Drawing the Line on Government Intervention

I’m writing in response to Word Press’ Daily Post Writing Challenge about “The State of the State.” The question was posted today, March 25th, “Where do you draw the line between a reasonable government attempt to maintain stability or solve a problem and an unnecessary infringement on your decisions?”

Interesting question; this is right up my alley.

NYC Soda Ban: preposterous. I cannot and will not support a nanny state mentality.

When you look at ordinances like the large soda ban in New York City, what do you think? Do you honestly think that the government cares about you individually, or do you think that perhaps there is an exertion of power beyond the limits of the functionality of a successful government? I think the latter. If the NYC government, with bologna Bloomberg at its helm, honestly cared about the health of each citizen of the city of New York, it/he would not focus on the menial task of banning sodas. That’s child’s play. It is so condescending and offensive to assume that people do not have enough self-control to regulate the amount of sugary beverage they intake in any given setting. Maybe some people cannot exercise that self-control as well as others, but it is not the role of the government to go around telling those with health issues how much they can or cannot consume at any given time– just as your parents no longer have control over minor decisions such as these in your life once you are over a certain age. Did Bloomberg just adopt 9 million children? Sure seems like he wants to.

Please give the people education. That is far more important. Nutritional education would go a lot farther than banning a large soda. Lifestyle modification is what a lot of people need, not a quick fix substance ban. People who struggle with obesity or food and beverage self-control do not need someone breathing down their neck and demanding that they take measures to change. These people need encouragement and support, and a system to guide them to choose better options on their own. Rarely do people adhere to regulations forced upon them, but those who decide for themselves to make healthier choices are more likely to succeed.

Do I think that the government should play a role in education? Yes, to a certain extent. I think that Bloomberg’s efforts to curb the obesity epidemic in his small corner of the world would see better results if he were able to offer some kind of city-funded nutritional program, or some kind of reimbursement for a lifestyle modification program such as the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, which is hosted at local YMCAs or other community centers throughout the city. Not only are programs such as these proven to better the health status of individuals who commit to them, but individuals enter these programs as a matter of personal choice. You see, people must make their own decision to change; Michael Bloomberg (or any government) cannot make that decision for them by punishing them like foolish schoolchildren.

Is the government overstepping boundaries by taking away a person’s choice in beverage? Absolutely, unequivocally, resounding YES. Would society be better off if the government offered the choice of education, which provides resources for people who need to make lifestyle changes? Oh yes. Please do not undermine the ability of a human being to make an educated decision when he is given the tools to do so. And do not underestimate the power of the resources that are already available and underutilized to help those in need make the decisions for a healthier life.

Mr. Bloomberg, back off of the rights of the people of New York City.

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57 thoughts on “Drawing the Line on Government Intervention

  1. All too often, politicians choose the quick fix that will attract media attention over the long-term solutions that actually have a chance of success.

  2. First they came for the cigarettes, and since I didn’t smoke, I did nothing. Next they came for the big gulp sodas, and since I wasn’t a soda drinker, again, I did nothing.Then they came for my Ben & Jerry’s “Chunky Monkey,” and by that time, it was too late.

  3. Government, which is really just people, continually demonstrates a lack of common sense to understand that you can’t legislate common sense. What is more, democratically elected governments forget that they are governing democratic societies. If our governments really wanted to end suffering, they would put their efforts towards helping people feel good about themselves. People who feel good about themselves don’t mistreat others … or themselves! Great post!

    1. Thank you for your comment! You make a good point, which is why I’m such an advocate for (quality) education. I really believe that people will not change unless they are willing to, or they receive better advice. Trying to force them to act a certain way will only bring about rebellion and resentment.

  4. My late father grew up in NY during Prohibition. He saw as a child that this attempt to legislate morality didn’t work. What he saw was crime and in his case, a greater attendance at church, since sacramental wine was exempt from the ridiculous Volstead Act. In this case, as Fred mentioned above, the government’s attempt to legislate common sense will also fail. Perhaps Fred is onto something with the encouragement and/or help our fellow Americans feel good, worthwhile and valuable.
    Great post. Thank you! 🙂

  5. I just want to throw in here that poverty is a factor in obesity, and large sodas at 99 cents a bucket full don’t help. It’s an odd truth that poor people are often obese; sad that unhealthy, sugar laden carb rich foods are often what is cheap and plentiful, while fresh fruit, meats and vegetables are expensive. As long as feel good garbage food is available for next to nothing, this will be a problem. In Canada we have a luxury tax (taxes) that add a significant cost to unnecessary items like alcohol and cigarettes to ensure that those who use these products are contributing a greater amount toward their own likely need for medical treatment later in life. Maybe a ban isn’t the best option; maybe adding a luxury tax is a better idea.
    (I can just hear the right starting to scream…)

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, there are many unhealthy foods that are very cheap, but there are also places where you can get healthier foods for not as much as well. The problem is access. There are certain areas, many times that coincide with poorer living areas, that are called “food deserts” because there is a lack of access to healthier options. Those options do exist at lower prices–the cost to make a salad is around the same as a frozen pizza. Many times it is simply a lack of education on what options do exist, or a lack of access to the better options.

