You should read this review. It's good for you.
February 24, 2013 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Justifying Coercive Paternalism - autonomy is "not valuable enough to offset what we lose by leaving people to their own autonomous choices"
posted by Gyan (196 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool! We just need to find somebody who can be trusted with the reins.

(Literally nobody can be trusted with reins.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:00 AM on February 25, 2013 [33 favorites]


Conly’s argument is careful, provocative, and novel,

Hmm, I kind of disagree with that last adjective, and it saddens me that US discourse is apparently so completely off the deep end the reviewer can't recognise that - at least as described - Conly's argument is:

a) Bog-standard utiltarianism as argued forever.
b) The only decent argument for government that isn't batshit insane nightwatchman crap or fascist authoritarianism.
c) Pretty much the raison d'etre for Public Policy as a discipline and body.

I say all this all as the biggest nanny state fan ever, btw.

I don't know, I don't really see anything new about these ideas, and if you scrub the insane pox of capitalist-interests-dressed-up-as-libertarianism that rages through the states, I don't feel they are really that outre.

Further the only area I know something about - tobacco - is furnished with some pretty bad examples that make me question Conly's qualifications to make any judgments about tobacco whatsoever, really. But then, that's the whole point of her argument, isn't it? She doesn't. That's why we have govt specialists who are supposed to advise without fear or favour.
posted by smoke at 1:08 AM on February 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, the authoritarianism isn't the only problem, it's also that the self-appointed parents are idiots with simplistic ineffective solutions. Obesity is a complex problem with many different roots. It should probably be viewed as a mental health issue comparable to drug addiction, only worse because you can't give up food entirely and will constantly have to reign in your appetite. Fat people are not lobotomized drooling children who will drink less soda if only a smaller soda is available. If they want more, they will buy another!

Maybe the parents should think about why they enforce a culture that demands people work crappy low paying jobs with terrible benefits and no vacation time and consider why that could lead to people turning to food or booze for relaxation instead of more healthy pursuits.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:10 AM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Conly's argument is pretty familiar to anyone who's enjoyed life in a developed country, and yet you'd be surprised at how many people would disagree with it, at least on paper.

That said, banning tobacco is a hilariously terrible idea.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:21 AM on February 25, 2013


Fat people are not lobotomized drooling children who will drink less soda if only a smaller soda is available.

No, if they've set their heart on a large portion no doubt they'll get a large portion one way or another. But perhaps there is a group of people who would in fact have been satisfied with the smaller portion: but they order the large anyway for whatever reason and once they've got it they finish it. That group of people will consume less if the large isn't available. Isn't that kind of potential effect at least plausible?
posted by Segundus at 1:22 AM on February 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


"If they want more, they will buy another!"

You see, its exactly the intuitive but completely and demonstrably wrong bullshit like this that proves the authors point. Coca-Cola and Pepsi know its bullshit, and they don't care about the damage that their products do, they only care about how much profit extract from our collective inability to care for ourselves. People don't just buy a second one, which is why they've only been getting bigger to extract more cash out of the single purchases that soda companies know we make because they are actually paying attention and using their damn brains. When we refuse to build the kind of society that will produce healthy and happy people and abandon our responsibilities to each other and our kids it should come as no surprise that the people happy to pick up the slack have more interest in our wallets than our well being.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:24 AM on February 25, 2013 [37 favorites]


I'm not sure if the entire edifice of government, policy, and legislation is well-served by assessing it through the narrow lens of public health as it pertains to obesity. Government as a concept is so much more than that - or any single issue.

Policies and social problems should be assessed in their own context - that's what good governance and policy is really all about. It's anathema to journalists and politicians (as opposed to public servants), of course - no simple narratives, or easy rules to complex problems in real life.

But perhaps if journos and the public paid more attention to public servants and depts, and less to politicians, special interests and other storytellers, our vociferous debates about policy would be more informed, nuanced and constructive.
posted by smoke at 1:26 AM on February 25, 2013


Uhmmm. Automatic weapons.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:33 AM on February 25, 2013


You see, its exactly the intuitive but completely and demonstrably wrong bullshit like this that proves the authors point.

Oh, then you have stats for the drastic reduction in obesity for New York, right?
posted by Drinky Die at 1:41 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


But perhaps there is a group of people who would in fact have been satisfied with the smaller portion: but they order the large anyway for whatever reason and once they've got it they finish it. That group of people will consume less if the large isn't available. Isn't that kind of potential effect at least plausible?

You need to do better than potentially maybe this will help (it won't) before exercising your authoritarianism, that is the problem. Stupid pointless laws undercut respect for the good ones.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:44 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Oh, then you have stats for the drastic reduction in obesity for New York, right?"

The point of good governance is not to serve as some straw man supposedly capable of immediately fixing everyone's problems ever, but to collectively do the kinds of things we can't do alone to build the kind of world that would be nice to live in. The kind of world where soda companies are free to manipulate our satiety response to their own ends as exploitatively as they damn well please is a shittier place to live than the kind of world where they aren't. Soda sizes are themselves a really small thing, even drinking less soda will not be some kind of magical fucking panacea that will solve our obesity issues, but regulating them is a straightforward and easy part of building the kind of New York where health will be the natural state rather than disease.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:05 AM on February 25, 2013 [39 favorites]


The point of good governance is not to serve as some straw man supposedly capable of immediately fixing everyone's problems ever,

If you can't demonstrate that I'm wrong don't accuse me of demonstrably wrong bullshit. You should apologize for that. The point of the law is to reduce obesity, not magic strawman solve everything. The law doesn't work, it is a bad law. Soda consumption is down nationally without feel-good authoritarian idiocy. Tobacco use is down without bans. People don't need more drug war style bullshit laws that supporters can't actually demonstrate work.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:16 AM on February 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Tobacco use is down without bans

Tobacco certainly is banned in lots of places. It's not illegal to purchase, but you can't smoke it in lots of buildings or locations. Additionally, there are disincentives in the form of increased costs.
posted by dubold at 2:20 AM on February 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Also, on reflecting on this some more, I feel like paternalism is absolutely the wrong term to be using for government as we know it in Western democracies (and elsewhere) currently.

Paternalism implies that there is a pater somewhere, but I refute anyone who's really seen the sausage making of legislation and otherwise maintain that in all but the most strongest majority government there is a single perspective let alone person - and hardly even then, when public services are filled with a diversity of people, backgrounds, experiences.

Just about every viewpoint you can think of is represented on the path to policy-making - whichever facets or almagations hold the day at the end. You could call it paternalism, I suppose, but in the world I like to live in - different people attempting to look out for each other and help each other, even if wrongheadedly, that's called communitarianism, not paternalism.

I acknowledge my ability to buy govt-subsidised rose-coloured glasses in this socialist paradise of Australia - with merely an unpleasant aroma of regulatory capture as opposed to ravaged visage and impoverished democracy left in the US.

But hey, we're talking about how govt should be, and what they were set up to be, here. Not how they've been despoiled and broken by special interests masquerading as political philosophies or public advocates.

I suppose it's obvious I think libertarianism is an irredeemable crock of shit, concocted by people with about as much contact with actual government as Osama Bin Laden had with a PhilliShave, but if anything, I feel conversations like what's posited in the article are sidetracks.

Rather than discussing if good governance would be good (um, of course?), we should be discussing how we can protect our machinery of govt - and democracy -, empower our public servants, open up our legislative processes and turn the volume down on disruptive special interests and fact-free nonsense. Invest the our citizens with a stake in our government that goes beyond "what's in it for me?" ; a belief in both government in general, and current governments in particular; and the desire and means to work in it, with it, for it, to protect it, nuture it, make it better.

The impetus for "paternalism" springs from an unquestioned assumption in a disengaged populace - a surly teenager, snuck out from the house of Government to go party. If citizens are engaged, informed, and active in government, paternalism is rendered impossible.

Of course, some steps along this road are easy than others - and many who have the power to make the journey it are least inclined to do it. Part of this is the professionalisation of the political class, to be sure. But there are lots of reasons, I think.

Still that's what's worth talking about, fighting for, not this dog-and-pony show of "Paternalism! VS! Night-Watchman!".
posted by smoke at 2:21 AM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Purchase of tobacco is not banned, like purchase of large soda is in New York. Education, regulation, and taxation have done wonders. Bans are objectively bad policy for vice and bad laws are roadblocks to good regulation.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:22 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, then you have stats for the drastic reduction in obesity for New York, right?

You made a claim -- "If they want more, they will buy another!", implying that reductions in serving size will have no effect on consumption -- and presented no evidence for it. And now, you are demanding evidence for a claim that was counter to yours. Your claim was couched in language that was just as dismissive as Blasdelb's: "Fat people are not lobotomized drooling children who will drink less soda if only a smaller soda is available", accusing people who disagree with you of comically stupid opinions. You can't do that and then get huffy when other people do the same thing.

So...where is your evidence?

You should apologize for that.

...and your apology?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:23 AM on February 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Well, I sure was looking forward to an interesting discussion about modes of governments. Damned shame it's gotten sidetracked into a tawdry, well-trod-here-and-everywhere-debate about freaking soda.
posted by smoke at 2:24 AM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I used that language because I am a fat person who does not want to be treated like a lobotomized child by bad regulations and I will not apologize for opposing authoritarian bans when reductions in consumption, cite, are achieved without them. Authoritarianism is sometimes necessary, but should only be used as a last resort.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:30 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


If they want more, they will buy another!

Counterexample regarding the psych impact that can be caused by total individual product size:

Long term effect of reduced pack sizes of paracetamol [USian: Tylenol] on poisoning deaths and liver transplant activity in England and Wales: interrupted time series analyses (BMJ 2013;346:f403)

Results Compared with the pre-legislation level, following the legislation there was an estimated average reduction of 17 (95% confidence interval −25 to −9) deaths per quarter in England and Wales involving paracetamol alone (with or without alcohol) that received suicide or undetermined verdicts. This decrease represented a 43% reduction or an estimated 765 fewer deaths over the 11¼ years after the legislation. A similar effect was found when accidental poisoning deaths were included, and when a conservative method of analysis was used. This decrease was largely unaltered after controlling for a non-significant reduction in deaths involving other methods of poisoning and also suicides by all methods. There was a 61% reduction in registrations for liver transplantation for paracetamol induced hepatotoxicity (−11 (−20 to −1) registrations per quarter). But no reduction was seen in actual transplantations (−3 (−12 to 6)), nor in registrations after a conservative method of analysis was used.

Conclusions UK legislation to reduce pack sizes of paracetamol was followed by significant reductions in deaths due to paracetamol overdose, with some indication of fewer registrations for transplantation at liver units during the 11 years after the legislation. The continuing toll of deaths suggests, however, that further preventive measures should be sought.
posted by jaduncan at 2:39 AM on February 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


"If you can't demonstrate that I'm wrong don't accuse me of demonstrably wrong bullshit. You should apologize for that. The point of the law is to reduce obesity, not magic strawman solve everything. The law doesn't work, it is a bad law. Soda consumption is down nationally without feel-good authoritarian idiocy. Tobacco use is down without bans. People don't need more drug war style bullshit laws that supporters can't actually demonstrate work."
What I asserted was wrong was the contention that people will simply buy a second soda and consume an equivalent amount, which is wrong. It flies in the face of everything we know about how marketing works, this is a good introduction to the topic with references (PDF). You keep saying 'bad law', 'bad regulation', that it 'won't work' like that is somehow self-evident and doesn't require critical thinking or knowledge of beverage marketing or public health actually work to analyze and piece apart.

Regardless, as soon as New York grows a population of soda gangsters smuggling two liters for pop fiends the drug war analogy will hold weight, but seriously?
posted by Blasdelb at 2:42 AM on February 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


"Cool! We just need to find somebody who can be trusted with the reins.

(Literally nobody can be trusted with reins.)
"
YES! We can trust no one! So instead of even pretending to give a shit and doing our best to build accountable transparent structures that work in our best interest, even when we don't know what the fuck we're talking about because not all of us know a damn thing about public health, lets just leave the reigns lying around for whomever ends up having sufficient power to pick them up.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:44 AM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Apples and oranges, jaduncan. Consumption of medicine and food/drink work with very different triggers.

What I asserted was wrong was the contention that people will simply buy a second soda and consume an equivalent amount, which is wrong.

The study you linked does not appear to support this contention but instead discusses the health consequences of larger portion sizes and the marketing of larger portion sizes. I only skimmed it, so maybe I missed it. If so, please quote the portion you are talking about here.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:49 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that the specific soda example is a good example of implicit social norm setting more than coercion. The act of returning for seconds or thirds is indeed different, partly because of the simple reason that it means that the customer can't just drink without thinking. It's true that the customer can get more if they want. It's a lot easier to just drink all the soda in front of you even if you don't want it due to not really thinking, as well as due to the fact that people react badly when they have to dispose or give back something they already think of as theirs (this is why retail assistants *love* to hand over gadgets for you to play with for a bit).

I would however question if a lot of the customers that would drink a large soda normally actually desire the whole drink, and note that those that do can indeed refill. I'm not sure that the infringement of liberty is clear, but even if we say that it is an infringement of liberty for the retailer the customer can still purchase the total quantity of product they want in any case. That seems a proportionate restriction when compared to the potential public health gains.

There's a debate bubbling under about liberty versus utilitarianism here though.
posted by jaduncan at 2:49 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Purchase of tobacco is not banned, like purchase of large soda is in New York. Education, regulation, and taxation have done wonders. Bans are objectively bad policy for vice and bad laws are roadblocks to good regulation.

In many jurisdictions, tobacco use is banned in many locations, viz. bars. I don't think very many people think that tobacco itself should be banned, but there's more to bans than simply forbidding purchase and possession of the object itself. Likewise, the soda ban is not a ban on large quantities of soda itself - it's just that you can't sell above a certain quantity in one container at certain businesses.

