• The opposite of bad can be worse

    I think I’ve made it clear that I’m not a fan of Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban. I don’t think prohibition works, especially when there are so many loopholes and exceptions. Yesterday’s news that the law won’t take effect due to a judicial decision is not surprising to me, nor is it really a concern. I think that most people felt that the ban was symbolic anyway, and the fact that’s it’s been martyred will likely only make it more potent.

    Mississippi, on the other hand, is doing it even worse:

    A bill on the governor’s desk would bar counties and towns from enacting rules that require calorie counts to be posted, that cap portion sizes, or that keep toys out of kids’ meals. “The Anti-Bloomberg Bill” garnered wide bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature in Mississippi, the state with the highest rate of obesity in the nation.

    The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican. It was the subject of intense lobbying by groups including  the restaurant association, the small business and beverage group and the chicken farmers’ lobby.

    Where to start? Of course these groups hate any measures to limit how much people eat. It’s how they make their money. It’s also likely that some of the legislators in Mississippi may not like heavy handed measures like soda bans. But why would they want to make it illegal for anyone to do any of these things?

    Isn’t the point of local government to have smaller groups make their decisions on their own? Isn’t it the job of local municipalities to decide if they want to try toy-bans or menu labelling? I’m not convinced it’s a solution worthy of national law, but it’s local experimentation that often leads to new knowledge.

    What Mississippi is doing is preventing their local governments from even trying public health measures to reduce obesity. The government isn’t just reacting in a negative way to the soda ban; it’s deciding to prevent any measures to try and improve the problem.

    Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in the United States. This won’t help.


    • >>But why would they want to make it illegal for anyone to do any of these things?>>

      Because, as you say, it’s how they make their money. Each of those things might reduce the profitability of a business in the food industry. What’s an epidemic of obesity in the population compared to the profits of the rich and powerful?

      • No, I meant Mississippi. Not the companies!

        • Legislators generally act for the rich and powerful, not the population at large. There is actually a fair amount of political science research on the subject.

          Regarding “it’s how they make their money,” where do you think large campaign contributions and revolving door jobs come from?

    • Mississippi exists so the rest of us can feel better about ourselves.

      • As a healthy, 5’6″ 125lb 25 year old female resident of Mississippi since 1999, after moving all over the world during my childhood, I am not happy with the way the state is perceived on the national level. Unfortunately, it’s the result of many social, political, and, the dreaded, “traditional” influences. Yes, the state has it’s pitfalls (thank you, Captain Obvious). But, if you are making the ignorant joke that Mississippi exists “so THAT the rest of you can feel better about yourselves”, then you might need to ask your state education system to re-educate you on the proper formation of a sentence before you go pointing a judgemental finger in this direction.

    • I think you are right to point out that beverage and food companies will obviously protect their turf regardless of its impact on consumer health.

      On the other hand, Bloomberg has been astute in bypassing the necessary levers of democracy to implement his policies: in this case (as in others), the city council was not consulted on the ban. Bloomberg essentially used (perhaps abused) administrative policy to sign the ban into place.

      While the content of the law is certainly is important, so is how Bloomberg chooses to vet the law (or not) properly among government stakeholders.