      But yes, most often, unhealthy food is the most mass produced and the cheapest option.

      1. Pleasure was mine to read your thoughts..I love reading so many insightful, bright!, different perspectives here on WordPress..stay encouraged, keep writing!, and stay UPlifted

  6. The ban was not meant to stop anyone from drinking whatever they wanted. Mayor Bloomberg was on Morning Joe the other day and I think his words were meaningful. The ban was meant to get people to pause and think about whether they really needed to go and get another second huge drink of soda – a substance ingested that basically provides no nutritional value to the human body – empty calories.

    Realize that we the taxpayers are all paying for everyone’s indulgent indiscretions. The increase in diabetes and obesity is contributing to the incredibly high cost of healthcare these days. I don’t think it was such a bad intervention.

    I know I won’t change your mind. Your point about education is valid and is an important part of the puzzle.

    But think of the ban like the seatbelt law. You can still drive without a seatbelt. Chances are you won’t get a ticket. But the thought you might get that ticket got a whole lot of people to change their behavior for the better…You can still buy 5 smaller size soda and drink to your hearts content. But why is a small tweak which is meant to change the culture for the better so bad?

    1. Hi and thank you for your comment. First of all, I do agree that the cost of diabetes and obesity for society are, and will continue to be, high and devastating. Absolutely. But here is where I see no value in a “soda ban” or anything of the like. I’m just going to take 2 examples here to build on. First gun control, and 2nd “texting while driving” or distracted driving. In cities where we have the tightest gun control laws (let’s say DC and Chicago), we still have a very high rate of gun violence. Therefore, we can say that even though we have these laws in place (which I’m not debating here), there are still people who get around them and kill. OK. Let’s look at texting while driving. In many areas there are laws against this as well, but they have not necessarily changed the statistics on accidents caused by texting. Let’s be honest, everyone does it as long as they feel they won’t be “caught” and ticketed. However, let’s now look at smoking cessation and the success of the education behind it. Yes, there have been smoking bans in public places, but there is also a HUGE education movement behind them–Smoking Kills; Smoking causes cancer; Smoking can take your breath away-literally! And guess what, these educational programs have been extremely successful in bringing down the smoking rates. There is strong evidence to support that. Nobody has banned cigarettes–as far as I know, you can still buy them whenever you want, however, we are now more educated as a society on the dangers of smoking. Therefore, I feel that we would benefit more from the government not slapping us with bans, fines, and such (b/c people will always get around there), but I think that the government would find more success in diabetes prevention programs and lifestyle modification support. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime–that type of thing.

      1. How can you be sure the laws and education efforts are not working in concert? Also, your example is not great. The time span for the anti-texting laws has not been long enough. The drop in smoking took many years as did the drop in car fatalities…just sayin’

  7. I agree you can’t legislate morality or behavior, but it is a difficult problem to solve. Big sugary drinks just taste so good, and the manufacturers know we are slaves to our biology. You can’t blame them, because they are only giving us what we ask for. It’s like bad television sitcoms or crappy music. Real education is a big help. By that I mean decent schools. Educate people so they can make sound decisions for themselves.

  8. On top of education, I would also add the need for greater regulation in the realm of consumer products. Some of the stuff that the food and beverage industry are allowed to pump into their production lines in The States really shocks my European sensitivities. Banning soda is a stupid, short-sighted, symptomatic and ineffective approach to dealing with a crisis like obesity, that has deep socio-economic foundations. Agreed.

  9. Some good points made above. So what about the financial costs that tax payers incur when sick and low income people arrive at state-supported hospitals? I don’t mind paying taxes as a rule; a democratic society needs support from their citizens. However, the people who make poor health choices that at least partially cause their poor health, may end up in state-supported hospitals or on medicare, both of which the government financially supports. Lest we forget who gives the government the money to pay those health care costs, I’m ok with the government putting policy in place, such as banning or highly taxing soda as a way of saying, no, we’re not going to use tax payers’ money to enable your bad habits.