Steering this conversation away from the soda ban itself, it's interesting to think about the different means of control the government has at its disposal. You can ban the purchase and possession of heroin. You can ban smoking tobacco in bars. You can force restaurants to print calorie counts. You can enroll people into certain programs as defaults. You can enforce tax penalties for not purchasing health insurance. You can give people tax write-offs for getting a mortgage.

However, there are upsides and downsides to each approach.

With regard to the "nudge" approach, I'm reminded of an example from the excellent book The Submerged State. The 2010 payroll tax cut was designed by behavioral economists to be a subtle tax cut which would arrive with little fanfare. The idea was that people would use their money in better ways if it appeared as a gradual surprise, in contrast to how the Bush tax cuts gave people a well-publicized check in the mail, which people would then promptly use to pay off their student loans.

In one sense, the payroll tax cut worked - people used their money more or less as the behavioral economists had predicted. However, there was also a problem with this semi-secret technique. Most people were not aware of the fact that their taxes had actually been significantly cut. This made it very difficult for Obama to sell other programs. It made him look like a stereotypical tax-raising liberal when he did raise the specter of taxes, and worse, it made him look as if he had been nonresponsive to most people's economic needs.

...

Paternalism implies that there is a pater somewhere, but I refute anyone who's really seen the sausage making of legislation and otherwise maintain that in all but the most strongest majority government there is a single perspective let alone person - and hardly even then, when public services are filled with a diversity of people, backgrounds, experiences.

I don't know if I agree with that. Paternalism does not imply a literal father figure, no more than patriarchy does. Paternalism is a commonly-accepted term to describe when organizations protect people from themselves, and like many other things in life, it can be good, bad, or neutral.

What's important about this article (and the book it reviews) is the fact that paternalism has long been a perfectly acceptable force in modern governance. To steal an example from the article itself, the government prevents you from working in OSHA-noncompliant workplaces, even if you yourself wouldn't mind, because the greater good is served by having safe workplaces for everyone. This is a generally uncontroversial legal principle.

This is why it looks silly when people are aghast at the general idea of the government restraining anyone. So many basic aspects of our comfy modern existence flow from the fact that the government prevents people from doing anything they please. If you doubt me, go live in a failed state some time. See how that goes.

The tricky part is being able to analyse where the lines are, between good governance and bad governance.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:51 AM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ironically, Drinky is in some ways exhibiting the behaviour that the article posits "paternalism" as trying to address (well, perhaps not; we do not know if Drinky lives up to his name when it comes to giant sodas).

Extra ironically, Drinky's strong emotional, "heel-diggy" response is also a great demonstration of why critiques of paternalism are essentially right, in that if a populace is sufficiently aroused and angered at their government across a range of public policy issues, the loss of stake in democracy and outcomes would certainly be worse - in the long run - than any short term public health or good gain. As the institution of government is perceived as degraded, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and government is - still - so, so important. In some ways, I feel this has already happened in the US, and is on the way here.

That is why I'm such a huge fan of public outreach, deliberative polling etc - any attempt to engage the diversity of citizens with the business of policy-making and more importantly thinking about policy-making.

This is also why I think the media is a huge pile of shit, but at the same time am worried about the growing atomisation of media consumption - where people consume only content tailored specifically for them and their prejudices.

Decent media, and reasonable modes of debate could go a long way to resolve some of these issues, I think, but more and more I'm thinking the period after WWII was actually a bench mark in Western Democracies. The disruption of the War essentially sidelined many special interests (mostly capitalists) and sparked a huge increase in civic involvement/knowledge that persisted for decades afterwards, fuelling public policy and other developments, and a homogenous media paradoxically exposed people to great diversity of messaging and thought.

I fear we will need an equally disruptive event to regain that.
posted by smoke at 2:54 AM on February 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


Cornell: People offered larger portions consume larger portions, even though they don't realize just how much they're consuming.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:54 AM on February 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


What's important about this article (and the book it reviews) is the fact that paternalism has long been a perfectly acceptable force in modern governance... This is why it looks silly when people are aghast at the general idea of the government restraining anyone.

Yes indeed, and it depresses me that it's a conversation that people need to have (hopefully just in America?), and enough of a one that you can sell a book about it. The damage wrought by people pretending to be libertarians and those who believe them, so large.
posted by smoke at 2:57 AM on February 25, 2013


But OK, papers on food and the influence of portion size:

Rolls, B. J., Morris, E. L. & Roe, L. S. (2002) Portion size of food affects energy intake in normal-weight and overweight men and women. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 76:1207-1213.

Rolls, B. J., Roe, L. S., Kral, T.V.E., Meengs, J. S. & Wall, D. E. (2004) Increasing the portion size of a packaged snack increases energy intake in men and women. Appetite 42:63-69.

Kral, T.V.E., Meengs, J. S., Wall, D. E., Roe, L. S. & Rolls, B. J. (2003) Effect on food intake of increasing the portion size of all foods over two consecutive days. FASEB J. 17:A809 (abs.).

Looking specifically at Rolls et al (2002):
Background: Large portions of food may contribute to excess energy intake and greater obesity. However, data on the effects of portion size on food intake in adults are limited.

Objectives: We examined the effect of portion size on intake during a single meal. We also investigated whether the response to portion size depended on which person, the subject or the experimenter, determined the amount of food on the plate.

Design: Fifty-one men and women were served lunch 1 d/wk for 4 wk. Lunch included an entrée of macaroni and cheese consumed ad libitum. At each meal, subjects were presented with 1 of 4 portions of the entrée: 500, 625, 750, or 1000 g. One group of subjects received the portion on a plate, and a second group received it in a serving dish and took the amount they desired on their plates.

Results: Portion size significantly influenced energy intake at lunch (P [less than] 0.0001). Subjects consumed 30% more energy (676 kJ) when offered the largest portion than when offered the smallest portion. The response to the variations in portion size was not influenced by who determined the amount of food on the plate or by subject characteristics such as sex, body mass index, or scores for dietary restraint or disinhibition.

Conclusions: Larger portions led to greater energy intake regardless of serving method and subject characteristics. Portion size is a modifiable determinant of energy intake that should be addressed in connection with the prevention and treatment of obesity.
The specific money quote from the results:
The videotape data for the serving dish group showed that the total number of spoonfuls taken from the serving dish did not differ significantly across conditions of portion size. Subjects served themselves a mean of 7 times regardless of the amount of food in the serving dish. Thus, as the portion presented in the dish increased, subjects took a significantly greater amount per serving spoonful (P [less than] 0.05). By calculation, the mean amount per spoonful was 49 ± 3, 52 ± 3, 64 ± 7, and 55 ± 3 g in the 500-, 625-, 750-, and 1000-g conditions, respectively. Subjects in the serving-dish group left some plate waste in only 15% of their meals; the amount ranged from 2 to 34 g. Thus, after these subjects served the food onto their plates, they left very little of it uneaten.
It really does have an impact.
posted by jaduncan at 2:58 AM on February 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


There is an ocean of difference between an authoritarian nanny state that tells you what to do "or else", usually based upon idiotic archaic religious mores, and nanny psychology that subtlety influences behavior.

Critically, there is no unifying morality behind nanny psychology : If health experts want to downsize portions, perhaps that's only because other not-so-nice nanny psychologists already figured out that super-sizing earned them more money, even if it did so by killing their customers.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:02 AM on February 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


It also importantly flags up that this isn't a matter of fat people being somehow morally different: it affected all groups, and that suggests that it is (as on preview jeffburdges implies) a matter of perceptions shifted by marketing rather than true consumer choice.
posted by jaduncan at 3:04 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cornell: People offered larger portions consume larger portions, even though they don't realize just how much they're consuming.

That article appears to be about the size of the plate, not the portions. This suggests we should ban the wrong plates and cups, not large portions. We must also of course require everyone to jog for half an hour each day.

There are short term studies that show a link between portion size and caloric intake, but there are not long term studies that show a causal link between portion size and obesity. The thing is, the supersized soda is not the only choice. The studies mostly offer something and the participants eat it or not, they aren't choosing their portion ahead of time. If someone wants a small, they can buy one without needing to ban the large.

That is why I want the real world data from New York. If the ban isn't doing a better job than non-ban states, why go to the trouble of setting up the authoritarianism?
posted by Drinky Die at 3:17 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Please let go of the drink sizes thing, or take it to email.]
posted by taz at 3:22 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are short term studies that show a link between portion size and caloric intake, but there are not long term studies that show a causal link between portion size and obesity.

You'd be looking for something like

Young & [ironically] Nestle (2002) The Contribution of Expanding Portion Sizes to the US Obesity Epidemic Am J Public Health. 2002 February; 92(2): 246–249. PMCID: PMC1447051
"Marketplace food portions have increased in size and now exceed federal standards. Portion sizes began to grow in the 1970s, rose sharply in the 1980s, and have continued in parallel with increasing body weights."
It's hard to separate correlation and causation here, but cheap large portions seem likely to lead to greater consumption.
"The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased sharply among US adults and children in recent years.1–3 Although multiple factors can account for weight gain, the basic cause is an excess of energy intake over expenditure. If, as has been reported, activity patterns have not changed much in the past decade,4,5 the rise in body weights must be caused by increased energy intake. Indeed, dietary intake surveys indicate a per capita increase of 200 kcal/d from 1977–19786 to 1994–1996,7 and the US food supply (total food produced, less exports, plus imports) now provides 500 kcal/d per capita more than in the 1970s.8 Regardless of how imprecise such figures may be, they appear to confirm that Americans consume more energy than they did in the past."
Some of the figures in the paper are really striking. Example:
"Obviously, larger portions provide more calories. A 2.1-oz Butterfingers candy bar contains 270 kcal, whereas the 5.0-oz “Beast” supplies 680 kcal. The 7-Eleven Double Gulp, a 64-oz soda, contains nearly 800 kcal—an amount 10 times the size of a Coca-Cola when it was introduced40 and calorically equivalent to more than one third of the energy requirement of large segments of the population.41 Increased consumption of fast foods contributes to increased caloric intake;42 this problem could well be made worse by the “supersizing” of menu items.43 In the mid-1950s, McDonald's offered only 1 size of french fries; that size is now considered “Small” and is one third the weight of the largest size available in 2001. Today's “Large” weighs the same as the 1998 “Supersize,” and the 2001 “Supersize” weighs nearly an ounce more. Since 1999, a McDonald's “Supersize” soda is nearly one third larger than the “Large.” Notably, the sizes of chain fast-food portions in Europe are smaller than those in the United States. McDonald's “Extra Large” soda portions in London, Rome, and Dublin weigh the same as the US “Large.” In 1998–1999, the largest order of french fries in the United States contained 610 calories,44 whereas the largest size in the United Kingdom contained 446 calories.45"
The customer who walks in for a burger has had the perception of the normal size shifted considerably. It would seem odd if that didn't have an impact on total calorie consumption.

The whole paper is worth a read though, it's quite short.
posted by jaduncan at 3:27 AM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm just quoting the CDC on that.

In the section on weight management, the Dietary
Guidelines address portion sizes, stating that there are no
empirical studies to show a causal relationship between
increased portion sizes and obesity, but there are shortterm studies showing that controlling portion sizes helps limit calorie intake, particularly when eating high-calorie
foods.


Time to drop this topic though.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:30 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If they want more, they will buy another!

Not quite about soda, but we just had a thread about how smaller container sizes made paracetamol overdoses that less common.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:56 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Viewing problems such as obesity or lack of financial planning without careful scrutiny of powerful industries or the social components of health disparities is short-sited and victim-blamey. To then use this as justification to take away individual's personal freedom "for their own good" ignores the root of these systemic issues. But hey, it's a whole lot easier than tackling the food industry or trying to change capitalism.
posted by pugh at 4:14 AM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is a difference between "for your own good" and "for our own good" - especially in a democracy, where we elect people to keep on top of that stuff.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:31 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Gosh, maybe some people don't care about being thin, or good looking, or whatever the Cause Du Jour is?

Why is your opinion better than theirs? If you can't be persuasive enough to convince them to change behavior, why are you so much better that you're allowed to use force, to make them comply?

Go right ahead and travel down this path if you want, but we are already deeply divided. You get far into this kind of bullshit, and we will end up in a civil war. People are already calling Obama a fascist. You actually start being fascist, and you can't even imagine how bad things will get.

This is supposed to be the country where you can do whatever you want, as long as it's not hurting anyone else. Land of the Free, remember? Land of the Free. That's the foundational principle of the entire government. And the only way you're going to override that is by completely breaking the social contract, and if you seriously try to do that, you will regret it.

You know what the inevitable consequence of paternalism is? Revolt.
posted by Malor at 4:37 AM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Viewing problems such as obesity or lack of financial planning without careful scrutiny of powerful industries or the social components of health disparities is short-sited and victim-blamey. To then use this as justification to take away individual's personal freedom "for their own good" ignores the root of these systemic issues. But hey, it's a whole lot easier than tackling the food industry or trying to change capitalism."
Wait, hold on, tackling the food industry and trying to change capitalism to work instead for social good is exactly what the laws we are talking about are trying to do. This is also exactly why industry is treating us like lobotomized drooling children they can feed soundbites to that absurdly equate their products, which they have engineered specifically to hurt us, with 'individual personal freedom' as if there was a meaningful one to one comparison to be made. We almost don't even need to conduct research on what influences people to make poor financial or health choices; Philip Morris, check cashing loan shark operations, Coca-Cola, cell phone companies, major brewers, and gun manufacturers have already done it - the only difference is that they have the good sense to use it to their benefit and we do not.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:39 AM on February 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


You know what the inevitable consequence of paternalism is? Revolt.

Seriously? Minimum wage laws spawned revolt? OSHA regulations against unsafe workplaces spawn revolt? FDA regulations against marketing snake oil as medicine spawn revolt? You might as well make the equally-sweeping argument that a lack of paternalism inevitably ends in revolt.

