It must be election time. In last weekend's debate among candidates for two coveted at-large seats on the D.C. Council, the three top candidates all embraced the latest fad in city government -- a ban on serving large-size sugary drinks.
Vincent Orange, whose victory is taken for granted, David Grosso (whom we have endorsed) and Michael Brown all said they would back a law restricting the sale of large sodas like the law implemented recently in New York City. They should all reconsider, and District residents who believe in individual rights should make their opposition clear.
City government obviously has an interest in preventing grave injustices. But once it gets this deeply involved in legislating basic, non-life-or-death decisions, there is simply no end to the foolishness it can perpetrate in the name of health and safety. Once large sugary drinks have been banned, what's next? French fries? Cheeseburgers? Fried chicken?
To be sure, certain government programs -- especially Medicaid -- put the District on the hook for many of its residents' medical expenses. But does the government's generosity in this regard entitle it to ration food for residents on the programs? Should government officials show up at their houses each day to make sure they exercise?
Government can warn citizens about unhealthy behavior but personal health is the concern of each individual. Assuming that government still requires the consent of the governed, the micromanagement of small personal choices defeats its purpose. Some things we must do together through government. With others, there is legitimate debate over whether government or the individual is better suited to choose. But individuals are always in a better position to decide what size of soft drink they want.
What's more, this proposal is a laughable example of pandering. In June, when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned soft drinks larger than 16 ounces, House Speaker John Boehner rightly criticized him for focusing on such trivialities. "Are you kidding me?" Boehner said. "Come on! Don't we have bigger issues to deal with than the size of some soft drink that somebody buys?"
We could hardly put it better. If politicians want to focus on something so unimportant, couldn't they at least wait until they've first solved the problem of the District's abysmal public school system and its inability to keep juvenile criminals in its custody from killing or being killed?