I'm not a lawyer. I don't even play one on TV. So I can't claim any legal veracity to this opinion. But I would argue that Mike Bloomberg's coming ban on sodas over 16 ounces in New York City poses a greater threat to our freedoms than the decision on Obamacare.
It feels that way anyway.
"Overturn Obamacare" will be the rallying cry for conservative-minded Americans, myself included, going into November's election. But it's important to fully understand what the decision said. It supported the central argument of the attorneys opposing the Affordable Care Act -- that the government cannot force Americans to buy something they don't want -- and instead ruled Obamacare a gigantic tax increase, which, however odious, is constitutionally acceptable.
The howls of protest at the Court's decision are only beginning, while the small yelps over the Big Gulp liquidation have gone silent. Mayor Bloomberg is pushing through his decision as an executive order, so no vote on the matter is required. It was announced; briefly ridiculed, and is set to become official city policy for thousands of small businesses and millions of Americans as early as next March. Expect other municipalities around the country to seek to do the same -- at least one already has..
The mayor's dictum -- on top of his Scrooge-like bake-sale ban in city schools and his attempt to lower salt use in restaurant kitchens -- is breathtakingly insulting. His thinking insists that people are too stupid to make their own decisions on matters of ingestion. But more than that, it assumes it is government's business to oversee a principal bodily function.
We roll our eyes at the food police. We are mildly annoyed by them. But they are becoming increasingly frightening, and they need to be engaged by civil libertarians with a vim equal to that being exhibited over Obamacare. If someone can tell you how much salt you can cook with or sugared iced tea you can drink, he can ultimately enslave you -- and he will -- ostensibly for your own good. In Cambridge, Mass., there is now a proposal on the table, similar to Bloomberg's, to outlaw large sodas in restaurants. In San Francisco, legislators have banned free toys in kids meals that don't meet strict nutritional criteria. And a ballot initiative in that same city would have called for a ban on circumcisions -- a religious ritual that goes back thousands of years -- because some people believe it may traumatize infants. Its sponsors evidently know what's better for Jewish families than the Talmud does. Fortunately, the proposition was shot down in the courts.
A prevailing liberal argument over matters involving food is the old John Donne no-man-is-an-island observation -- that what one of us does affects all of us and vice versa. Overweight, soda-guzzling Americans are costing the rest of us money because they drive up the cost of health insurance premiums, so we have a right to snatch that Mountain Dew from their open lips. That's one of the arguments being made by activists working to get sugar declared a drug by the Food and Drug Administration.
As Obamacare takes effect, and a larger and larger portion of U.S. health care becomes nationalized, the basis for that argument will only grow stronger -- and the slope toward Big Brotherism exponentially more slippery. How dare my neighbor barbecue ribs twice a week; that costs me money. Can I compel him to exercise to work some of it off?
All of us are concerned with obesity in America. I could stand to lose about 25 myself. But we should be more concerned with the incremental loss of small freedoms we are facing in this country. What began with the seat belt law -- the government seizing the right to punish adult motorists for not protecting themselves -- is dangerously spreading. Never underestimate the inclination of busybody legislators to pass dumb, restrictive laws on your behalf.