Governance is about balancing a variety of factors, and among those balancing acts is the balance between individual freedom and the greater good. We wouldn't want a totalitarian government, no more than we would want a nonexistent government. There are a number of sweet spots in the middle, and the challenge is to find those sweet spots.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:47 AM on February 25, 2013 [24 favorites]


There is a difference between "for your own good" and "for our own good" - especially in a democracy, where we elect people to keep on top of that stuff.

Or we elect Bush and Cheney and support bad laws on terrorism because emotion is overriding good sense. The government should lead us, that is what they are there for, but taking the authority too far is counter-productive.

Wait, hold on, tackling the food industry and trying to change capitalism to work instead for social good is exactly what the laws we are talking about are trying to do.


A ban is an attempt to do so, it's just that it is an overly simplistic and ineffective attempt. If I asked you to seriously address drug use or ilegal immigration and your reply was that you did so by making them illegal, I'm gonna be rolling my eyes at you. Just because I can show you links about the serious health risks of pot doesn't mean we are locked into the solution of prohibition.

The government has a history of contributing to our problems, changing the behavior of the population is not as simple as condemning corporations and making authoritarian laws to restrict them. The powers of government and business and the people have to be balanced. (On preview, what Sticher said, though I think we have different conceptions of the sweet spot)
posted by Drinky Die at 4:52 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Minimum wage laws, OSHA, FDA, those aren't paternalism. Those aren't restrictions imposed from above. Those are societal rules and regulations that people fought and died for.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:58 AM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bans don't work to reduce consumption permanently - they backfire. Making something inconvenient and expensive, as was done with cigarettes, tends to work beautifully to reduce consumption. You're absolutely free in the U.S. to continue smoking, you're just going to have a really hard time doing it.

Is this the "right" thing to do? Does anyone seriously have a huge problem with it - were the smoke-filled restaurants and homes of the past evidence of a better world?

This Wonkblog article on the effectiveness of gas taxes versus fuel economy standards on reducing fuel consumption is on point.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:01 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right now, there are dozens of bills out there that claim that women like myself must have to jump through an ever-increasing number of hoops to access abortion, almost all of them predicated on the idea that I am too stupid to know when I need one.

I find it interesting tht this article spends so much time on choice and paternalism without even a passing mention of this enormous autonomy issue that has been ongoing for 40 years.
posted by emjaybee at 5:03 AM on February 25, 2013 [26 favorites]


"Minimum wage laws, OSHA, FDA, those aren't paternalism. Those aren't restrictions imposed from above. Those are societal rules and regulations that people fought and died for."
bbbthbthbth

The ability to imposing restrictions from above on employers, drug companies and food manufacturers respectively is pretty much the only thing that OSHA and the FDA can actually meaningfully do to positively affect our society. We have them and their fascist restrictions on the freedom of employers to put their workers in harms way, the freedom of food manufactures to favor their shit with arsenate compounds, and the freedom of of drug companies to sell us shit that doesn't work or hurts us to thank for the modern society we have today.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:06 AM on February 25, 2013


almost all of them predicated on the idea that I am too stupid to know when I need one.

No, it's because theocrats are trying to skirt the law with other laws. They don't think you're stupid, or need to be protected from yourself. You need to be brought to heel as a heretic. This is a very different situation than paternalism.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:13 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tobacco certainly is banned in lots of places. It's not illegal to purchase, but you can't smoke it in lots of buildings or locations. Additionally, there are disincentives in the form of increased costs.

So, in other words, not banned at all.
posted by spaltavian at 5:17 AM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Theocrats are entirely capable of being paternalistic. They just protect your soul instead of your health.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:17 AM on February 25, 2013


Also, I'm not sure about some of the uses of "paternalism" here. Some people seem to be implying that just about any law or regulation is paternalistic (and therefore we should all get on board). Paternalism is when a government tries to protect you from yourself, because of some "right" way to live. Protecting other people, even if they're being protected from you, isn't paternalism. Minimum wage laws and banning tobacco use in public are not paternalistic. Some sort of compulsury spending to income scheme or banning tobacco use all together would be.

The alternative is that all governance is paternalism, in which case the word and concept have no useful meaning.
posted by spaltavian at 5:27 AM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why is your opinion better than theirs? If you can't be persuasive enough to convince them to change behavior, why are you so much better that you're allowed to use force, to make them comply?

This surprised me because only yesterday you were in favor of austerity, which is making a lot of people comply with the opinion of a few people.
posted by ersatz at 5:28 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"You get far into this kind of bullshit, and we will end up in a civil war."

It always amazes me how hyperbolic people can get desperately defending the supposed rights of large and already powerful corporate entities to sell whatever they damn please however they like regardless of the consequences. As profitable as setting people up to fail and then taking their money when they do might be, it is really bad for all of us. When we let the tobacco industry run wild with all the 'freedom' they wanted we ended up with them causing one in every five American deaths and at current rates it will murder 10 million people at year by 2030. When we prized the 'freedoms' of food manufactures above our own basic self interest with the horrific sanitation and workers rights issues depicted in The Jungle.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:30 AM on February 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Not a big fan of smoking, but murder? Please.
posted by learnsome at 5:40 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


When we let the tobacco industry run wild with all the 'freedom' they wanted we ended up with them causing one in every five American deaths

And when we paternalistically banned booze it was a huge, violent backfire. How can you possibly be amazed people don't want to march with you towards repeating the mistakes of the past? We have reduced smoking without banning the product, that is a wise way to deal with vice. A large serving of food or drink is safe in the context of a properly planned diet, it is not poison meat.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:45 AM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Not a big fan of smoking, but murder? Please."
Generally in the US when someone performs an action that demonstrates "callous disregard for human life" and that results in death we call that murder, I also hear that for most other purposes these days corporations are people my friend.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:46 AM on February 25, 2013


Why is your opinion better than theirs? If you can't be persuasive enough to convince them to change behavior, why are you so much better that you're allowed to use force, to make them comply?

GIVE ME THE ABILITY TO EAT ARSENIC IN MY UNREGULATED FOOD PRODUCTS AND/OR GIVE ME THE POSSIBLY RESULTANT DEATH!
posted by jaduncan at 5:47 AM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I kid.
posted by jaduncan at 5:47 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"And when we paternalistically banned booze it was a huge, violent backfire. How can you possibly be amazed people don't want to march with you towards repeating the mistakes of the past? We have reduced smoking without banning the product, that is a wise way to deal with vice. A large serving of food or drink is safe in the context of a properly planned diet, it is not poison meat."

Nothing is really meaningfully banned, if you really want that whole liter or two liters of soda with your meal you can still buy two or four 16 oz containers respectively to drink and feel as ridiculous as that honestly is. It is absurd to suggest that this legislation will result in cartels of gangsters sneaking two liters in from Canada for sodaholics like prohibition did for booze.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:52 AM on February 25, 2013


Mill would have been familiar with Conly's argument. I don't think the author of this essay has read enough of him, or doesn't care. I take comfort in that one hundred years from now, nobody will remember Conly or Sunstein, but bad writers and scientists will still have to get by Mill to make a point about this.
posted by michaelh at 5:54 AM on February 25, 2013


Nothing is really meaningfully banned

I know, that's one of the reasons it is a bad, pointless law that will not accomplish the reduction in obesity that is the goal. As I pointed out previously, soda consumption is down nationally without the need for bans. If you want to ban something, you should be able to justify the necessity for the reduction in freedom, even if it's a small freedom. If reduction happens without the ban, there isn't much justification. We should get beyond the soda thing though and talk in general terms.

Prohibition was brought up in regards to your tobacco example as an illustration of why protecting corporate freedom is sometimes in our interests. The history is why people care about these issues, bans have a bad history of starting with less effective laws and becoming more draconian over time as the prohibitionists see the law not working.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:00 AM on February 25, 2013


People largely operate based on habit, and habits change largely based on conveniences, and conveniences are trivially manipulated by small shifts in regulation or marketing.

It just takes time, but this is how the world works.

Prohibition was dum because it tried to dramatically alter people's habits all at once. That doesn't work.

If you want to reduce consumption of something, then make it marginally more expensive per unit, marginally harder to get, or make it marginally less desirable in comparison to something else. Iterate every N months, changing one of those parameters.

Most people don't even notice their habits are completely different after ten years.

It's a long game, and the sad, sad truth is that by and large corporations are much better at playing these long games than governments are, because governments only respond to issues when there's a hue and cry, and then they try a sudden fix, and it doesn't work. Whereas corporations just gradually turn up the heat.

And suddenly you're used to paying $6 for a "coffee-based beverage" with 600 calories in it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:05 AM on February 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think the reflexive aversion/bemusement to the Bloomberg ordinance occurred because it suggests that the government conceptualizes its subjects as fragile or pliable actors and hints at a slippery slope of ever more fine-grained modulation/coercion of behaviour. The merits of whether such intervention/prodding is effective or warranted is besides the point.
posted by Gyan at 6:05 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Prohibition was brought up in regards to your tobacco example as an illustration of why protecting corporate freedom is sometimes in our interests. The history is why people care about these issues, bans have a bad history of starting with less effective laws and becoming more draconian over time as the prohibitionists see the law not working.

Well, sometimes. It's just that regulation of markets has proven to be good repeatedly. If you touch the outside of an oven, you will no longer burn your skin off due to health and safety law. If you eat food, it is by and large safe. You may choose your own non-Standard supplier of oil thanks to really huge market intervention. You are unlikely to be killed in an industrial accident. These are not coincidences.

Market intervention isn't inherently evil. It's just that the majority of bans are unremarkable as soon as they are completed. An example such as the ban on new leaded petrol cars almost instantly become unremarkable, but I'd hope we could agree that lower emission cars that also don't give populations heavy metal poisoning are a good thing. CFC use in fridges, too. Etc, etc.
posted by jaduncan at 6:05 AM on February 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sunstein's real point is that the public may not know what's best for itself when trying to regulate business:
In good University of Chicago fashion, Sunstein prefers market-like incentives to get businesses to behave themselves and consumers to optimize their well-being. This process is described as "libertarian paternalism," another characteristically Sunstein oxymoron meaning subtle government interventions that prompt consumers to make the decisions they would voluntarily choose if they were as smart as he is.

Sunstein's latest book, Nudge, co-authored with University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler, observes that ordinary people make ill-informed financial choices because they lack adequate time or knowledge or because the deck has often been stacked in favor of bad consumer decisions by self-serving merchants. There are really two kinds of people, Sunstein and Thaler puckishly write, "Econs" and "Humans." Econs are the hyper-rational creatures imagined by University of Chicago economists. Humans are the rest of us. Econs, somehow with infinite time, carefully weigh every economic decision. Humans decide on the fly and make systematic mistakes. By using public regulation not to dictate outcomes but to alter "choice architectures," enlightened government can help consumers to make better decisions, both for their own well-being and to discipline producers. Thus does libertarian paternalism make markets work better.
Y'all are getting trolled.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:09 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


cartels of gangsters sneaking two liters in from Canada for sodaholics like prohibition did for booze.

aka La Soda Nostra.
posted by jonmc at 6:10 AM on February 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


aka La Soda Nostra.

"If you wanna know why I'm driving slow today it's cos I got 10 kilos of coke in the back of the car. But ya ain't seen nuttin."
posted by jaduncan at 6:15 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Generally in the US when someone performs an action that demonstrates 'callous disregard for human life' and that results in death we call that murder, I also hear that for most other purposes these days corporations are people my friend."

I have no problem with corporations being charged with murder, when appropriate, but the broad brush you wield (they're responsible for all those deaths, really?) will make folks even less interested in your paternalism. Better to stick with perhaps anodyne, science-led arguments than get caught up in the vitriol.
posted by learnsome at 6:17 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, sometimes.

Yeah, not all bans are created equal, fair point. I'm a fan of strict gun bans, for example. I think soda is best compared to other recreational beverage and drug bans, with a major difference being that soda is a safe product. It's not lead. It's not poison. If you drink too much of it you get fat and sick if you have an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle. Even so, it's nowhere near as bad for you as, say, the 40oz of Olde English 800 you can still buy. Regulation is a good idea here, bans not so much.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:20 AM on February 25, 2013


No, if they've set their heart on a large portion no doubt they'll get a large portion one way or another. But perhaps there is a group of people who would in fact have been satisfied with the smaller portion: but they order the large anyway for whatever reason and once they've got it they finish it. That group of people will consume less if the large isn't available. Isn't that kind of potential effect at least plausible?

For me the best example of this is movie theaters. I like soda; I will if given the opportunity actually drink those gigantic movie theater sodas, but I'd really rather not for reasons related both to my waistline and the desire not to need to pee throughout a three hour movie.

The thing is, I don't have the freedom, right now, to go to a movie and obtain a reasonably sized soda; they're not offered for sale. A "large soda" ban that allowed to buy as many, say 12 oz sodas, as I like would leave me with more freedom than I currently have, where I'm not free to buy anything under something like 20 ounces.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:24 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


...or a legal regulation that required the offering of smaller sizes instead of banning the large.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:25 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gyan: "I think the reflexive aversion/bemusement to the Bloomberg ordinance occurred because it suggests that the government conceptualizes its subjects as fragile or pliable actors and hints at a slippery slope of ever more fine-grained modulation/coercion of behaviour. The merits of whether such intervention/prodding is effective or warranted is besides the point"

Or you could say it suggests that the government conceptualizes corporations as rapacious, amoral actors prepared to use any available means to maximise their revenue regardless of the costs to consumers and wider society. In which case, the regulation is a tool to limit the freedom of the corporate entity to indulge in abusive and damaging behaviour.
posted by Jakey at 6:28 AM on February 25, 2013


...or a legal regulation that required the offering of smaller sizes instead of banning the large.

