New York City Should Tax Soda, Not Ban It

John Cole reacts to the new anti-large-soda ban that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing in New York City:

Stupid, paternalistic, and completely unenforceable. My old platoon sergeant once told me that when it comes to keeping the guys in line, you never make a rule you won’t enforce, you never make a rule you can’t enforce, and you never make a rule you shouldn’t enforce. This new ban fails on at least the first two.

Cole’s platoon sergeant gives the same advice parents get. Don’t make rules for kids that you can’t or won’t enforce, and if you do make rules then you’d better stick to them or your kids will just ignore them entirely.

Majiscup – The Papercup & Sleeve Log/FlickrI get the feeling we’ll see a lot of that kind of ignoring going on in New York City when this ban goes into effect. As John points out, people can just buy two 16-ounce sodas instead of one 32-ounce soda. So what’s next? A ban on the number of sodas you can buy at one time?

Whatever public-health costs the ban may defer could be offset by the costs of attempting to enforce it in the first place. Meanwhile, Bloomberg lends credence to the “nanny state” alarmists who will rightfully hold this up as a bad example of government interfering in the economy.

Rather than banning soda, how about having the government just raise taxes on it? Taxing sugary drinks would put downward pressure on consumption of those drinks without any enforcement, and revenue could be pumped into public health and education efforts, effectively killing two birds with one stone.

The other day George Will said: “Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics.” I don’t think Bloomberg has fallen quite so low as Trump, but his reckless policies have more dire implications for the people of New York than the birther-bloviations of a reality TV star.

Money can buy a lot of things, but it can’t buy common sense.

Erik Kain is guest blogging while Kevin Drum is on vacation.

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