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Archive for December 3rd, 2008

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is an interesting organization. Ostensibly, its purpose is to be a “strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science”. It publishes a health newsletter and has several programs to educate the public on various issues related to science, nutrition and public health.

Scratch deeper, and a frightening picture emerges. The CSPI is one of those entities that believes in science but not in freedom. It believes in equating the nutritious and the safe  with the universally good, and is happy to enforce these value judgements on others by any means at their disposal.

Their latest target is “alcoholic energy drinks”. This is from their website:

The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest today filed suit against MillerCoors Brewing Company, formerly Miller, over its alcoholic energy drink, Sparks. The product has more alcohol than regular beer and contains unapproved additives, including the stimulants caffeine and guarana. The lawsuit is asking the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to stop MillerCoors from selling the controversial drink, which is also under scrutiny from state attorneys general.

Drinkers of caffeinated alcoholic drinks are more likely to binge drink, ride with an intoxicated driver, become injured, or be taken advantage of sexually than drinkers of non-caffeinated alcoholic drinks, according to a 2007 study conducted at Wake Forest University.

Sparks products contain 6 to 7 percent alcohol by volume, as opposed to regular beer, which typically has 4 or 5 percent alcohol. Also unlike beer, Sparks’ appeal to young people is enhanced by its sweet citrusy taste, redolent of SweeTarts candy, and the bright color of orange soda. (Sparks Light also contains the artificial sweetener sucralose). In October, MillerCoors plans to release Sparks Red, which will have 8 percent alcohol by volume.

They have already stopped Anheuser-Busch from selling a similar product. Shockingly, they do not have an action project to ban the serving of coffee to a customer who has had a glass of wine — yet.

The rest of their website contains arguments in a similar vein. They go on about how the raising of the drinking age has saved lives, how alcohol is a terrible drug that deserves to be severely restricted from just about every place imaginable, how the trans fat ban will save fifty thousand lives a year and so on. They want to employ every coercive technique imaginable to stop such horrors from happening.

It always surprises me when I read this kind of analysis.

In the CSPI worldview, the only negative costs are those that are directly measurable, such as death and disease. Any action that reduces these figures is good. But clearly extending this reasoning to everything leads to absurdities. For instance, ban all cars today and the number of speeding related deaths will become zero. No one advocates such a thing because the costs in terms of inconvenience, quality of life and — may I mention it — freedom will be too high. How is it that when they rile against unhealthy or unsafe foods and drinks, they completely neglect the intrinsic cost of taking away from millions of users something that they enjoy? How is it that they put absolutely no weight in their analysis upon the fact that they are taking away my basic right to live my life the way I deem fit?

It is possible that CSPI is acting in good faith and in their moral code, these intrinsic costs are negligible or at any rate, low enough to merit coercive regulation.

But everyone has a core, inalienable ethical belief and here is mine. There’s only one word that accurately describes actions such as those of CSPI. That word is “evil”. It is irrelevant to my moral code that they may not view things the same way. There is simply no other way I can think of people who believe in imposing their personal choices on others. And unlike bandits or robbers who commit crimes for their gain, the evil that such organizations do never stop.

(Hat Tip: Reason Hit and Run)

Also read:

Jacob Sullum’s old article on CSPI and their pseudoscience.

My post on smoking bans in San Francisco.

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Eugene Volokh takes apart a New York Times editorial in his inimitable style:

The New York Times editorializes in favor of “sound gun-control laws.” Which ones? “Reasonable gun-control laws,” which can now be enacted following the “gun lobby”‘s defeat in November. (No word on the success of the “gay lobby,” “abortion lobby,” “women’s lobby,” and so on.)

I’m all for sound and reasonable gun-control laws. Who wouldn’t be? By definition, they are sound and reasonable, not the unsound and unreasonable kind that I oppose. (I should note that nearly everyone supports some gun control laws that they see as sound and reasonable, if only, say, bans on violent felons’ possessing guns, or if you really insist on minimalism, bans on violent felons’ possessing guns in prison.) Now if only the Times tells us exactly what those laws are — all I see in the editorial is a quote from President-Elect Obama about “keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals,” and nothing beyond that — then we might have a conversation. I’d prefer a conversation on the substance, but even a conversation on the political question on which the Times is focusing would require some specifics. It’s hard to gauge voters’ likely reactions to proposals that aren’t identified.

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Even a blogger as jaded as me comes across an instance of nanny-statism once in a while that takes his breath away.

Police in Aurora and around the metro area are cracking down on unattended and running vehicles, which police call “puffers,” this week.

“The easiest cars to steal are those left running unattended in the cold with the keys in the ignition,” Aurora police spokesman Detective Bob Friel said in a statement. “In this tough economy, the last thing someone needs to worry about is how they are going to replace their stolen car. The solution is simple: keep your car keys with you at all times.”

The fine for making your own car easier to steal is $75. C’est la vie.

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A query for my readers

Do you find that this website is much slower over the past few days? If so, is your problem limited to my site or are you experiencing it on other wordpress blogs as well?

As for me, everything from viewing my own blog, posting, accessing my dashboard etc has been really slow for the past week or so. I am curious to know where the problem lies. A simple yes/no reply in the comments would be highly appreciated. Even if you are not a regular visitor of my blog, please let me know if the loading time for this particular visit felt normal.

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