Subsidizing Sugary Soda
In his book A Conflict of Visions, Thomas Sowell wrote:
It is only when estimating the potential intelligence of human beings that those with the unconstrained vision have a higher estimate than those with the constrained vision. When estimating the current intelligence of human beings, those with the unconstrained vision tend to estimate a lower mean and a greater variance. It is the greater variance which lends logical support to surrogate decision-making, whether in the form of more government planning in economics, judicial activism in the law, or international-agency efforts at population control or control of natural resources under the sea.
Separately, it should be noted that when it comes to something like voting, liberals adopt a “power to the people” stance. When it comes to drinking soda, it’s “you don’t have the mental faculties to know what you’re doing.”
Sowell’s concepts of potential versus current intelligence help elucidate the “creepiness” of unconstrained liberal ideology. While inequality is baked into the social cake – a truism that has held through all human societies throughout history – if we posit some bright shining utopian ideal on the hill then anything short of the full realization of that potential intelligence is a social or political failing.
It’s strange that guys like Michael Tomasky and David Frum have lashed out at the libertarian response to the sugary soda ban when, if libertarian doctrine would have been heeded from the get-go, obesity wouldn’t be at quite the epidemic proportion that has caused Mayor Bloomberg to act in the best interests of “public health”.
Corn subsidies previously totaled $6 billion per year in the U.S. High fructose corn syrup has been subsidized, incentivizing food and beverage producers to put it into the products they sell us. Soda prices have decreased over 24% in real terms since 1985 which was about the time that Coca-Cola and Pepsi completed a switch from white sugar (which is relatively expensive because of sugar tariffs) to high fructose corn syrup.
Both sides seem consistent though. Libertarians oppose those subsidies and oppose the ban; Bloomberg/Frum/Tomasky probably aren’t too averse to subsidies and they clearly support using governmental power to distort the market.
A better way – one which avoids Nanny Statism – would be to allow corn prices and, thus, all food prices to rise. Americans won’t go without meals or drinks; they’ll merely begin ordering whatever fits their budget. We’ll shrink accordingly. We won’t have to worry about the poverty-stricken masses who don’t have the foresight to avoid sugary drinks, and the mentally well-equipped have already explained that they wouldn’t drink the stuff if you paid them to.