An appeals court has correctly and quite reasonably told the New York City Board of Health it cannot put size limits on the soft drinks served in public venues.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was the prime mover behind the board’s action, has said the decision will be appealed.
The board’s imposition of a 16-ounce limit on drinks was ludicrous in one respect, but ominous in another.
If a 16-ounce drink isn’t enough, all one has to do is order two 12-ounce drinks, or whatever combination of smaller sizes works. It’s about like being told that you can’t buy a case of beer, you must buy four six-packs — or 24 individual beers. Or that you can buy only one cigarette at a time. (Whatever you may think of soft drinks, beer and cigarettes, it is legal to manufacture, purchase and possess them.)
The four judges of New York’s Supreme Court Appellate Division did not look at the matter of personal liberties, but said the health board could address health hazards by banning “inherently harmful” products from being served, but soft drinks aren’t inherently harmful when consumed in moderation.
Rather, they ruled unanimously that the health board assumed a lawmaking power reserved to legislative bodies (like Congress, state legislatures or — in New York’s case — the City Council).
It is in legislative bodies composed of men and women who are elected by the people that such matters should be considered. All too often, they are decided by people who are appointed to enforce the law, but not to make laws.
Likewise, there is an excess of reliance on such things as “executive orders” that actually circumvent the will of lawmakers. President Obama is frequently accused of doing this, but he is hardly the first president who falls into that category.
The idea that “Your government knows what’s best for you” is one that has always rankled Americans.
It is comforting to know that America’s courts are still prepared to tell Big Brother there are some things he can’t get away with doing.