yes I do enjoy the pesticides in my fruits and veggies. They are quite preferable to the worms I'd find otherwise.

Regarding food contamination, you're quite right that the government doesn't give two hoots about it. The solution has been around for decades, and has been stopped by environmentalists and conspiracy-theory wackjobs. It's called irradiation, it works beautifully at killing germs while not harming the nutrients of the food. You'll never see it though as long as the FDA has to approve things beforehand.
February 9, 2010 12:29 PM
Tastes Great!
February 10, 2010 10:33 PM
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