This is the bit I don't get. Why not just buy two if you want to do so?
posted by jaduncan at 6:29 AM on February 25, 2013


(and the really smart business would probably have two for the price of whatever the old large price was)
posted by jaduncan at 6:32 AM on February 25, 2013


I don't understand why a desire for the size of your choice requires limiting the choice of others. Why would that be your first instinct? There are much better arguments being made than that here, though I obviously disagree with the conclusions.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:33 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess I'd draw a difference between a metaphorical speed bump and a true restriction of choice. I'm seeing this as more like having a little warning take-a-rest light that comes on when you've been driving a long time and requires you to press a button to switch it off.

If that minimal a speedbump produces a good outcome it seems worth it...much like a real speed bump, I guess.
posted by jaduncan at 6:39 AM on February 25, 2013


For coercive paternalism to be justified, Conly contends that four criteria must be met. First, the activity that paternalists seek to prevent must genuinely be opposed to people’s long-term ends as judged by people themselves. Second, coercive measures must be effective rather than futile. Third, the benefits must exceed the costs. Fourth, the measure in question must be more effective than the reasonable alternatives.

Fifth, the agency implementing said paternalism must genuinely have the individual's best interests at heart... right? Right?!?

Oh wait, this is the government - of course they have my best interests at heart. Why, I should be tear-gassed for even saying such an ignorant thing. (For my own good, of course.)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:39 AM on February 25, 2013


Jakey: Or you could say it suggests that the government conceptualizes....

No, you can't. The Bloomberg ordinance rests on the premise that consumers are consuming the entire soda in the container just because it's there without thinking about health and thus limiting their intake. If this premise didn't hold, the marketing tactics of the supplier/vendor wouldn't matter.
posted by Gyan at 6:41 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


jaduncan, I'm not saying that in response to the ban in general, I'm saying it in specific response to the logic that a desire for small sizes is best served by banning large sizes rather than just requiring offering a small. It seems a convoluted way to get what you want.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:42 AM on February 25, 2013


Sure, and I'm saying that it's precisely the need to switch from container to the new container that creates a moment of decision where none previously existed even whilst ending up with drinking the same amount. That might swing behaviour in a healthier direction without coercion (and I'm curious if your opinion would change if we assumed that it would indeed reduce consumption; mine certainly would if it proved not to do so).

I guess at heart I'm saying that the job of government is partly to make the healthier choices (not merely in food) easier. My ideal government would do things like provide childcare that you don't have to use but is high enough quality that you'd almost certainly wish to do so, as well as subsidise healthier foods and such so the easier option is always the option with better outcomes.

I think in US terms I'm to the left of socialist; in UK terms it seems a little more like if you are already caring for people though the NHS then it makes sense to spend the money (and regulatory effort) you'd otherwise spend on medical care on actually improving people's lives before they require medical care and improving their quality of life rather than treating them for depression.

In the context of US politics it's probably literally viewed as Communist.
posted by jaduncan at 6:47 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Second, coercive measures must be effective rather than futile. Prohibition didn’t work, and officials shouldn’t adopt strategies that fail.

...

Conly’s most controversial claim is that because the health risks of smoking are so serious, the government should ban it. She is aware that many people like to smoke, that a ban could create black markets, and that both of these points count against a ban. But she concludes that education, warnings, and other nudges are insufficiently effective, and that a flat prohibition is likely to be justified by careful consideration of both benefits and costs, including the costs to the public of treating lung cancer and other consequences of smoking.
Wait, huh?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:50 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that it would cause smaller sizes to be offered is just one of the merits of a large soda ban; another is that it would probably cause people to be subtly influenced to make healthier choices. My point was mostly to push back against the idea that 1) the current state of affairs is anything approaching freedom of choice and 2) that consumer "choices" in the sense of purchases reflect their actual desires. I buy big sodas because they don't offer smaller ones, but it's not always my actual choice.

I also think that a law that effectively amounts to a requirement to serve big sodas in two cups is about as coercive as a PSA, so I don't really conceptualize it as a loss of freedom.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:52 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: yeah, pretty much that.
posted by jaduncan at 6:54 AM on February 25, 2013


Fat people are not lobotomized drooling children who will drink less soda if only a smaller soda is available. If they want more, they will buy another!

If you truly believe that the soda size legislation has *zero* effect on human behavior, then this is one of the silliest things you could choose to argue about. Why not argue about *harmful* legislation or the absence of positive legislation?

The soda companies would certainly have no reason to oppose legislation that had no impact on consumer purchases of soda.
posted by leopard at 6:55 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm curious if your opinion would change if we assumed that it would indeed reduce consumption; mine certainly would if it proved not to do so).

Consumption is already going down without the law. I would not support a redundant law there, no.

And again, this is beyond the scope of what I was commenting about in regards to Bulgar's suggestion that the way to make small sizes available is to ban large sizes. If you want to offer small sizes, you can do it without the ban by requiring the vendors to offer them. I think my POV on the rest of these issues has been stated at this point.

Why not argue about *harmful* legislation or the absence of positive legislation?

Bad, pointless law is harmful. It degrades respect for well crafted legislation and for the law in general.

I suspect the soda companies will object to any laws that cast their product as dangerous and evil, even if it does not directly reduce sales.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:03 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The word ban here is a misnomer - soda isn't being banned, the quantities in which it can be sold are being regulated to protect public health.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:04 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect the soda companies will object to any laws that cast their product as dangerous and evil, even if it does not directly reduce sales.

Well is soda actually dangerous and evil? What are its health effects?

Apparently people's opinions of soda matter in some sense, even if not directly. So what should those opinions be?
posted by leopard at 7:08 AM on February 25, 2013


Gyan: "The Bloomberg ordinance rests on the premise that consumers are consuming the entire soda in the container just because it's there without thinking about health and thus limiting their intake. If this premise didn't hold, the marketing tactics of the supplier/vendor wouldn't matter"

But this does not necessarily require the total lack of individual agency that you and Drinky Die seem to think is implied by the regulation, and that you seem to be so offended by. Fast food companies are actively manipulating our perceptions in order to make us consume more than we would otherwise. One of the strategies they use is to make larger portion sizes the norm. It's becoming generally accepted that people have a limited store of attention to spend on all of their activities, and for most people ordering/consuming a soft drink would be low on the mental priority list for serious attention.
You can be sure that Pepsico/Coke/Mcd's/whover have their attention firmly fixed on getting you to consume more. Being manipulated by them in this manner does not require you to be the hypothesized "lobotomized drooling child", it simply requires that your attention is elsewhere.
posted by Jakey at 7:08 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jakey: But this does not necessarily require the total lack of individual agency that you and Drinky Die seem to think is implied ... Being manipulated by them in this manner does not require you to be the hypothesized "lobotomized drooling child"

I didn't say or imply as much. I said the regulation showed that government thought of consumers as fragile and malleable, neither of which are equivalent to impotent or automatons.
posted by Gyan at 7:17 AM on February 25, 2013


That is why I want the real world data from New York.

The new law takes effect on March 12, 2013. There is no data yet.
posted by Awkward Philip at 7:17 AM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


The soda thing is obviously protecting children (who can't make sound decisions on their own and are severely damaged by dumb parents) and taxpayers, who all pay for health costs in the long term. I don't see Mill's point useful in the soda analogy, unless we use exceptions.

The social principle we need to worry about is the idea that individuals are not harmed by cultural demands to bow to their gods, or participate in a personally repulsive action. Telling someone they can't have or do something is a separate gray area that involves explicit rights enumerated somewhere in the constitution or charter, but which apply to all categorically.
posted by Brian B. at 7:21 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well is soda actually dangerous and evil? What are its health effects?

In an otherwise healthy lifestyle with a well planned diet, a large serving of soda is perfectly safe.

The word ban here is a misnomer - soda isn't being banned, the quantities in which it can be sold are being regulated to protect public health.

It's a ban of the large servings. It is an appropriate word and the one being commonly used.

But this does not necessarily require the total lack of individual agency that you and Drinky Die seem to think is implied

Any manipulation present is not justification for removing choice. Doing so implies that with education, regulation, and taxation people will be unable to make the better decision on their own. That is treating them like an irresponsible child. There are some cases where you can't trust people, but with soda consumption already going down without bans, this does not appear to be one of those cases.

taxpayers, who often pay for diabetes treatments.


If the costs must be paid for a consumption tax seems like a good course of action.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:26 AM on February 25, 2013


Nothing is really meaningfully banned, if you really want that whole liter or two liters of soda with your meal you can still buy two or four 16 oz containers respectively to drink and feel as ridiculous as that honestly is.

Yeah, except one is significantly more expensive than the other. If a 2 liter of soda is 2.50$, and a 16 oz container is 1.75$, then buying the same quantity of soda would be twice the price - thus imposing a government-mandated additional cost upon individual cost. (And for those of you who care about such things, the people most impacted are those who can't afford to have expensive seltzerizers and soda syrups and things like that, but who buy soda in bulk to have something other than bad water to drink.)
posted by corb at 7:30 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The New York ban only applies to restaurants and the like, right? It wouldn't impact anyone who is buying soda in bulk, unless they're buying soda "in bulk" from restaurants, which I don't think is particularly common.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:35 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gyan: "I didn't say or imply as much. I said the regulation showed that government thought of consumers as fragile and malleable"

Well, I can scarcely imagine how we could be viewed otherwise. In every sphere of consumer activity, we are bombarded by solicitations from companies who's sole focus is to sell us their product or services. These solicitations use every possible means to make us perceive this product as the thing we need, and we need more of. Overstatement, association, misrepresentation, omission all the way to outright lying - you name it, they do it. No single consumer has the time, information or energy to thoroughly investigate all of these choices and we are therefore vulnerable to having our desires manipulated to fit what is offered. That is why the government mandates certain standards on advertising, packaging, product quality etc. We are fragile and malleable. We're human.
posted by Jakey at 7:35 AM on February 25, 2013


The New York ban only applies to restaurants and the like, right?

No, it also applies to anywhere that sells prepared food, which in NYC, often means local neighborhood bodegas in low-income neighborhoods that happen to sell sandwiches and are often the only source of food for local residents.
posted by corb at 7:38 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


A key detail that isn't usually mentioned when comparing the effectiveness of taxes vs. bans (as in the above example of fuel prices and fuel standards): applying pressure based on price does not affect the consumer base evenly.

When you're talking about smoking in terms of raw burden-on-society, it's not so bad; rich people can still easily smoke, but they're also more likely to be able to pay for their own lung cancer treatment. Moreover, it's hard to argue that anyone "needs" cigarettes, so the moral implications are minimal.

But with issues like fuel consumption, it's more complicated. Taxes may reduce fuel consumption among the poor, but they don't reduce its necessity. A poor person probably won't have the flexibility of working from home one day a week, or walking to a local grocer that carries healthy food, etc. They may have to take a job that's closer to home, but doesn't offer medical coverage. And they may have to buy junk food from the nearby 7-eleven rather than fresh produce from the grocer five miles away.

In other words, the reduced consumption comes with severe quality-of-life consequences, and (pragmatically) likely causes an increased burden on society in other ways.

So while outright bans may be less (immediately) effective overall, their impact is more fairly distributed and therefore less likely to have undesirable side-effects.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:45 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, it also applies to anywhere that sells prepared food, which in NYC, often means local neighborhood bodegas in low-income neighborhoods that happen to sell sandwiches and are often the only source of food for local residents.

Actually, it only applies to anywhere with a DOH inspection grade, which doesn't include bodegas. [source]
posted by Awkward Philip at 7:46 AM on February 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


We are just going around in circles at this point. Apparently this large soda size ban is both a horrific infringement of liberty and at the same time it will have absolutely zero effect on consumer behavior. Soda is absolute shit for your health and laws that disparage soda have enough of an effect on consumers that soda companies are rational to oppose them, but because soda doesn't kill you instantly when you drink it there is absolutely no purpose in laws that disparage soda, especially when the laws don't take away anyone's effective freedom.

Basically laws that take away choice are bad, and laws that don't take away choice are even worse! I guess it's really that intolerable to think that some human behavior is driven by something other than the exercise of pure free will.

the people most impacted are those who can't afford to have expensive seltzerizers and soda syrups and things like that, but who buy soda in bulk to have something other than bad water to drink

Evidence? NYC has perfectly fine drinking water.
posted by leopard at 7:47 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, it also applies to anywhere that sells food, which in NYC, often means local neighborhood bodegas in low-income neighborhoods that happen to sell sandwiches and are often the only source of food for local residents.

Okay, I double checked that and it seems like it applies to anywhere that sells enough food to qualify as a "food service establishment," which seems to include some bodegas, but not all. I also have no idea what your comment about "bad water" is, since as far as I know New York City drinking water is perfectly safe.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:48 AM on February 25, 2013


"...something other than bad water to drink."

Everything else aside, this is New York City, whose tap water is pretty universally recognized as among the best tasting water available from any source in the world.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:49 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


soda doesn't kill you instantly when you drink it there is absolutely no purpose in laws that disparage soda

You don't have to exaggerate and straw-man me, it's okay if we disagree on the proper laws to enact to handle these situations.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:52 AM on February 25, 2013


I also have no idea what your comment about "bad water" is, since as far as I know New York City drinking water is perfectly safe.

It is comparatively safe - certainly safer than any other metropolis that I know. But that doesn't mean it's pure. I use a purifier, and at the end of three months, the purifier is still brown and covered with gunk and I need to change the filter. I wouldn't say that means the water is necessarily unsafe, but I think bad is certainly a good descriptor.
posted by corb at 7:55 AM on February 25, 2013


Drinky Die, I'm hardly straw-manning you -- if you've acknowledged a purpose to the soda size law in this thread other than the flexing of misguided authoritarianism muscles, I haven't seen it.
posted by leopard at 7:57 AM on February 25, 2013


You must have problems with your pipes, corb. NYC water is fine. Better than the hard water I was used to as a kid, north of the reservoirs which NYC uses.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:00 AM on February 25, 2013


if you've acknowledged a purpose to the soda size law in this thread other than the flexing of misguided authoritarianism muscles, I haven't seen it.

