It's getting a lot of attention all right—but not for the reason it should.
Earlier this week Judge Milton Tingling struck down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces, calling it "arbitrary and capricious." Moreover, Tingling found that the New York Department of Health lacked the authority to impose such a ban, even if they could find a way to do it that did not violate the rights of the city's businesses and consumers. The soda ban, like Generalissimo Francisco Franco, is dead.
Bloomberg is of course embarrassed that his hand has been metaphorically slapped by Judge Tingling—or would be if he had any sense of shame. Instead, he is outraged—in the way that only someone who is supremely assured of the correctness of a position they have taken can be, the facts, the science, and the law be damned.
Based on what Bloomberg has said since the ban was imposed, he seems to believe that the best, highest purpose of government is to tell people how to live their lives down to the most minute detail. If he were alone in this belief he might merely be one of those quirky politicians that seem to come out of New York every so often. Instead, even though Bloomberg is an independent, his attempt at a big soda ban is a fair representation of what most liberals, President Barack Obama included, seem to believe the voters elected them to do.
This is, of course, nonsense. Bans on sodas larger than 16 ounces and other food items are not what voters want, especially in this time of raging budget deficits, out-of-control spending, and economic stagnation. When was the last time you saw a campaign commercial in which a candidate for office promised, if elected, to put a stop to the sale of cheeseburgers? No, these lifestyle laws are only on the agenda of several powerful and well-entrenched special interests inside the broader coalition of the Democratic Party.
The unions want to run the American workplace. The environmentalists want to control the use of private property. The scientific and public health communities want to tell us what to eat and drink. And the plaintiffs' bar wants to be able to sue for damages while they all get richer and richer at our expense. It's the nannystate—as Mrs. Thatcher used to call it—on steroids, with its leaders refusing to call it quits until we are all on lifestyle chain gangs run by thugs masquerading as Mary Poppins, force feeding us regulation after regulation, but without a spoonful of sugar to help it go down better because, what do you know, sugar is bad for you.
The Founding Fathers realized correctly that concentrated power is dangerous to our personal liberty. Government, because it is designed and administered by men who are imperfect, is not benevolent. It is, at all times, a threat to personal liberty—so that the benefits of any action taken by it should always be weighed against the costs. The power of government must be restrained—and the system of checks and balances built into the structure of the federal government is intended to safeguard that liberty.
Some may regard this as an extreme libertarian point of view. Others may think of it as basic common sense. Either way, as was driven home when the United States Supreme Court ruled people who chose not to purchase health insurance could be penalized by being taxed for their decision, too many people in government believe government has the solution to every problem and that its coercive powers may be employed to produce the desired ends. And they believe that anyone who does not agree is worthy of being called a nasty name.
Judge Tingling's ruling is a major win for personal freedom. Because it comes over the issue of soda pop it is not being taken as seriously as it should. What he has said places a firm limit on the power of government, something we are not used to seeing the courts—especially courts in New York City—do. To paraphrase an old line from Eddie Murphy, anyone who is unhappy about that should simply "have a Coke and a smile and shut up."