Mark Bittman, being his gloriously arrogant, elitist, condescending, ignorant self, comes out in favour of Bloomberg’s restriction on high-capacity assault soft drinks:
- Are large sugary drinks food? (Andrew Sullivan — no, I’m not linking to Bittman’s column)
They are not food. Added sugar, as will be obvious when we look back in 20 or 50 years, is the tobacco of the 21st century. (The time frame will depend on how many decent public health officials we manage to put in office, and how hard we’re willing to fight Big Food.) And if you believe that limiting our “right” to purchase soda is a slippery slope, one that will lead to defining which foods are nutritious and which aren’t — and which ones government funds should be used to subsidize and which they shouldn’t — you’re right. It’s the beginning of better public health policy, policy that is good for the health of our citizenry.
Look. You can reasonably oppose a given public policy on (at least) three grounds: Moral, effectual, and technical. For example, I oppose the death penalty on the moral grounds that the government has no more right to use lethal force against an individual than I do. If I electrocute someone who’d been tied to a chair — even if that someone is very bad — I’m committing murder, and government gets no special exemption just because people have always wanted to have large impersonal organizations murder folks they don’t like on their behalf. I also oppose the death penalty on the effectual grounds that it doesn’t serve as a particularly effective deterrent; Indonesia has killed a lot of drug smugglers while drug use in that country went up. (That article shows that if you’re willing to go full police state, Singapore-style, you can eventually produce greater levels of compliance.) And finally, I oppose the death penalty on the technical grounds that I don’t trust the government to catch and convict the guilty, or even to free the innocent once they’ve been identified as such.
Similarly, I think it’s morally reprehensible for the New York City government to tell vendors how much Coke they’re allowed to serve at a time. I doubt the effectiveness of a rule that forces the thirsty to buy two sixteen-ounce drinks rather than one twenty-ounce drink. (A Pigovian tax on soda would be more effective, but those have their own problems.) And, because this is Mark Bittman we’re talking about, there is no way in hell that I’d trust any single authority to define “which foods are nutritious and which aren’t” on order to create “policy that is good for the health of our citizenry”. If you made Mark Sisson the World Food Overlord today, I’d be buying little baggies of whey isolate from Hell’s Angels tomorrow because fuck you gimme protein. Nutrition is far, far harder than the food nannies are willing to admit.