I have discussed the purpose of the law as aiming to reduce obesity. That seems to be the acknowledged goal.

Seeking to reduce runaway obesity rates, the New York City Board of Health on Thursday approved a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street carts and movie theaters, the first restriction of its kind in the country.

I do feel this law is misguided but have not, however, said that all laws regarding soda serve no purpose as you have incorrectly implied. I have discussed alternatives such as education and taxation and regulations to make offering smaller sizes mandatory. I have also not said anything along the lines of "I guess it's really that intolerable to think that some human behavior is driven by something other than the exercise of pure free will."

It is perfectly okay to disagree, just try and keep it to the actual disagreement.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:07 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "Cool! We just need to find somebody who can be trusted with the reins."

I'll volunteer for the gig. "Supreme Overlord" is the formal title, but "Your Worship" is fine on a second reference.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:10 AM on February 25, 2013


The kind of world where soda companies are free to manipulate our satiety response to their own ends as exploitatively as they damn well please is a shittier place to live than the kind of world where they aren't.
Enough about the soda. Really folks.

This is sloppy thinking. No one should be forcing others to to do what they want for reasons as ill thought out as this. I don't see an huge problem with banning large soda servings, really. It's bizarre and I don't think it'll help, but if one can point to studies where soda is strictly bad for you and large servings encourage more consumption -- sure, that is reason enough. However, that's as far as it should go. If you're using the "evil" soda companies rotting the teeth of our precious children as a justification, then you have no solid ground for making someone else's choice for them.

The problem is that this kind of thinking is too easy for politicians -- and they are the ones making the laws. It's really fucking easy for a single man who made his millions from assisting financial speculation to talk about how everyone else should live in smaller apartments and drink less soda.

What this idea of "paternalism" completely ignores is what several people have alluded to above. There is a cost (maybe not in the case of large soda servings :-)) -- but the people writing these books and making the laws never see it. Most people disagree with the outright ban of tobacco -- but the fact that the author never sees a problem with this is very telling. (Or perhaps the fact that they probably do, but it sells more books to pretend not to.) We have enough people sitting in prisons already.

The soda thing, and in fact the "paternalism" thing is a distraction. That's why I'm pretty much opposed to the idea of paternalism as a positive theme for governance even while I understand that "governance" implies such. Even gun control is somewhat of a distraction. Why are people drinking gallons of cheap soda anyway? *Why* are people shooting each other with reckless abandon (or *are* they)? I could pass a law that required every child's limbs be removed, and that would stop a lot of bad behavior -- but it has a cost.

I just haven't seen evidence that government knows "better" about anything without a lot of push back from the populous. I support plenty of restrictions on things, including guns. However, it should be *hard* to pass laws restricting people's choices and expression, not easy. This article/book is essentially advocating that we make it easier....
posted by smidgen at 8:16 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seriously? Minimum wage laws spawned revolt? OSHA regulations against unsafe workplaces spawn revolt? FDA regulations against marketing snake oil as medicine spawn revolt? You might as well make the equally-sweeping argument that a lack of paternalism inevitably ends in revolt.


This is a silly comparison. Minimum wage and OSHA laws govern how one person (an employer) can treat another (an employee). The laws in question here govern how a person can treat themselves "B-b-b-ut advertising!" Oh shut up– people have a choice of buying or not. If you presuppose that advertising turns people into robots, you had best come up with a good explanation for why you, Mr. Metafilter Commenter, are sooooo much smarter than all those other benighted souls.

almost all of them predicated on the idea that I am too stupid to know when I need one.

No, it's because theocrats are trying to skirt the law with other laws. They don't think you're stupid, or need to be protected from yourself.


Nope! They really do think that women have been deceived by "the abortion industry" into not realizing that a fetus has hands and a face, and if they could break through the self-interested barriers to enlightenment thrown up by the for-profit hospital industry, women would make better choices. Sound familiar? It should!

I'll note that part of what makes this whole discussion seem so detatched from reality is how few people here are taking into account that freedom itself, like health, is a positive good. Most people would prefer the freedom to make mistakes over being coerced into good decisions. That's what many people think it means to be a grown-up. I rather like the soda size regulations because it nudges incentives, but still allows people to make free choice. You can still buy all the soda you want, so there's no ban; at most, it's a tax. If you plan to take people's ability to make choices away from them (as opposed to expanding their possible choices, as minimum wage laws do by giving them more money), you'd best be prepared for a massive backlash at your presumption to be their pater.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:18 AM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


The laws in question here govern how a person can treat themselves "B-b-b-ut advertising!" Oh shut up– people have a choice of buying or not. If you presuppose that advertising turns people into robots, you had best come up with a good explanation for why you, Mr. Metafilter Commenter, are sooooo much smarter than all those other benighted souls.

Advertising doesn't turn people into robots (no one has argued this, that I see), but it does provide a slight pressure on how people behave. To me, that means that "paternalistic" policies that provide similarly slight incentives (like the soda size regulation, on which we agree) are totally justified if they encourage people to socially better outcomes where advertising encourages them to socially worse outcomes.

I don't think we can ignore the existence of advertising because of free; advertising works, at least to some extent and on some people, so in the aggregate some number of consumer choices are the work of advertising.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:28 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well if advertising won't turn people into robots, neither will pressure in favor of their own good. Arguing that people who fall prey to negative advertising are getting what's coming to them by lacking self awareness doesn't really seem to be any more kind than admitting that some people can be harmed by negative influence.

In the case people get harmed by advertising and predatory business practices, the "empowering" thing is to tell them it was their own fault by being so stupid?

There are plenty of people who aren't all that self aware and who could use people with more education to use that in their interests rather than against it.

For people who are so resilient that advertising has no effect on them, this kind of pressure going in a positive direction won't have any effect either and shouldn't be anything to worry about, right?
posted by xarnop at 8:45 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


A basic misconception has stymied our response to the obesity epidemic: the belief that food-related decisions are consciously and deliberately made. Our reluctance to interfere with or regulate the food environment is a direct consequence of the belief that people's food choices reflect their true desires. However, given the large proportion of people who claim that they want to lose weight and the small proportion who are actually able to do so, we must concede that human behavior doesn't always conform with professed goals.

The reality is that food choices are often automatic and made without full conscious awareness. In many cases, they may even be the opposite of what the person deciding would consciously prefer. What and how much people eat are highly influenced by contextual factors that they may not recognize and therefore cannot easily resist.
From Candy at the Cash Register — A Risk Factor for Obesity and Chronic Disease in the New England Journal of Medicine.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:50 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Most people are NOT polymaths, most people are not all that aware of the cognitive bias and primitive impulses governing a lot of their behaviors, ideologies and very sense of self- most research finds that people are, like other primates, extremely subject to environmental influence, social conditioning, and imitation of observed behavior.

I have to wonder how people who really believe advertising doesn't effect people have managed to sit through human behavior, personality development, and gene/environment interaction classes with this belief in tact. Or whether they are basing their beliefs purely on personal speculation? Which seems rather problematic considering the reality of how irrational most humans are at being impartial observers of themselves and their realities.
posted by xarnop at 8:52 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anti-abortion types say, quite explicitly, that women are not competent to make their own decisions; most of the bills that require unnecessary wands stuck in one's bits, pointless waits for procedures or other humiliations in fact title them selves as "protection" "education" "informing" etc. Most jail penalty proposals on abortion seek to jail doctors, not the innocent (and apparently clueless) women they serve with medical care.

I am not trying to drag this down the abortion road, specifically, just to point out that "paternalistic", means a different thing to women. There are still lots of people seeking to keep us at the level of children in terms of our rights, and they almost always phrase it in terms or protecting us, from (the wrong) men or ourselves and our base/slutty/ignorant impulses.

It's hard not to see the parallels in a group of highly privileged people tutting over the horrible inability of the poors not to stop drinking that sugarwater.

Which doesn't mean I'm anti-education on health. Speaking to other people as equals, saying, hey, this stuff is bad for you and your kids, maybe drink some water instead, plus it will save you money!...that can be done respectfully.
posted by emjaybee at 9:07 AM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


No carbonation without representation?
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:14 AM on February 25, 2013


Since mankind are not yet prepared for socialism and democracy, they must go through a period of discipline under state capitalism and fascism. Hence, state capitalism and fascism are inevitable. And because they are inevitable, history is entirely on the side of state capitalism and fascism. History speaks a language so clear and distinct that only the intellectually blind and the morally degenerate can fail to see the signs of the times.--A Program for Jews and Humanity / Harry Waton
posted by No Robots at 9:18 AM on February 25, 2013


Hey, personally I think paternalism is problematic, but I dislike some of the claims in favor of preventing it such as "People are smart enough to think for themselves and it's disrespectful to think some of them aren't."

Personally I think this is itself an ablist statement. Why should it be demeaning to call someone less intelligent or less cognizant of their own needs if it's the truth? And if it's the truth, the person needn't feel demeaned or inferior if we are actually a society that values equality, right?

People get harmed ALL THE TIME by their own lack of knowledge, lack of education, and lack of self awareness. People also use coping mechanisms based in desperation when they are in pain, facing poverty or emotional crisis and without aid that addresses the crisis in question. People use numbing techniques and deliberately shut down their own capacity for insight when they are in levels of pain that they are unable to resolve with the skills, resources, knowledge, strength, energy levels, and emotional reserves they have available at that time.

None of this is anything for a person to be ashamed of, nor do they deserve to be preyed on by vultures while in these states. Many people DO need mentors and guidance, help managing their behaviors, resources, and lives. Many people can not manage the education system or their career options in a way that really serves their needs. The advertising industry feeds on people's struggles and insecurities and I would argue that no one deserves to be preyed on this way no matter how intellectually challenged or self deluded they may be. OF COURSE we should be suspicious of anyone who wants the reigns, but some people WILL have the reigns, better we encourage them to use their power for good than for capitalistic financial gain and greed?
posted by xarnop at 9:30 AM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Frankly, I am strongly opposed to letting the government decide what's good for me and what's not. The efficacy of such measures is not particularly important to me. I draw a hard line between legislation that prevents one person from injuring others, and that which is intended to prevent a person from injuring themselves. Again, effectiveness is not an issue, because I simply believe that people should have the right to hurt themselves.

The question of regulating the production and sale of products to consumers is a bit of a gray area; I'm in favor of things like the FDA insuring the quality of foods and medicines, but not so much in favor of things like the outlawing of unhealthy foods and beverages. The extreme cases will effectively disprove any hard-line position.

But as a general rule, I believe that liberty is the right way to go, consistent with our traditions in the US. Arguing whether or not these would improve peoples' lives is besides the point. On a case by case basis, you can find arguments on either side. But fine parsing of such cases doesn't lend itself to a policy, or better yet, a philosophy. For my money, it's OK if lack of certain regulation causes some people to do themselves harm, because the point is that this is something that they are doing to themselves.

To diverge too far from this line of thinking, in my mind, erodes our notions of liberty and agency, damaging the underpinnings of democracy itself. Inevitably, embracing the paternalistic approach will lead to some poorly designed legislation that some or even many people will justifiably find oppressive and unreasonable.
posted by Edgewise at 9:30 AM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


in that if a populace is sufficiently aroused and angered at their government across a range of public policy issues, the loss of stake in democracy and outcomes would certainly be worse - in the long run - than any short term public health or good gain.

The War on Drugs does exactly this in a major way. Prohibition has criminalized and alienated an entire slice of society, and we're all so used to it that it's hard to even notice the corrosive, antidemocratic effect this has had. I'm not just talking about the loss of voting rights due to all the felony convictions, either. The knowledge that you'd be in prison for sure if the right people ever noticed you makes you feel like it's not your government, it doesn't represent you, it doesn't consider you to be a real citizen; it merely tolerates you because it doesn't know you exist. That feeling of alienation spreads further than just the drug laws; it makes the entire business of police enforcement seem like an endless stream of bullshit, it makes all the supposedly helpful apparatus of government seem like an alien imposition, it makes the notion of democracy seem like a farce. What kind of democracy is it when nobody you know could reasonably run for office?
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:31 AM on February 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think when we favor legalization of harmful things we need to question whether people are better off with harmful behaviors used as coping mechanisms. I would argue that some likely are. For example many people would be harmed by getting addicted to morphine, but if you're 70 and you have 3-5 years left according to the docs and you really don't care about the side effects or worsened health outcomes-- those few years may be shorter but they may literally be worth living.

The same there are many people living in hell, terrible conditions, with chronic pain, the weight of traumatic events, illnesses that we don't have cures for. People who struggle to make it work every day, or at all, and they need something to make it possible to survive at all and continue obtaining money and food however possible.

Unless we are willing to REALLY ADDRESS POVERTY, both poverty of financial resources and poverty of emotional isolation and traumatic circumstances without the right supports--

any war on "destructive" coping mechanisms is missing the point that these are SURVIVAL techniques, these are not people who want to destroy themselves, they are often people who want to do anything in their power to hang on and feel ok in their bodies and manage to function in any capacity at all. That said, there are ways to guide the body and emotions toward repair and health and there is sometimes a conflict of interest in terms of holding on to survival coping mechanisms (and their side effects) and resolving the actual problems. Sometimes the problem is in fact that a person was eating toxins in their food and their health is poor and they don't know why they feel so awful all the time. Meaning sometimes the SOURCE of the problem is that we have a bunch of businesses free to encourage people to make really damaging health decisions without realizing the cause and effects of their choices. There are other sources of such behaviors too, and NO I'mnot in favor of outright bans of most things believingin harm reduction myself, but if people with the education levels that advertisers ahve about human behavior, it's sources, and the capacity toinfluence it were using that knowledge to guide people toward health instead of destruction for profit I am in favor of that.
posted by xarnop at 9:45 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder whether requiring the per ml cost to be more similar in sizes -- so you couldn't get twice the soda for 10 cents more -- would be feasible or effective.

