The New York Supreme Court has struck down Mayor Bloomberg’s attempted ban on large sodas. The judgement is a ray of light peeking through the dark clouds of the growing nanny state.

Why is it important to protect the freedom to drink large sugary drinks? Because if the principle is conceded that the state has a right to tell you what you can and cannot put in your body, then in principle your life is the property of the state—every element of your life can be controlled by whoever happens to hold the reins of the state.

Some might argue that if the state is responsible for providing healthcare to its citizens, then it has a right to control their behavior so they don’t “impose costs” on others.  But it is not drinking soda that imposes costs on others, it is the welfare state.  The welfare state brings people into conflict by replacing self-ownership, personal responsibility, and mutual liberty with mutual plunder, in which everyone lives at the expense of everyone else.  The state is incapable of navigating this mutual plunder in a way that is “fair” to everyone.

(The welfare state also shields people from the costs of their choices and makes the sum of economic decisions incoherent and unsustainable. Tom Palmer’s After the Welfare State, illustrates how the mutual plunder, irresponsibility, and economic miscoordination inherent to the welfare state have wrought the financial and debt crisis the world is facing today.)

Put simply, this is liberty: I get to drink my big soda but I have to carry the costs of that behavior, you get to keep your own money but you have to leave me alone.


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The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.