    1. Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely right. We as a society will end up paying the healthcare costs for some of those who make poor choices in life. Unfortunately, as long as there are types of Government-sponsored healthcare, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and as long as there are people who are unable to acquire insurance, ultimately the burden of healthcare falls onto the collective.

      Here is what I’m proposing, and with full-disclosure, it is not free. We need to be more focused on prevention. Prevention is not free. It will cost some money on the front end–say $300 for a diabetes prevention program. However, what is that $300 when you look at the actual cost over time of developing diabetes? I think that we would be spending less as a society if Government programs such as Medicare (for people over 65), and Medicaid (for low-income) sponsored programs such as diabetes prevention programs in order to mitigate the costs of the disease on the back end ($$$$$). For example, when the original Diabetes Prevention Program pilot was done by NIH, people over the age of 60 (close to Medicare) were the most successful of any group to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes –71% success rate. If we were to translate that into Medicare absorbing the cost for a prevention program for those at risk for diabetes, then Medicare in general could possibly save the money from 71% of those who successfully complete the program–because these people would not go on to develop the complications of the disease (blindness, amputation, kidney dialysis). This would be true healthcare savings, but we need to be committed to it.

  10. Congrats.

    I agree about the overbearing nanny state.

    But …. I do not understand the need for the State to educate people about sugar in their drinks.

    The STATE DOES NOT TELL US where they are sending our soldiers. Isn’t that education more important for Citizens?

    Or, do you really need that 128 ounce Coke in the morning to get going?

    🙂

    Ghost.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I believe that social responsibility and defense strategies are very different. Drinking sodas are not a matter of national security, nor will broadcasting the whereabouts of soldiers affect your life, personally. I believe that some things remain discreet because they have to in order to protect certain lives. I’m OK with not knowing the whereabouts of soldiers if it means they are being kept hidden for their own security.

      1. I realize that.

        However, limiting the size of your coke will protect your life. Nanny state may not sound good, but the restrictions were meant in your best interest.

        Ironic. How a good best interest can be struck down. And a bad interest is just hidden away.

        Maybe the governor should have done the restrictions quietly.

        He could have placed a 20 cent tax on the larger paper cups …. or 30 cent. And it would have been quiet and just happened.

        Maybe he really wanted to act like he was doing something. And he knew his plan would be stopped. And he could just say, “I tried.”

        Ghost.

  11. It’s 2013, does anyone not know that drinking lots of soda is bad for them? I’m not for a ban, because bans don’t work, but if you want to cut down the number of people drinking gross amounts of soda, the only way to do it is this- soda tax. A BIG soda tax. Like anything over 12oz costs $7 AKA movie theater prices. AND then you must give it a nasty name like Barf Size and put a photo of a morbidly obese person on the cup. I’m being slightly tongue and cheek here, but this is more or less the case. Or we can just give people the choice to drink whatever they want and then pay for their healthcare later. I’m fine with that too.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Actually, there are a lot of people out there who are unaware of the dangers that sugar, or over indulgence of any kind will have on the body. This is exactly why we are dealing with more and more cases of obesity and diabetes each year, and this trend will continue unless more is done on the prevention side of healthcare. For some people, the cost is not a barrier. It’s like a drug. People buy drugs despite the costs (both societal and monetary). What would be the best solution, and again, it is not a cure-all, would be a complete lifestyle modification. I’m not referring to a diet. Diets are fads and unreliable. I’m referring to making small consistent changes in the amount you eat and move. Something as small as walking 30 minutes a day–or parking your car a little farther away from the store in order to burn a few extra calories.

      Here is the thing. You are right, we will be spending more and more on healthcare if people do not make different choices. But the way you get people to make different choices is through education; teaching them about alternatives and the positive outcomes from choosing those alternatives. This will not be free. Prevention measures will cost money. But let’s say the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program costs $300. That is $300 up front for a proven measure that can eliminate some of the costs of complications ($$$$$$) on the back end of a disease such as diabetes.

  12. Hi I was so intrigue about your passion about education. I am happy to tell you that statistics has shown us that people just want food, everything but education. I wish people will follow what you have said, Care about themselves and tell government that they can make good decisions too. I study sociology here and I find out that the more you go in depth the more you will understand that people do not want prevention. It is sad.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree that instituting prevention will not be easy, but I also think that it is necessary in order to curb costs moving forward. Baby steps.

  13. I think the ban is simply lip-service. The incestuous relationship between Governments (corporations registered as such for profit) and the fast-food industry (corporations, you know the rest) is too ancient and too loyal for them to actually make effective real-time decisions that support society as a whole.

    I think getting off the grid is more helpful – then setting up our own co-operative communities, rather than nanny-led states. This would negate the need and addiction to blaming ‘them’ – by becoming Us.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree that it is difficult to distinguish between gov’t “lip-service” and actual policy when the interests of big business are front and center in the discussion.

