Big Drinks and the Nanny State
Yes, I am deeply afraid of how easily a War on Obesity can segue into a War on the Obese. Yet I actually see a focus on food itself as a less harmful way to channel anti-obesity fervor. In the 1980s and since, I've actually read fat-phobics suggesting that companies fine employees above insurance-chart weights unless those people participate in a weight-loss program. In comparison to that, rules about food itself, which affect everyone instead of singling out "the obese," are quite egalitarian. It would only be a specifically anti-fat-person action if the stereotypes were all true and fat people guzzled thousands of calories per day in soda while those who meet insurance-chart limits drank sugary sodas in moderation if at all.
Yes, it's the nanny state. I accepted the goodness of a limited nanny state concerning car-seatbelt and motorcycle-helmet laws; a more recent example is the ban on texting or cell phones while driving, which I wish went even further. I acceded to the determination of NYC to be an excessive nanny city when it banned smoking in any public space. The main difference is that no one suffers from head-on collisions due to fat or second-hand environmental fat, and yes, that is a major, major difference. Yet the inconvenience and oppression of the no-smoking rule seems to me much more than those of the no-big-sugary-drinks rule.
Yes, the national government could just stop the corn subsidies, and then the market would make huge sugary (actually high-fructose corn syrupy) drinks much less appealing. Maybe it actually will. But a city can't do that; and I personally think that standing up to agribusiness will be more likely if laws like this show dissatisfaction with how all the cheap corn is being used.
I do think that laws about food could go way too far, as in F. Paul Wilson's "Lipidleggin'." But I see any possible law regulating body size as too far, in a way I don't with laws about food packaging. At least since anti-monopoly laws, our country has accepted and even embraced the importance of legislation in providing protection from the more predatory aspects of business. And I have to say, I see the food industry right now as very predatory. To me, fat is not an enemy, but food companies that use our natural appetites and all the tools of science to sell us what we don't need--arguably, they are.
Discussion is encouraged, and I'm even open to persuasion concerning dangers I'm not seeing, but this is my view right now.
Status: soon to bed