I'm not necessarily against paternalism in government -- I support seatbelt and helmet laws. I'm not sure, though, that this particular law is going to be effective, if it is, whether it will be worth it, and if it not, whether it will be backed down from.
posted by jeather at 9:53 AM on February 25, 2013


I wonder whether requiring the per ml cost to be more similar in sizes -- so you couldn't get twice the soda for 10 cents more -- would be feasible or effective.

I'd back this if only so Cold Stone would stop badgering me to get the larger size for a penny more by implying that I'm some kind of moron for not wanting to get ice cream I don't want at a lower price per ounce.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:00 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I noted upthread, we're discussing the "regulation of nanny psychology" already gets abused, not regulating individual choices. We know the soda company super-sized its drinks to induce excess consumption, which both makes them money and causes diabetes. All these laws simply seek to counter act the soda company's own nanny psychologists.

There are alternatives to regulating such small details of the economy though. How about if we simply make all economically significant actors completely transparent? So all corporate email is publicly readable say. Just look up the email exchanges that reach the decision to super-size so you can sue or prosecute the corporation for the underlying crime. If you've all that information, their activities start looking remarkably like established crimes, such as voluntary manslaughter.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:06 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The ban also appears to hit two litre bottles from delivery places, which you may have been intending to split with a large group of people. 64oz Big Gulps from 7-11 are still legal though.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:27 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die,

You really ought to read Nudge by Cass Substein (who wrote the post and was also a main source of inspiration for the NYC soda ban). I think you're getting too wrapped up in the word 'ban' here, but you'd otherwise agree with his proposed paternalism.

The key point is that the city is absolutely not placing any restrictions on what people can and cannot do (in this case, drink an unhealthy amount of soda). It IS changing the context in which they make a decision, which empirically (near-undeniably) has an effect on decisionmaking.

If you think that changing the context of decisionmaking limits freedom, then you're implicitly agreeing that people aren't actually making totally free choices in the first place.

I think the most compelling argument in Nudge is that there is no such thing as a neutral policy; choosing not to alter the context of decisionmaking is in fact making a very specific choice. Here, choosing not to regulate soda sizes is choosing to have consumers drink larger sodas.
posted by graphnerd at 10:42 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here, choosing not to regulate soda sizes is choosing to have consumers drink larger sodas.

Soda consumption is going down without the bans. I think it's pretty clear you are presenting a false choice there.

Consumption is trending down nationally, it's trending down among kids, consuming diet soft drinks is increasing in popularity, demand for fruit juice is increasing.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:57 AM on February 25, 2013


consuming diet soft drinks is increasing in popularity

Second sentence of linked article:
Although many nutritionists and dietitians agree diet soda is just as unhealthy as regular soft drinks, they are commonly marketed to be a healthy alternative to sugary colas, and to many, diet is an alternative they say they cannot live without.
posted by leopard at 11:25 AM on February 25, 2013


Diet soda is mostly harmless, but fruit juice is virtually equivalent to soda.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:31 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The diet soda thing is another endless debate, should probably put that aside here. The point is consumers are trending towards choosing the (at least perceived) healthier options without the need to be persuaded by restricting their options with a ban.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:39 AM on February 25, 2013


I guess the point though is that if healthier options are more expensive and less convenient, deliberately making them more affordable and convenient for people who want them would be a positive step. This kind of "interference" could be seen as forcing people to obey or it could actually be viewed as expanding choice. Making cigarettes, alcohol, pain medications and other such substances difficult to obtain makes the world better for people who are trying to avoid them but battling their own impulses. Same with food choices, if on every corner there were drive through meals with healthy meats/fats/dairy/vegetables/grains (i.e. made of real fresh food) and it was affordable-- people who are trying to eat healthy but struggling with how hard that is would be better served.

Again- this isn't the same as BANNING fast food, it's tampering with the market to make the choices many people want but don't have the impulse control to demand the market provides a chance. In order to get rid of walmarts and fast food chains and other such business you need to have the financial ability to avoid them AND the self discipline to boycott even when it's hard. This is why many people would prefer the option simply be made less accessible and therefore people who REALLY WANT cheeseburgers everyday can find a way, but people who are just functioning and surviving and wish healthy living were easier would be well served.

I'm in favor of providing access to low cost healthy living options that meet the difficulties of today's life, over banning unhealthy things but sometimes both policy strategies can work together.
posted by xarnop at 11:46 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good point about fruit juice, ludwig_van.

Unless you're an executive at PepsiCo, I'm not sure why unhealthy consumption trends are proof that the market is functioning fine. "But the people *think* that fruit juice is healthy -- what else could we possibly want?"
posted by leopard at 11:49 AM on February 25, 2013


Far from thinking the market is fine, I am in favor of several forms of government interference in the beverage market. I previously clarified this for you some I'm not sure how we circled back.

Juice is less unhealthy than soda. It has some nutritional value and is not as strongly correlated with weight gain.

In a controlled clinical study, regular consumption of grape juice for 12 weeks did not cause any weight gain in volunteers, but consumption of a soft drink did.[29]

A ban should be considered a last resort. Our current efforts on this issue have already led to a trend away from the products that are subject to the ban. That means we are heading in the right direction. Cultural change is slow but when you guide it correctly you can see big reductions without having to go authoritarian.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:05 PM on February 25, 2013


I wouldn't say that means the water is necessarily unsafe, but I think bad is certainly a good descriptor.

Absolutely not. That is a horrible descriptor. NYC's water tastes good, is freely available, and is healthy; it is, perhaps, the greatest thing about living in this city. What a ridiculous comment.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:13 PM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


The original Coca Cola bottle held 6 ounces. Are people thirstier now?
posted by Cranberry at 12:13 PM on February 25, 2013


They should try bringing back the cocaine to see if it will reduce appetites.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:18 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Soda consumption is going down without the bans. I think it's pretty clear you are presenting a false choice there.

That's ridiculously irrelevant to the point at hand. My point was that changing the options will almost certainly decrease consumption. Not that it's impossible for consumption to decrease by any other means.

It should be clear that I meant that not choosing to limit options results in increased consumption than would otherwise be the case.
posted by graphnerd at 12:38 PM on February 25, 2013


I dunno, I think it's possible non-ban solutions will reduce consumption more. Banned marijuana becomes more popular even while regulated tobacco become less. I think you are wrong to assert that choosing not to have a ban is a choice to have more consumption.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:56 PM on February 25, 2013


The soda industry got what they wanted when they tricked people into calling this a "ban". I hope someone got a bonus for that one.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:19 PM on February 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'd say a "ban" on large serving sizes much more closely resembles regulated tobacco than it does banned marijuana, so I'm not sure that makes your point.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:20 PM on February 25, 2013


A ban is a legal prohibition. This is a legal prohibition of a product, large sodas. It's just what the word means, not a soda lobbyist conspiracy.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:25 PM on February 25, 2013


I got bored reading the article, but does he basically reiterate Loki's monologue from The Avengers ?
posted by GuyZero at 1:26 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


A ban that leaves you capable of getting the product you want, in the quantities you want, but without your preferred form of packaging isn't a ban in a significant sense. I wouldn't say there's a "ban" on half packs of cigarettes because the minimum pack size is 20, and that's more of a ban than this is.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:31 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is a legal prohibition on selling small quantities of cigarettes. The police can even arrest you for it, because selling them is banned. This is an entirely standard use of the word.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2013


Damn, you own this thread! Nice work!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 3:17 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


At this point you're just being obstinate. It's a regulation on a particular size of packaging a good. It's not in any way a ban on how much people can drink. At all.

Nothing in the law says "you can't drink two gallons of soda if you so desire". It's simply a measure to force people into deciding if that is what they really desire.
posted by graphnerd at 3:36 PM on February 25, 2013


Mill would have been familiar with Conly's argument. I don't think the author of this essay has read enough of him, or doesn't care.

Just jumping in here to say that Cass Sunstein, author of Republic.com & pretty famous legal scholar, is probably familiar with John Stuart Mill. I'm not, and am not going to contribute to this discussion (liked the article!), but I would at least like to see it acknowledged that Cass Sunstein is a smart dude & not just an intellectual hobo on a street corner who managed to stumble out of the cold onto the pages of the New York Review Of Books, the editors thinking, "Aw, we've got to give this guy a crust of bread, or, what the hell, a several thousand word column to help him get by in these dark times", then threw a back at him that he managed to claw open, peer at with his squinty bum eyes, let out a howl, and gibbered out a series of mad rantings that he scrawled on the back of a piece of toilet paper and left in a pile inside the editor-in-chief's humidor, after which he promptly fell asleep.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:42 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's simply a measure to force people into deciding if that is what they really desire.

...by banning the sale of the larger sizes. I'm sorry if you find it obstinate that I am using the dictionary definition of what a ban is but here we are.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:45 PM on February 25, 2013


You're persistently conflating banning packaging with banning a product.
posted by GuyZero at 3:50 PM on February 25, 2013


Yes, you are technically correct, indeed the best kind of correct, but to call it a ban is still actively misleading and pretty aggressively redefines the issue in a way that distracts from rather than illuminates what is actually real. To say that Bloomberg has banned the selling of two liters of soda very strongly implies that you cannot buy two liters of soda anyway, which is manifestly not the case. Consumers are perfectly free to buy as much soda as they damn well please, vendors are simply prohibited from selling the soda in ridiculously oversized packages that go flat on the order of minutes and are designed to encourage dependence and disease.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:55 PM on February 25, 2013


You're persistently conflating banning packaging with banning a product.

I am not. I am fully aware of what is being banned here, that it is one form of a product does not make ban the wrong word to use. It is the correct word to use, and the one that is being commonly used in reference to the law in the media and among the population. A Luntzian renaming to make the ban sound more politically palpable is silly.

A two litre bottle for a family ordering pizza is not a ridiculously oversized package, but the ban is apparently hitting that case and the family is forced to buy more expensive and less convenient packaging. Not a big deal, I think the cost should go up, a silly law so full of holes it didn't even hit Big Gulps isn't the best policy choice to accomplish that though.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:03 PM on February 25, 2013


*palatable, need ten minute edit window.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:09 PM on February 25, 2013


I'm not saying this is a good ban or fantastic public policy or without loopholes, but soda is in no way banned.

If a family is paying more for soda with their pizza it's basically a sin tax and sin taxes aren't new nor are they controversial. It probably would have been easier just to levy a sales tax on soda the same way they have an alcohol tax, but again, de-facto taxes are not bans.
posted by GuyZero at 4:10 PM on February 25, 2013


The ban of the larger serving sizes of soda is a bad sin tax because there is no particular greater sin in getting the two litre from the pizza place instead of from the grocery or convenience store where the ban is not in effect. If you want a sin tax on it, and there should be one to pay for the health costs, it should be a proper one.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:17 PM on February 25, 2013


Earlier, you said:

Tobacco use is down without bans.

This was in reference to tobacco being banned in bars, etc.

In light of your updated use of the word "ban" as it applies to the ban on very large sodas being sold in certain contexts, this earlier statement of yours is now incorrect, yes?
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:22 PM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


There are indeed bans in regards to use of tobacco in some contexts, good point. I would clarify the earlier comment to without this sort of ban. An adult can purchase a huge quantity of cigarettes, heavily taxed, despite the health consequences and the extreme difficulty people have in controlling their appetite for the product. Even so, tobacco use has dropped to historic lows.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:34 PM on February 25, 2013


Drinky Die,

Quick: summarize your opinion on what does and does not constitute a "ban", when bans are acceptable, and how it relates to this discussion.

Because in the course of goalpost-moving, arguing for the sake of arguing, and quibbling over semantics, I really doubt you can make any argument that's remotely close to consistent with what you've said so far.
posted by graphnerd at 4:35 PM on February 25, 2013


Ban: Verb
Officially or legally prohibit: "he was banned from driving for a year".


Bans are acceptable when less coercive measures are not workable, this will vary from issue to issue but there should be a fairly high bar when you are trying to restrict personal health decisions. A less high bar when you are talking about crimes such as drunk driving or theft that harm others. The appropriateness of bans used to address social issues relates to this discussion as one such ban, the New York City Soda Ban, was prominently discussed in TFA.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:46 PM on February 25, 2013


The most useful thing I've read recently about government paternalism was a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfic called "Friendship is Optimal". It's here.
posted by which_chick at 4:58 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Friendship is Optimal previously on MetaFilter
posted by Going To Maine at 5:01 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


An adult can purchase a huge quantity of cigarettes, heavily taxed, despite the health consequences and the extreme difficulty people have in controlling their appetite for the product. Even so, tobacco use has dropped to historic lows.

So you agree that it's the same for soda, since you can buy as much soda as you like, just not all in one container, in some circumstances, just as you also cannot buy cigarettes individually, or smoke them in certain places.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:43 PM on February 25, 2013


The ban of the larger serving sizes of soda is a bad sin tax because there is no particular greater sin in getting the two litre from the pizza place instead of from the grocery or convenience store where the ban is not in effect.

I think the "two liter from the pizza place" is an unintended and somewhat unfortunate victim of the way the law is drafted; the real target is large sodas sold for single serving consumption in places like movie theaters and restaurants. In those circumstances the "greater sin" is obvious; if I get 32 ounces of Coke at McDonald's I'm very like to drink all 32 ounces all at once rather over a longer period of time, which will naturally lead to greater consumption of soda over my lifetime. The law is, at the edges, inartfully drawn in that it restricts some behavior that might be communal or spaced out in time (2 liters from pizza places) but not some that is clearly what they're trying to target (Big Gulps from 7/11); that said, this seems analogous to the period when you could smoke in bars but not restaurants, i.e. the law was groping toward some sensible restrictions, but hadn't quite found the right balance yet. Also, making a "perfect is the enemy of the good" argument against a law you plainly just don't like is pretty disingenuous.

