We elect government officials to help us govern ourselves. Wasn’t it James Madison who said, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
This past week the mayor of our largest city proposed banning soft drinks sold in containers larger than 16 ounces. Who is out of control, the government or the governed? Are we who need to be governed so out of control that our government must limit the size of certain beverage containers?
As in illegal drugs, we are looking and attacking a problem bass ackwards. If there is strong demand for something, a supply is created to satisfy that demand. If we crush the supply and the demand still exists, supply will pop up somewhere else. So if we’ve determined that a particular supply of something is not healthy, is it smarter to attack the supply or the demand?
Larger and larger drinking containers became available because we demanded them. Cheap ingredients like high fructose corn syrup are in products because we’ve demanded them. We eat lots of crap because we demand it.
If we’ve determined that soft drinks are harmful, then why not stick a warning label on them like we do cigarettes?
But it’s not size of soft drinks that is the problem. It’s fat (they say). If we need society to be less obese to reduce the negative financial impact, then why not educate ourselves? Why not dump resources into developing educational programs so that we, as a society, understand why eating junk in any amounts is detrimental. We need to understand that too much blood sugar (sweeteners/processed carbs) artificially raises our insulin levels and creates havoc in our systems. We have zero programs in place like this.
Now we want to legally limit the size of soft drink containers? Why don’t we just legislate the size of a hot fudge sunday? Or the quantity of pancakes we can order at Ihop? Or the amount of ice cream, or the size of a loaf of bread, or put a quota on candy bars in a child’s halloween bag? Point is, making laws limiting the size or portions is like admitting that we are not capable of understanding reason.
At the end of this week, I heard about this law as I was sitting in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber at New York Presbyterian Cornell Hospital, one of the best hospitals in New York. As I was leaving the hospital, the elevator stopped and a service person entered with a huge cart loaded with soft drinks he was delivering to another floor. They were all 16 oz bottles. I wondered why a hospital would ever allow soft drinks on the premise. It’s a comedy of the absurd.
Most of us, nutritionist included, don’t understand the negative impacts of all the junk we eat. Education aimed at developing good judgement around changing our demand is what we need, not more rules. We will produce what we demand. Would it be that hard to develop education programs that would filter down to where even hospitals would not serve junk? If we need a law, it’s to make courses in valid nutrition at early ages mandatory.
If I want a 32 ounce soda, coffee, ice-cream, tequila, or big gulp paint thinner, please don’t legislate me into buying two 16 ounce portions. Just educate me dude.