NYT op/ed writer: Quit yer b*tchin’, and embrace the nanny state!

Posted by: ST on March 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm

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.

Indeed.  Beware.

Hat tip: Mememorandum

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14 Responses to “NYT op/ed writer: Quit yer b*tchin’, and embrace the nanny state!”


  1. Xavier says:

    Get a lib one-on-one and play dumb. Ask what they think the soda ban and the gun bills will accomplish. Sooner or later they’ll admit that these laws won’t accomplish anything by themselves – but they’re a good first step. Smile and ask what the second step is.

  2. ST says:

    Exactly, Xavier!

  3. Drew the Infidel says:

    This piece is nothing more than juvenile palaver describing human nature, a typical leftist trying to pass herself off as some sort of intellectual stalwart while merely pointing out the obvious.

  4. Mari says:

    If these liberals are so concerned about food choices why don’t they regulate the foods that may be purchased with food stamps. Limiting the choices to healthy foods for food stamp users, as they are using taxpayer dollars to feed themselves, would make more sense.

  5. I’m betting that the minute the Nanny State was extended to herself, Ms. Conley would throw a snit fit and demand that the government extricate itself from her ovaries, er, life.

    This is Liberalism in a nutshell: they love the thought of Big Government in theory, and as long as any restrictions, burdens, taxes, regulations, etc, apply to Someone Else/Everyone Else. The minute they apply to themselves, well, they Do Not Like Them.

  6. JNN says:

    These people need to be humiliated on a daily basis. It may not work on them, but it will work on some of the sheepeople. Why? Because they want to be part of the “cool” crowd. Make them suffer and that will prevent this from happening.

  7. TexasDoc says:

    “Let us do the thinking for you” is the same phrase as “for your own good”

    The same phrase has been used to justify everything from simple bans to outright murder by every leftist totalitarian regime in history, from Bolshevism to Hugo Chavez’ brand of socialist terror.

    Guess we know where Professorette Conly stands on freedom of choice and the right of individuals to determine their own destinies.

  8. Carlos says:

    “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…”

    OK, so let’s legislate against doing foolish stuff. Let’s begin by banning from office anyone who assumes they are smart enough to know how to run anyone else’ life because, at the end of the day, there are in anyone’s life multiple instances of stupid behavior.

    Then, let’s extend that to educators, especially secondary and college-level, whose propensity toward teaching governmental interference in all aspects of life cannot be exceeded.

    At least, if I were to take this numbskull’s advice, that’s where I would start.

  9. Xavier says:

    If a lack of personal control justifies a soda ban, shouldn’t politicians be prohibited from spending money?

  10. Polly says:

    “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.”….-Sarah Conly

    Yes, Sarah, and you stand as irrefutable proof of that.

  11. Sefton says:

    To follow up on Carlos’ point, the hypocrisy of the left knows no bounds.
    “…we need to be stopped from doing foolish stuff” is a relative statement from the context of progressivism – who decides what is “foolish” for one person or group? Who is deemed “rational” enough to make the decisions for everyone else? The only thing progressive about them is that they continually progress into foolishness.

    The whole of leftist ideology has no foundation. Much like their supposed “living, evolving document” of the Constitution, they have through history proven to have “their house built on sand” to quote Jesus.
    They scream into a nonsensical, illogical vaccuum.

  12. Lorica says:

    I agree Sefton. I consider skydiving, sex outside of marriage, motocross racing, mix martial arts, flying, playing with matches….. etc..etc… all foolish things. We should ban them all. I am certain we can come up with quite the list of “Foolish Stuff” that should be banned. LOL – Lorica

  13. Drew the Infidel says:

    To follow up on TexasDoc’s point, “in the interest of public safety” and “for the children” are also hallmarks of every do-gooder.

  14. Carlos says:

    And it wasn’t all that long ago that one of the favorite phrases from the movies was from the “Star Trek” series when Spock said something along the line of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

    Call me a heartless jerk (don’t worry, I’ve been called much worse) but for the world I can’t figure out why that decision should be left to someone else, and ultimately, through his own reasoning Spock made his own decision (no matter how he justified it).