I also don't see the substantive distinction between a ban on smoking in certain places and a ban on certain sizes of soda; in both cases, the effect is to make it slightly harder to engage in the socially deleterious behavior. They take different forms, because a law limiting the size of cigarette packs would have little impact on smoking behavior (no smoker buys a pack and thinks 'might as well smoke all these right now') and a ban on drinking sodas in public would be far too restrictive.

You're jumping through hoops to try to make this somehow different than regulating smoking, presumably because one of the fact that one of the most successful public health campaigns uses similar tools is a pretty good argument in favor of using them here.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:31 PM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I'm not busy holding the illusion of free will, I realize just how much I'm nudged by advertisers and corporate interests. So long as it's merely a nudge (not a ban) in the direction of consumer protection, I don't see it so much as paternalism as a counterbalance.
posted by finnegans at 7:46 PM on February 25, 2013


There are so many people in the US who are so unhappy about how they look, how they feel, their own inability to change how they look or feel; and advertisers deliberately exploit that unhappiness to sell products that only pretend to be a solution to these issues.

If the majority of people desire to weigh less, and there are experts who have studied weight gain and have a good idea of how this can be accomplished through policy that doesn't restrict any individual's right to make a bad decision if that is what they truly wish to do, then crafting policies that take on board the expert opinion is not paternalism, it is democracy.

Paternalism is the government thinking that it, and not you, knows what you truly want (or need). That's why programs designed to convince women that they don't really want or need to have an abortion are paternalistic. In the case of food regulation, though, the point is not to convince the population that they want or need to lose weight. In poll after poll, most Americans do want to lose weight.

In a democracy, the government fulfills the will of the people. (With certain protections for at-risk minorities.) The people aren't expected to know all of details of how the government is acting to fulfill their will. Once you start requiring that kind of detailed knowledge from the average person before any change can be effected, vested interested will triumph because they are vested i.e. more knowledgable than the population at large.

The restriction on what size soda can be sold in restaurants isn't the best case of food regulation, though. A better case would be disallowing false or misleading advertising, not subsidizing corn syrup, putting limits on the amount of corn syrup and other highly-processed sugars that can be in non-dessert and supposedly "heathly" foods, not allowing food corporations to engineer their products for maximum addictive-ness regardless of what the studies show about the effects of those foods on long-term health, etc.
posted by subdee at 7:52 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suppose one must do what one must to make a name for themselves as an "intellectual", even if it does mean championing a thoroughly repulsive worldview. There's a reason why respect for autonomy has long been connected with a regard for human dignity. The willingness to select the ends at which another individual should aim broadcasts nothing, certainly not compassion, nor love, nor respect, so much as utter contempt.

The repeated claim that minimum wage is some sort of showcase of the benefits of paternalism "rightly directed" is particularly ridiculous. Those who think this legislation might help the poor to prosper, should do a google search on "minimum wage helps poor" and check out some of the links.

The following FIVE STAR review from Amazon makes the case far better than I can:

The Objective Wisdom of the State

Human beings are irrational. As Sarah Conly writes, "The truth is that we don't reason very well, and in many cases there is no justification for leaving us to struggle with our own inabilities and to suffer the consequences" (pg. 1).

Fortunately, however, while human beings don't reason well, government officials do. This is because they are able to be more objective than we are. Again, Conly explains this very well: "Since we do better at estimating efficacy when we are in a relatively objective position, government, insofar as those in it are not the ones who are at present tempted by the rewards of the poor decision, can help us do better to reach our own, individual goals better than we would do if left to our own devices" (pg. 10).

And indeed, our history proves Conly's claim, as objective government officials have acted with the reason and balance of experts who are not tempted by direct involvement in the questions being decided: the Sedition Act of 1798, which led to the imprisonment of newspaper editors who criticized government. Indian removal. The Fugitive Slave Act. The Dred Scott decision. The Wounded Knee massacre. Plessy v. Ferguson. Jim Crow laws. The firebombing of Tokyo. The mass internment of Japanese-Americans. The secret bombing of Cambodia. Drone attacks on Pakistani wedding parties. Indefinite military detention. The wisdom of government is virtually infinite, and has created a world of steady progress. When we act individually, we are irrational and reckless. When government officials act upon the human society from which they ascended, they do better to help us all reach our proper goals.

Indeed, this is but a partial list, as it omits the deep wisdom of, say, the European state. In Europe, too, government officials acting from relatively objective positions have been able to create clear examples of rational progress. Like miles of trenches cloaked in poison gas, say, or a uniquely efficient rail system in Poland.

For some final, powerful examples of Conly's argument at work in the real world, just read the very first sentence of her book, which explains the problems a paternalistic government could help us to solve: "We are too fat, we are too much in debt, and we save too little for the future."

See? Too much debt! No savings for the future!

We individuals and societies are reckless, but government would never behave like that.

---END---

I really like the phrase in the Conly quote, "our own, individual goals". That's good stuff, very slick. I'm thinking we have a potential speech writer here.
posted by BigSky at 8:03 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the review you quote boils down to "Governments have failed to do the right thing by exerting biased authority in the past, so governments should never exert authority over anything." It's a meh argument.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:36 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry. It's late, I'm feeling trollish. Not my best move. No more commenting for me this evening.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:41 PM on February 25, 2013


Indeed, this is but a partial list,

It doesn't follow that if a government makes human rights violations that it should not regulate a toxic substance. On the contrary, if they don't regulate a known toxic substance, it amounts to a human rights violation.
posted by Brian B. at 10:33 PM on February 25, 2013


On the contrary, if they don't regulate a known toxic substance, it amounts to a human rights violation.

Well that is certainly a matter of opinion.

Every substance is toxic if you ingest enough of it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:37 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every substance is toxic if you ingest enough of it.

And so the public has an interest in regulating the amount of exposure in relation to the threat.
posted by Brian B. at 10:43 PM on February 25, 2013


Large soda is a safe product in an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle, it is not toxic.

So you agree that it's the same for soda, since you can buy as much soda as you like, just not all in one container, in some circumstances, just as you also cannot buy cigarettes individually, or smoke them in certain places.

I do not think that a ban that requires you to purchase a large amount of a product is the same as one that bans the large packaging, no.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:36 PM on February 25, 2013


There is no historical link between minimum wage increases and job loss. Anybody who tells you otherwise either has been lied to or is lying to you, and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:56 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is no historical link between minimum wage increases and job loss. Anybody who tells you otherwise either has been lied to or is lying to you, and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

What, I'm going to take your word on the relationship instead of a white paper released by the Federal Reserve (found on the google search's first page of links)? Sure, Chief.

But the job loss wouldn't matter as much if the increase in minimum wage at least resulted in a net gain for the poorest families. It doesn't. Unsurprisingly for anyone who has a more nuanced view of capitalism than it being a synonym for exploitation, raising the minimum wage turns out to hurt the poor.* See the Federal Reserve paper mentioned above for further discussion.

So if both the poor and the would-be employers pushed out of the labor market by the state both lose, then who wins? That would be the sanctimonious not-poor, basking in a smug self-satisfaction after having indulged their onanistic, delusional desire to impose their will upon others "for their own good". The raising of the minimum wage benefits them.

-----

* - A few more notes on the relationship between minimum wage and unemploymentL

- From Thomas Sowell's column:

"We have gotten so used to seeing unemployment rates of 30 or 40 percent for black teenage males that it might come as a shock to many people to learn that the unemployment rate for sixteen- and seventeen-year-old black males was just under 10 percent back in 1948. Moreover, it was slightly lower than the unemployment rate for white males of the same age.

How could this be?"

Wait, I know! It must be the high cultural regard for the work ethic of black teenage males (particularly strong circa 1948) coupled with the belief that keeping them around is good for business. No?

- From the Policy Analysis put out by the Cato Institute, "The Negative Effects of Minimum Wage Laws" by Mark Wilson (I know that the Cato Institute being the publisher makes this text anathema to some of you, but bear with me here. I'm only quoting from the review on past research):

"In 1977 ongoing debate about the minimum wage prompted Congress to create a Minimum Wage Study Commission to "help it resolve the many controversial issues that have surrounded the federal minimum wage and overtime requirement since their origin in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938." The commission published its report in May 1981, calling it "the most exhaustive inquiry ever undertaken into the issues surrounding the Act since its inception." The landmark report included a wide variety of studies by a virtual ‘‘who's who'' of labor economists working in the United States at the time.

A review of the economic literature amassed by the Commission by Charles Brown, Curtis Gilroy, and Andrew Kohen found that the "time-series studies typically find that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage reduces teenage employment by one to three percent." This range subsequently came to be thought of as the consensus view of economists on the employment effects of the minimum wage.

It is important to note that different academic studies on the minimum wage may examine different regions, industries, or types of workers. In each case, different effects may predominate. A federal minimum wage increase will impose a different impact on the fast-food restaurant industry than the defense contractor industry, and a different effect on lower-cost Alabama than higher-cost Manhattan. This is why scholarly reviews of many academic studies are important.

In 2006 David Neumark and William Wascher published a comprehensive review of more than 100 minimum wage studies published since the 1990s. They found a wider range of estimates of the effects of the minimum wage on employment than the 1982 review by Brown, Gilroy, and Kohen. The 2006 review found that "although the wide range of estimates is striking, the oft-stated assertion that the new minimum wage research fails to support the traditional view that the minimum wage reduces the employment of low-wage workers is clearly incorrect. Indeed . . . the preponderance of the evidence points to disemployment effects."

Nearly two-thirds of the studies reviewed by Neumark and Wascher found a relatively consistent indication of negative employment effects of minimum wages, while only eight gave a relatively consistent indication of positive employment effects. Moreover, 85 percent of the most credible studies point to negative employment effects, and the studies that focused on the least-skilled groups most likely to be adversely affected by minimum wages, the evidence for disemployment effects were especially strong.

In contrast, there are very few, if any, studies that provide convincing evidence of positive employment effects of minimum wages. These few studies often use a monopsony model to explain these positive effects. But as noted, most economists think such positive effects are special cases and not generally applicable because few low-wage employers are big enough to face an upward-sloping labor supply curve as the monopsony model assumes.
"
posted by BigSky at 2:14 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, I know! It must be the high cultural regard for the work ethic of black teenage males (particularly strong circa 1948) coupled with the belief that keeping them around is good for business. No?

So... the only way to persuade businesses to employ young black men is if they can be paid less, and the part that is wrong with that picture is that businesses are not being allowed to pay them less?

Dude.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:27 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, theres a certain legitimacy there. When looking for a job, they usually look at your work experience. One of the ways teenagers have been able to get a leg up on jobs is that they don't usually have to pay rent or have other real expenses - enabling them to work on the cheap. What this gets them is incredibly valuable experience, acquired during a time when they are externally supported, which lets them succeed further later in life.

If you're not able to pay differently, then why bother hiring teenagers, when you could hire older, more experienced people (who already have that work experience) for the same job?
posted by corb at 4:55 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Welp here's a bunch of studies about how once again libertarians are full of shit, see ya.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:59 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, theres a certain legitimacy there. When looking for a job, they usually look at your work experience. One of the ways teenagers have been able to get a leg up on jobs is that they don't usually have to pay rent or have other real expenses - enabling them to work on the cheap. What this gets them is incredibly valuable experience, acquired during a time when they are externally supported, which lets them succeed further later in life.

If you're not able to pay differently, then why bother hiring teenagers, when you could hire older, more experienced people (who already have that work experience) for the same job?


The point you are making is not really the point at issue, corb.

(That said, the kind of work which teenagers tend to do before entering the full-time job market is often exempt from the minimum wage anyway - this includes newspaper delivery, seasonal entertainment work and farm labor. If you are talking about the freedom to pay teenagers who are in the full-time job market less than the minimum wage, legally, for jobs which a 20-year old would legally have to be paid more, that's trickier, because that is economic engineering by government to achieve a specific result - regular churn in low-paid jobs as all 20-year-olds are either fired or promoted and replaced by 17-year-olds. This is basically the "unpaid intern" argument, again, in a slightly different form...

On the plus side, this does bring the discussion back on topic to the virtues of government intervention.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:42 AM on February 26, 2013


Big Sky,
For future reference, cherry picking a query and linking to a Google SERP is a few notches below "look at this sentence from Wikipedia!" as a debate tactic. Not only have you biased the results based on the term you select, but Google results are very far from being an unbiased source of information.*

Perhaps you got the idea from "Google Ron Paul", but it's not a serious way to make a point.

* I work in SEO. Sorry about that LEV1TRA, everybody!
posted by graphnerd at 5:58 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Large soda is a safe product in an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle, it is not toxic.


A daily large soda for a child is likely a toxic and addictive substance and can directly result in disease even while the victim is still a child. Here's a recap on sugar. Other studies recently link the caramel color to a known carcinogen, while BPA still lines the cans in most brands. Here's a recap on soda in general and the reach it has in schools. Some researchers suspect that sugar might also trigger cancer. Obviously some clever informed adult could navigate these problems if they were diligent, but to compare sugar in soda to other snacks ignores the way sugar is concentrated and conveniently marketed, packaged, delivered, and ingested to become a public health problem.
posted by Brian B. at 6:24 AM on February 26, 2013


Welp here's a bunch of studies about how once again libertarians are full of shit, see ya.

I don't know how deep you want to get into this, but there are responses to the claims made in the lead article "Minimum Wage Trends". The studies she mentions in the section "The new economics of the minimum wage" use what is called in other places, among them the Mark Wilson article posted above, the monopsony model. These are the same studies, Wellington, Card and Katz, that Wilson refers to here, "These few studies often use a monopsony model to explain these positive effects. But as noted, most economists think such positive effects are special cases and not generally applicable because few low-wage employers are big enough to face an upward-sloping labor supply curve as the monopsony model assumes."