  14. Interesting article which has stirred emotion on both sides of the argument about government and their role in society. I’ve always believed in free will but I have a problem when people through circumstances of choice or ignorance aren’t able to make good decisions about a variety of things. I think there is a fine line in protecting peoples rights and infringing on those rights. If you weight 400 pounds and enjoy drinking big drinks that’s your business. But if your lifestyle decision impacts my health care costs or benefits because of your lack of self control then we have a problem. I suppose you could say the same about Americas gun debate. It is impossible for government to make everyone happy and we shouldn’t expect government too.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree that we have a serious problem because a lot of people’s lifestyle choices are beginning to affect healthcare. But we need a more preventive outlook when it comes to health. Unfortunately, our system is geared more towards corrective care instead of prevention. This is where we need to change.

  15. I was with you until you said government should play a role in education. To the extent we “need” any government, it should be confined to protecting life and property, period. The government does not educate, it only indoctrinates.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I think you have misunderstood me. I don’t think that the government should be doing the education. I think that funds should be allocated towards preventive healthcare–such as diabetes prevention programs hosted by YMCAs, which are privately owned and operated. Weight Watchers is getting into the prevention realm as well. Right now, the way the system works with Medicare is that you can get screened for diabetes for free once a year if you have risk factors. If you are “prediabetic” then you can get screened twice a year. However, Medicare will not cover any of your expenses until you actually DEVELOP diabetes. That is ridiculous! If Medicare wanted to save money, they should pay for prevention for those who are diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Therefore, they may not have to pay for the complications of diabetes in the long run. Cost saver.

      1. I’m not trying to be difficult, but there seems to be a disconnect here.

        You said you don’t want the government “doing the education” but then advocate that they “allocate” funds toward certain programs. When government allocates the funds it steals (taxes), it is in effect doing the education as it is choosing what people should be educated about.

        I don’t need the government to steal my money and then use it to run programs telling me how not to get diabetes.

      1. Andy, the government would not be forcing anyone to do anything. The program would be a covered service. People would have to make the choice to enter the program, but the government would pay the bill as a way to LOWER health care costs. The government would not be running the program. Private organizations already run the program. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is already running across the country. You can check the YMCA’s website for that. The Y was awarded a grant from CMMI to offer the program for free to 10,000 Medicare recipients in 17 communities as part of a national pilot. If this pilot is successful–meaning, seniors CHOOSE to enter the program and the government (CMMI) is essentially paying the cost of a scholarship, then we have a huge opportunity to look at a way to save millions or trillions of health care dollars. Leading to lower costs across the board.

        There are no additional taxes involved. This would be paid for in the amount of savings we would incur as a result of people voluntarily entering the program and reducing or eliminating their risk of developing diabetes.

  16. hola,
    nadie puede hablar de lo que siente un diabetico, cuando no se padece. la insulina es necesaria en cierto modo, para funcionar; aunque esta puede ser disminuda o sustituida ya sea por diferentes actividades, hasta el punto de ya no prescindir de ella.
    todo se trata de tener conciencia, entendimiento, comprencion, razonamiento, etc., en ver que desinteresadamente ha comunicado sus ideas, las cuales han hecho algo bueno en mas de alguna persona. como por ejemplo: si estando en el desierto, algun discapacitado me dice, segui ese camino, que vas a encontrar agua y sigo su sugerencia y en verdad la encuentro. creo que me acordaria de aquel que me indico la ruta para encontrar, no solo agua, sino muchas otras cosas que han ayudado; e iria personalmente a ver en que le puedo ayudar, sabiendo de la condicion en que se encuentra, asi de sencillo. seria de mi parte, ser un malagradecido argumentando, que si quiere agua, tiene que recorrer el camino que me indico.
    lo mas seguro es que no cuenta con lo necesario para poder recorrer ese camino; pero cuenta con otras herramientas que serian de gran ayuda teniendolo como compañia a la par de uno, te lo aseguro, garantizado, me entienden?.
    no se pueden poner condiciones, argumentando, cualquier actividad personal, que pudiera realizar la persona, para no colaborar con el; cuando esos argumentos han sido solo pantalla, para los propios intereses, de los que los escribieron. si a eso le llaman ponerse serios, no saben lo que es eso.
    no se le puede decir a alguien PONETE SERIO, cuando estoy tapando lo que yo hago.
    pero si quieren que se ponga serio, les digo que VAN A LLORAR, todos los condicionadores.
    (eso es broma).
    HAGAMOS ALGO BUENO.

    ,

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