The writer of this opinion piece – author and Bowdoin College assistant philosophy professor Sarah Conly – is not an official member of the NYT’s editorial board, but her drool-fest over Bloomberg’s nanny-state power grabs make her a strong contender should an opening become available (bolded emphasis added by me):
WHY has there been so much fuss about New York City’s attempt to impose a soda ban, or more precisely, a ban on large-size “sugary drinks”? After all, people can still get as much soda as they want. This isn’t Prohibition. It’s just that getting it would take slightly more effort. So, why is this such a big deal?
Obviously, it’s not about soda. It’s because such a ban suggests that sometimes we need to be stopped from doing foolish stuff, and this has become, in contemporary American politics, highly controversial, no matter how trivial the particular issue. (Large cups of soda as symbols of human dignity? Really?)
We have a vision of ourselves as free, rational beings who are totally capable of making all the decisions we need to in order to create a good life. Give us complete liberty, and, barring natural disasters, we’ll end up where we want to be. It’s a nice vision, one that makes us feel proud of ourselves. But it’s false.
A lot of times we have a good idea of where we want to go, but a really terrible idea of how to get there. It’s well established by now that we often don’t think very clearly when it comes to choosing the best means to attain our ends. We make errors. This has been the object of an enormous amount of study over the past few decades, and what has been discovered is that we are all prone to identifiable and predictable miscalculations.
We also suffer from a status quo bias, which makes us value what we’ve already got over the alternatives, just because we’ve already got it — which might, of course, make us react badly to new laws, even when they are really an improvement over what we’ve got. And there are more.
The crucial point is that in some situations it’s just difficult for us to take in the relevant information and choose accordingly. It’s not quite the simple ignorance [John Stuart] Mill was talking about, but it turns out that our minds are more complicated than Mill imagined. Like the guy about to step through the hole in the bridge, we need help.
Do we care so much about our health that we want to be forced to go to aerobics every day and give up all meat, sugar and salt? No. But in this case, it’s some extra soda. Banning a law on the grounds that it might lead to worse laws would mean we could have no laws whatsoever.
In the old days we used to blame people for acting imprudently, and say that since their bad choices were their own fault, they deserved to suffer the consequences. Now we see that these errors aren’t a function of bad character, but of our shared cognitive inheritance. The proper reaction is not blame, but an impulse to help one another.
That’s what the government is supposed to do, help us get where we want to go. It’s not always worth it to intervene, but sometimes, where the costs are small and the benefit is large, it is. That’s why we have prescriptions for medicine. And that’s why, as irritating as it may initially feel, the soda regulation is a good idea. It’s hard to give up the idea of ourselves as completely rational. We feel as if we lose some dignity. But that’s the way it is, and there’s no dignity in clinging to an illusion.
Let me repeat that: “but sometimes, where the costs are small and the benefit is large, it is.” Even if the “small cost” is giving up your individual liberties bit by precious bit until none are left? Oh hell no, lady. I don’t think so!
This is the mind of the typical leftist: There is no such thing as personal responsibility – because you’re too stupid to take care of yourself and therefore Uncle Sam has to step in to “help” you control your diet, and anything else they decide is beyond your scope of being able to manage. Anne Sorock at Legal Insurrection adds:
If Conly’s “Three Cheers for the Nanny State” is the best retort to New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling’s take down of the Bloomberg ban, which the Justice referred to as “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences” and an “administrative leviathan” that would “eviscerate” separation of powers, then it is time to rejoice and give three cheers for Conly’s reveal of the left’s mental state.
Conly, educated at the bastions of high thinking Princeton (BA), Cornell (MA), and Cornell (MA), may be as fine an advertisement against the left’s thinking (as well as an Ivy League education) as any messaging campaign the RNC would hope to undertake.
Hat tip: Mememorandum