Much commotion has been made over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s crusade against “sugary” drinks over 16 ounces. The ban, Bloomberg claims, is necessary to the city’s war on obesity, which began with banning trans fats in 2006, and requiring calorie counts on restaurant menus in 2009.
The city also launched an ad campaign depicting cups filled to the brim with fat (as a replacement for soda) and an image of an overweight man with his legs Photoshopped off, claiming the man lost his limbs due to diabetes.
It is unlikely that New York City will stop there. At a recent meeting of the city’s Board of Health, members debated expanding the soda ban to include milkshakes, “milk-coffee” drinks, and even popcorn.
The ban doesn’t currently apply to fruit juices, which often have the same amount of sugar as other colas, or to diet sodas, dairy-based drinks, or alcoholic beverages.
When asked about the ban on MSNBC, Bloomberg responded, “We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things, we’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup.”
This highlights, I believe, the philosophical foundation behind many of these initiatives: that some people (conservatives/libertarians call them “paternalistic” and “bureaucratic”) genuinely think government has the responsibility to “protect” citizens from themselves and potentially bad decisions.
If they can just regulate behavior, consumption, and indulgence, then everyone will live happier, healthier, and safer lives.
Are their aims noble? Perhaps in their own minds, they believe what they are doing saves lives and makes us all healthier. But the unintended consequences of their actions are limitless.
Economists often debate the unintended consequences of economic policies, but do regulators think about what may or may not happen when enacting new rules?
Take, for instance, limiting the number of ounces a cup of soda can be. Bloomberg assures us that soda drinkers would be forced to purchase another soda if they wanted more than 16 ounces. In the long run, more consumers buying more cups means more garbage in landfills.
Another favorite target of regulators are cigarette smokers.In many states (like my home state of Tennessee), cigarette tax revenues fund state healthcare for children and the poor. But regulators, aided by their friends in government who raise taxes, use policy to attempt to curb the number of people who smoke.
In reality, if regulators and legislators were successful in taxing cigarette smokers out of existence, there would be less money to fund state healthcare programs for children and the poor.
These are fairly simple examples that illustrate the unintended consequences of regulatory decisions. What our paternalistic friends may not fully realize is that intentions are not results.
Be it Mayor Bloomberg in New York City or cigarette tax-raisers in Tennessee, their well-intentioned policies may have unforeseen consequences. What they assume may make us happier, healthier, and safer may adversely affect our lives in other ways.
The examples above may seem trivial, but there are countless regulations from which to choose. Consider a regulation and its unintended consequences and leave a comment in the space below.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire