No Your Honor, Banning the Big Gulp Will Not Cure Obesity


When Mayor Bloomberg proposed a restaurant ban on soft drinks over 16-ounces, he cited research by Cornell professors Brian Wansink and David Just as the “science” behind the ban.  Now, both professors have taken to the Atlantic to explain why Hizzoner got it all wrong. 

Wansink and Just have performed studies showing that when you randomly give people large sizes of food like popcorn and French fries, they overeat.  But New Yorkers aren’t having big drinks randomly served to them; they’re actively seeking them out.  In fact, Wansink and Just’s research suggests that Bloomberg’s approach will backfire: when you overtly deny people the portions they want, they tend to eat more for the rest of the day.  “People reason that because they were forced to be good for one meal, they can splurge on snacks and desserts at later meals.” (ht: Volokh Conspiracy).

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive

    I agree, KC. And another thing: When politicians do the “right” thing and take freedoms, no matter how small, away from us, they are doing violence against the vision of the Founders. Will some people make bad decisions? Yes. But every citizen should have the freedom to make such decisions for himself, within reason. A parent shouldn’t have the freedom to feed his child insects and dog food. However, if a family goes to the movies, as we did yesterday, and wishes to buy a giant diet soda to share among the four of them, as we did, at a cost of $5, rather than buying four small drinks for a total cost of $16, they should have that freedom. Bloomberg should become a citizen of Singapore and seek the mayoralty there.

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  2. Profile Photo Inactive

    I think there is now enough empirical data to posit what might be called the meta-law of unintended consequences:  “The main unintended consequence of any well-intentioned government program will be to cause the exact opposite of whatever the program intended, and the extent of the harm will be directly proportional to the moral conviction of the proponents of the program.”

    As Dr. House likes to say, “It explains everything!”

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    Liberal do-gooder policies with unintended consequences?  Shocking!

    Didn’t Bloomberg already say “it’s a big problem, we have to try something“?  That rationale seems to cover a lot of shortcomings, counter-arguments, and poking-holes-in-foundational-justifications.

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    Bloomberg’s entire justification for these bans is “because it’s the right thing.” It’s funny – several times on the Sunday talk shows, people justified what they were doing by claiming “because it’s the right thing.” For instance, the ABC News roundtable argued that Obama’s unilateral enforcement of the DREAM Act was justified “because it was the right thing.”

    No. That’s not good enough.

    David Plouffe essentially said that Obama was allowed to bypass Congress because Congress -get this now- refused to agree with him. Of all the nerve! They disagreed with Obama and therefore Obama has the “right” to bypass Congress. (Well, just temporarily, Plouffe said, until they can vote their agreement properly.) 

    Again, political authority doesn’t come from being right. It comes from the consent of the governed. If your opposition doesn’t agree with you, being right doesn’t trump the lack of consent. 

    You cannot base a political system on the passionate conviction of anyone who is just certain that they’re right. And the fact that they really really really believe that they’re right doesn’t mean a damned thing.

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  5. Profile Photo Member

    I have another idea – let’s ban the killing of other human beings, and then there will be no more murders

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  6. Profile Photo Member

    Did they ban Big Gulp Diet Pepsi too?

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