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The Fat Police

A sugary slope.

11:05 AM, Jun 7, 2012 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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The mayor of New York does not believe that a willing buyer in search of a 32-ounce soft drink and a willing seller of the same should be allowed to make the deal. This, in a city that is famous for deals that involve quite a bit more than a few pints of sugar water and do a whole lot more societal damage. But never mind. People may have gone bust when Lehman went toes up, but nobody got obese as a result of its over-indulging in credit default swaps.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

And that’s the objective here. One we should not lose sight of. This marshmallow totalitarianism is a necessary governmental response to the crisis of obesity. Part of what will inevitably become a “War on Sugar.” The people who are enthralled by state power are always looking for a new crusade and never deterred by the fact that a previous one didn’t turn out so well.  We had, for instance, a great big war on drugs and that one now seems to have settled into a sullen sort of stalemate.  Drugs are still the enemy, we still support a huge war-making apparatus, and willing sellers and buyers of illegal drugs can still easily find each other anywhere in the land. 

In fact, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that there can be no total victory in the war on drugs and, so, the police will now tolerate the possession of small amounts of weed. Not a surrender, exactly. More like a modus vivendi. One of those informal, front-line truces that often occur in long, pointless wars.

A less vigorous prosecution of the war on drugs, the thinking no doubt goes, will free up resources to fight the war on fat. Also, the Coca Cola company and the local 7-11 are less formidable adversaries – and far less likely to cut your head off – than the drug gangs on the northern border of Mexico.

The anti-sugar crusaders’ cause is grounded in this logical argument: excessive sugar consumption causes obesity which is on the rise across the land; obesity results in a multitude of medical problems and, thus, causes a rise in health care costs which are, increasingly, paid for by the state; therefore the state has an interest in curtailing the consumption of obesity-causing sugar.

There is a lot wrong with this argument, beginning with the fact that people crave a lot of things that are bad for their health. Stress is bad for your health and the city of New York is probably the world’s leading producer of the stuff. Lots of New Yorkers thrive on it and would perish without it. 

But if you don’t like stress and believe it is bad for your health, you can move to Vermont. Same way that, if you are worried about getting fat, you can pass on the Pepsi and have a glass of red wine, instead. That stuff is now supposed to be good for you, though once upon a time, there were people who wanted to outlaw it.

Mayor Bloomberg plainly does not believe that people can be trusted to make an informed choice between Mountain Dew and Haut Brion. In his patronizing view of the world, people who are obese got that way because government didn’t do enough to prevent it. So it is not their fault. They are victims.

Since it is unlikely that these first tentative deployments in the war on obesity will be successful against the forces of sugar, escalation is sure to follow. The emergency will require a federal effort. So the president will appoint a sugar-czar to lead and coordinate all the forces of virtue. A new agency will follow. We already have a DEA, so why not an SEA? It will, of course, require its own lavish headquarters building. And, naturally, a battalion of agents, all of them armed and some operating undercover. A squadron of drones to conduct overhead surveillance. 

If these things seem preposterous, consider the fact that the EPA already has drones and armed agents and isn’t shy about using them. 

Once the bureaucracy is in place and the appropriations become routine, it will be necessary for the SEA to have its own fully staffed diversity operation. And, of course, there will be off-site training sessions, just like those the GSA held in Las Vegas.

The SEA’s public information office will fill the airways with PSAs and, who knows, one of the networks may come up with a red hot series about a pair of SEA agents, one of whom is a laconic tough guy and the other a red-hot babe who can shoot the eyes out of a gnat with her Glock. The show will follow their thrilling adventures as they infiltrate and break up underground sugar cartels moving Nehi across state lines in the dead of night.

There is, of course, no end to it. One can legitimize all manner of state intrusions by arguing that the public health is thereby advanced and, therefore, money is saved. We have plenty of them, already. But the safety and health totalitarians will never be satisfied. Not, anyway, until they have rendered life in what was formerly the land of the free into something that is safe, supervised, sanitary, and boringly long.

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