Appearing on Letterman’s show, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defend his ban on large-sized sugary drinks (recently struck down by the courts) by suggesting that it’s the government’s job to inform people as the consequences of the choices they’re making:
The problem with Bloomberg’s argument is that when you ban something you’re not informing their choice. You’re limiting their choice.
I could quibble with the argument that it’s the government’s job to inform us about the choices we make. Such informing is usually colored heavily by whoever happens to be holding the reins of power in any given moment, and isn’t often all that objective. But honestly, I’d be happy if the government did limit itself to merely informing us instead of attempting to manipulate the choices we make through public policy, be it bans or “sin taxes” or anything else intended to change our behavior.
The problem with Bloomberg’s ban wasn’t that he was trying to inform citizens. It’s that he was limiting the choices citizens could make. That crosses a public policy Rubicon that ought not be breeched.
Sadly, we breech it again and again from government efforts to eradicate smoking to First Lady Michelle Obama’s war on fat kids which resulted in top-down, national school lunch policy that left many kids hungry.
The most fundamental property of freedom is choice. If our choices are limited, or manipulated, we’re less free. Inform our choices, sure, but the government ought not be in the habit of limiting for our own good.