The reference for the criticism of the monopsony model is this article by Madeline Zavodny, "Why Minimum Wage Hikes May Not Reduce Unemployment". One alternate explanation she puts forward to explain instances where the unemployment rate does not change, is that the higher wage brings better trained members of the labor market into competition for these jobs and that employers replace the lower skilled with the higher skilled. If this is the case, it does nothing to help the lower skilled who are obviously the ones most in need of assistance.

And despite what Ms. Fox says in the beginning of her article that "There is little question that the overall impact of a minimum wage is positive, as the following facts make clear", there is no refutation of the argument in the earlier mentioned article, "Will Increasing the Minimum Wage Help the Poor?" by the Cleveland branch of the Federal Reserve, which argues that an increase in the minimum wage also causes an increase in the number of families in poverty.

-----

So... the only way to persuade businesses to employ young black men is if they can be paid less, and the part that is wrong with that picture is that businesses are not being allowed to pay them less?

I would think it self evident that the way to increase the proportion of employed young black men is to allow them to offer their services at a rate the market is willing to pay.

No, I do not see anything wrong with that picture.

-----

For future reference, cherry picking a query and linking to a Google SERP is a few notches below "look at this sentence from Wikipedia!" as a debate tactic. Not only have you biased the results based on the term you select, but Google results are very far from being an unbiased source of information.

I did not know this, and I'll reduce my use of this tactic accordingly. By the way, there was no cherry picking. Those were the first four terms I entered into Google. I knew that many economists have made this argument and no one would have to look very far to find someone presenting the case. I also linked the search results because it included the above linked article on the failure of minimum wage increases to help the poor.
posted by BigSky at 6:34 AM on February 26, 2013


The other useful question there is probably "were you logged into your gmail account at the time?".
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:47 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's very weird to have a supposedly comprehensive review of minimum wage/unemployment studies that doesn't mention Card and Krueger even once.

[edited: this is in reference to the Cato article cited above by BigSky]
posted by leopard at 7:53 AM on February 26, 2013


A daily large soda for a child is likely a toxic and addictive substance and can directly result in disease even while the victim is still a child.

Yes, excessive intake in an unhealthy diet would be dangerous. You can say that for any food or beverage, it doesn't make them poison.

caramel color to a known carcinogen

Oh come on. It's a widely approved additive used in all kinds of products. They are not poison. BPA has not been proven to be unsafe and so is still used, if the FDA decides it is not safe they will ban it. You can't just declare everything that has potential, unproven dangers a poison. Call the soda what it is, a generally safe product that like many forms of junk food can contribute to obesity in poorly managed diets. You don't have to exaggerate.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:10 AM on February 26, 2013


Yes, excessive intake in an unhealthy diet would be dangerous. You can say that for any food or beverage, it doesn't make them poison.

And this is the stance that the soda companies take. On the one hand, it's technically correct -- "a calorie is a calorie," etc. A person maintaining a calorie deficit will still lose weight and improve their blood pressure and lipid profile even when 43% of their calories are from sugar. There are hunter-gatherer cultures that eat high-sugar diets and yet do not suffer from obesity or related diseases. I think that much of the demonizing of carbs and sugar is overblown and ignores the importance of context.

However, in the real world, in the context of contemporary American society as a whole and the so-called Standard American Diet, I don't think it's possible to see sugar-sweetened beverages as totally neutral. A large percentage of the population has become overweight or obese as caloric intake has increased, and sugar-sweetened beverages account for a major portion of that increase. There's a large body of research on the particular association between SSB consumption and obesity and related diseases due to their lack of satiating power and potential metabolic impacts. That doesn't mean that drinking them is a necessary or sufficient condition for developing obesity, but it does indicate that in the present context they aren't merely a fungible energy source.

I'll quote the conclusion of the Whole Health Source post I linked above, because I think it's a good summary:
A high-sugar diet is not sufficient to produce obesity and other disorders of affluence in humans adhering to a mostly traditional diet and lifestyle, particularly if the sugar is coming from unrefined sources such as fresh fruit. This is consistent with other reports of beneficial weight loss in people eating a whole food diet centered around fruit (4).

That being said, I think everyone can agree that added sugar almost certainly plays a role in obesity and disease in affluent societies such as the US. Added sugars increase the energy density, seductiveness and palatability of foods, favoring fat gain. In large amounts, refined fructose-containing foods such as added sugar can also promote harmful metabolic changes. However, controlled diet trials have shown that this applies mostly in the context of excess calorie intake (which, to be fair, is the typical dietary context in the US).

The broader point is that added sugar is part of a dietary pattern that also includes added fats, flavorings, refined and engineered foods in general. This pattern includes the fact that foods are easier to obtain than ever before, often require no work to prepare, and advertising and our cultural milieu encourage overeating. And that’s not even getting into the differences in lifestyle patterns such as physical activity and sleep between traditional cultures and our own, which also play an important role.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:47 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Not totally neutral" is definitely a phrasing I would agree with.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:51 AM on February 26, 2013


To be fair, it's not like they're leaving milk alone either.
posted by corb at 1:51 PM on February 26, 2013


Real milk comes to us exactly as God designed it, with all its enzymes intact. When we drink it, we are embracing the original design of the world, rather than reconfiguring creation with our own artifice. A man might prefer real milk to pasteurized milk for the same reason he prefers fresh strawberries to Skittles, or the lights of the night sky to the lights of the Las Vegas strip. Real milk, with its mix of lactose and lactase and its microbiome of bacteria, offers a path back to nature, back to the harmony of the creator’s vision. It’s the kind of well-ordered balance that is so rare in today’s world.

Maybe the first time I've ever seen a theological argument against pasteurization.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:17 PM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


"To be fair, it's not like they're leaving milk alone either."
Yes, THEY. THOSE people sapping our purity of essence, fluorinating our water, establishing scientifically informed minimum standards for food safety, passing laws that ban our God given right to sell cigarettes to infants, and preventing religious zealots with a clearly very limited understanding of scientific nomenclature or basic biological principles from selling milk still tainted with a lottery assortment of live bacteria sampled from right underneath a cow's ass. Have THEY no shame!?!
posted by Blasdelb at 2:36 PM on February 26, 2013


Oh come on. It's a widely approved additive used in all kinds of products.

Food colorings aren't the same as crayons. Coke already switched their main coloring, 4-methylimidazole (4-MI or 4-MEI), to avoid a carcinogen label in some states, as linked.
posted by Brian B. at 3:21 PM on February 26, 2013


A man might prefer real milk to pasteurized milk for the same reason he prefers fresh strawberries to Skittles, or the lights of the night sky to the lights of the Las Vegas strip.

By "real milk" we mean breast milk, right?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:30 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who said anything about crayons? (Though generally your Crayola's are also made non-toxic because kids will eat anything)

is found in almost every kind of commercially produced food, including: batters, beer, brown bread, buns, chocolate, cookies, cough drops, spirits and liquor such as brandy, rum, and whisky, chocolate-flavored flour-based confectionery, coatings, custards, decorations, fillings and toppings, potato chips, dessert mixes, doughnuts, fish and shellfish spreads, frozen desserts, fruit preserves, glucose tablets, gravy browning, ice cream, pickles, sauces and dressings, soft drinks (especially colas), sweets, vinegar, and more. Caramel color is widely approved for use in food globally but application and use level restrictions vary by country.

When you are stretching your definition of poison to almost every kind of commercially produced food in order to call a product poison that does not even contain the substance in question anymore well...it's kind of incoherent.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:33 PM on February 26, 2013


Have THEY no shame!?!

In defense of the farmer, in his post he claims/asserts/promises that his farm cleans the cows thoroughly from head to tail before milking, and that he ensures that customers follow rules for taking care of the milk they get. Michael Pollan f talks about this a bit in the Omnivore's Dilemma. The movement toward organic food came about because crazy hippie farmers were concerned about pesticide contamination. (And the "You know it's better for you because it just tastes better" argument is still widely used by restaurants and organic advocates. Heck, I've got a friend who has sworn to me that unpasteurized milk is the best thing ever.)

After organic became a codified standard (not just something you'd claim), factory farms have adopted organic methods that subvert the process, while some small farmers (such as Pollan's favorite, Polyface), have claimed to be "Beyond Organic". (With corresponding concerns that they aren't meeting the standards and are therefore unsafe.)

Government is often about satisficing, and for every perfect farmer out there taking good care of his cows there are others doing a poor job of it, and neither one probably thinks he's doing a bad job. But it does seem odd that you can't just buy your unpasteurized milk from a farmer with a big ol' warning label attached to it. And either way, unpasteurized milk seems to me (unverified?) a pretty different liquid from soda.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:40 PM on February 26, 2013


When you are stretching your definition of poison to almost every kind of commercially produced food in order to call a product poison that does not even contain the substance in question anymore well...it's kind of incoherent.

I'm linking my sources, so your argument is with a broader reality, not my own. I also thought you would clearly see the implications of switching one kind of caramel coloring for another (meaning there are more than one), but it seems you instead thought there was only one type of caramel colored soft drink instead. One last time:

Federal regulations distinguish among four types of caramel coloring, two of which are produced with ammonia and two without it. CSPI wants the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit the two made with ammonia. The type used in colas and other dark soft drinks is known as Caramel IV, or ammonia sulfite process caramel. Caramel III, which is produced with ammonia but not sulfites, is sometimes used in beer, soy sauce, and other foods.

Five prominent experts on animal carcinogenesis, including several who have worked at the National Toxicology Program, joined CSPI in calling on the FDA to bar the use of caramel colorings made with an ammonia process. “The American public should not be exposed to any cancer risk whatsoever as a result of consuming such chemicals, especially when they serve a non-essential, cosmetic purpose,” the scientists wrote in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

CSPI also says the phrase “caramel coloring” is misleading when used to describe colorings made with ammonia or sulfite. The terms “ammonia process caramel” or “ammonia sulfite process caramel” would be more accurate, and companies should not be allowed to label any products that contain such colorings as “natural,” according to the group.

“Most people would interpret ‘caramel coloring’ to mean ‘colored with caramel,’ but this particular ingredient has little in common with ordinary caramel or caramel candy,” Jacobson said. “It’s a concentrated dark brown mixture of chemicals that simply does not occur in nature. Regular caramel isn’t healthful, but at least it is not tainted with carcinogens.”

In a little-noticed regulatory proceeding in California, state health officials have added 4 MI to the state’s list of “chemicals known to the state to cause cancer.” Under that state’s Proposition 65, foods or other products containing more than certain levels of cancer-causing chemicals must carry warning labels. For 4-MI, that level is 16 micrograms per person per day from an individual product. Popular brands of cola contain about 200 micrograms of 4-MI per 20-ounce bottle—and many people, especially teenaged boys, consume more than that each day. If California’s regulation is finalized, Coke, Pepsi, and other soft drinks would be required to bear a cancer warning label.

posted by Brian B. at 3:48 PM on February 26, 2013


I was responding to the blanket comment about "the caramel color" not a statement about one form of caramel coloring that is still undergoing scientific review, is still approved for use, and is already removed anyway.

Let's stick with, "If Coke was poison because of this product that is still approved for use, it is not poisoned in this manner anymore."
posted by Drinky Die at 3:57 PM on February 26, 2013


But it does seem odd that you can't just buy your unpasteurized milk from a farmer with a big ol' warning label attached to it. And either way, unpasteurized milk seems to me (unverified?) a pretty different liquid from soda.

I don't have any personal opinion on the matter, but those opposed to raw milk assert that people with weakened immune systems, including children, are most at risk from potentially fatal illnesses. It's one thing to buy raw milk for yourself and to assume those risks yourself, but it's different when you're buying it for other people.

On the other hand, it's probably just as risky - if not riskier - to let your kids play Pop Warner football, or to swim, or to participate in a road trip, or to do pretty much anything other than to loll around in a down comforter all day while being fed nutritionally complete prison loaf.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:49 AM on February 27, 2013


Think of it this way - the government has not banned raw milk, the government has banned tuberculosis.

back at the previous turn of the century (pre-WW 1) healthy, young people died all the time off all sorts of things that you wouldn't think about twice today. For all the sturm und drang over sugar, government regulations have improved public health many, many times over.
posted by GuyZero at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2013


Judge Halts New York City Soda Ban

The city is "enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations," New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling decided Monday.

The regulations are "fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences," the judge wrote. "The simple reading of the rule leads to the earlier acknowledged uneven enforcement even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole….the loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the state purpose of the rule."


A victory for sensible policy making. Bloomberg can come up with a better program to address this problem if he wants to tackle it again.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:31 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cornell: People offered larger portions consume larger portions, even though they don't realize just how much they're consuming.

Author of that study: The soda ban is stupid.


The mayor’s staff said he had considered studies like one by a Cornell University researcher, Brian Wansink, and colleagues, which found that when people ate soup from a bowl that secretly refilled itself through a mechanism hidden under the table, they ate 73 percent more soup than they would from a regular bowl, without realizing it.

But Dr. Wansink said Thursday that as a professor of consumer behavior, and as one of the originators of the 100-calorie snack pack, he believed the mayor’s idea was too confrontational. He said he had warned against it when City Hall consulted him on Wednesday and suggested something along the lines of teaming up with retailers to promote large diet drinks.

“I’m really afraid it will be an epic failure,” he said. And as a result, he said, “People won’t have any faith that anything else will work.”

His study was about tricking people into eating more, but people who buy large sodas know exactly what they are doing, Dr. Wansink said. Since they are making a price-sensitive choice, forcing them to pay more for the equivalent amount of smaller drinks is a regressive tax.

posted by Drinky Die at 8:14 AM on March 14, 2013


people ate soup from a bowl that secretly refilled itself through a mechanism hidden under the table

Oh, shit! That bowl sounds fucking choice as hell.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:16 AM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


« Older As you know Bob, the Dutch have long known how to ...  |  Following a parent-governor me... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments