It turns out that I care about the global population of sharks way, way more than I care about the epidemic of obese people in New York. Not only that, but I have much more faith in the ability of laws and governments to do something to protect sharks than they can protect fat people from themselves.
Today has been an interesting day for the nanny state. An appeals court has once again knocked down knocked down New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s overbroad soda ban. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation banning the sale of shark-fin soup in New York.
I couldn’t be happier with both developments…
In general, the nanny state is bad at regulating human behavior. It has no business trying to impose “good health” or “personal restraint,” and it’s not even very good at inculcating us with morality. The soda ban has a laudable goal, I suppose. Large sodas make people fat! But regulating how much soda we can drink is a big governmental overreach. And practically, all the soda ban accomplishes is that it makes poor people pay a greater percentage of their income to have way too much soda than rich people. And so it needed to be stopped. From Fox News:
“The Board of Health overstepped the boundaries of its lawfully delegated authority,” the court said in its decision.
The state Supreme Court Appellate Division, with its opinion, upheld an earlier ruling that stopped the ban from taking effect in March. The rule would stop many eateries from selling non-diet soda and other sugar-laden beverages in containers bigger than 16 ounces.
The beverage industry and other opponents say the measure is riddled with exceptions, unfair and ineffective.
The nanny state is marginally better when it’s acting to prohibit something rather than merely regulating it. Telling people, “Oh, you can do this, but only in here and in this way,” drags the government down to the level of proscribing personal actions. Out-and-out banning something is a much cleaner way of saying, “We find this activity to be antithetical to a properly functioning society, and so nobody can do it.” It doesn’t create unintended exceptions for the rich, it just lays down the law, no pun intended.
And that’s what the shark-fin soup ban is trying to go. From the Daily News:
“Every year, an estimated 73 million sharks are killed to supply the growing global demand for their fins,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Not only is the process inhumane, but it also affects the natural balance of the oceanic ecosystem. With this new law, New York will be doing its part to help preserve this important species and maintain a stable environment for them.”
Patrick Kwan, director of grassroots organizing for The Humane Society of the United States, said shark fin soup is still available in almost every major restaurant in Chinatown.
“We are actually the largest market for shark fin currently in the United States,” Kwan said. “We tracked over 60 restaurants that have it on the menu.”
Don’t regulate it, don’t make a deal with it, don’t act like my mother and tell me what’s good for me. Prohibit the stuff. It’s a much cleaner and more sensible law. If Bloomberg wanted to ban the sale of sodas, I wouldn’t support it, but at least it would be an enforceable (ish) law that made sense.
In the end, it’s a nanny state law that actually protects something that can’t protect itself. People can make decisions as to whether or not they want to drink sodas that will make them gain weight and cause health problems. Sharks, for the most part, cannot make decisions as to whether or not they should be in a soup. The personal behavior Cuomo is restricting has nothing to do with the person and everything to do with the shark.
Like I said, fat kids can defend themselves from sodas. Sharks can’t defend themselves from soup lovers. Fat kids can’t defend themselves from sharks, but I also support Aquaman’s authority to ban sharks from eating fat kids.