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Posts Tagged ‘bloomberg’

I have written derisively about Michael Bloomberg on this blog before. His positions on various issues are patronising, insulting and completely antithetical to individual freedom.

Yet, there’s one topical issue where his strong stand has won my wholehearted admiration — it is this one. It takes courage to stand up for your principles even when doing so is deeply unpopular, and in the last couple of months Bloomberg has shown he possesses both courage and certain right principles.

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Michael Bloomberg, chief nanny of New York, while defending his plan to regulate the amount of salt restaurant chefs will henceforth be allowed to put in their dishes:

If we know there’s asbestos in a school room what do you expect us to do? Say it’s not our business? I don’t think so.

This is an absurd analogy and not just because of the substantial difference in harmfulness between salt and asbestos. (If it was just that, I’d merely call Bloomberg’s analogy far fetched.) There are more fundamental reasons why his analogy breaks down.

1. Choice.  Salt imparts taste to food. Life’s choices are about weighing costs and benefits, in this case weighing the cost of increased risk of high blood pressure versus the benefit of a possibly tastier meal. Ditto with other unhealthy lifestyle choices: smoking, spending all day playing video-games or riding a motorbike. It’s a freedom issue, one of individual choice. On the other hand, not many people in this age knowingly choose to live in a house with lethal asbestos in the roof.

2. Fraud. Assuming that the asbestos is typically present without the consent or knowledge of whoever owns or lives in the building, it is a case of fraud and a lethal one at that. On the other hand, the food you buy: well you get what you wanted and ordered. Presumably you know perfectly well that it contains a fair amount of salt. There is no fraud of any kind. (And if a lot of people are unknowingly ordering food with high amounts of salt, well, that would at best call for some kind of salt-quantity-disclosure law.)

3. Age. A school room is populated by students, who are mostly not of legal age and in some cases very young. Restaurants are populated by a lot of adults who, presumably, should be able to eat very salty food if they want to.

Finally, if some person  knowingly goes ahead and builds asbestos into the roof of his house, I think — notwithstanding Bloomberg’s protests — it is not the government’s business to stop him, but merely to make sure he makes this information available to all other occupants, tenants and any guests who come to the building, and does not have any children living there.

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As usual, Jacob Sullum expresses the libertarian viewpoint eloquently:

The number of fatal motorcycle accidents rose in 2007 for the 10th consecutive year, hitting 5,154, 7 percent higher than the 2006 total. [..] Although advocates of helmet laws will be inclined to blame their repeal in several states for the rising motorcycle fatalities, the chief culprit recently seems to be higher gas prices, which have encouraged people to take advantage of motorcycles’ vastly superior fuel efficiency. [..]

Motorcycle riding is inherently dangerous. While wearing a helmet reduces the risk of certain injuries, research suggests the overall impact on fatalities is modest. The unimpressive numbers are one reason motorcyclists have been so successful at defending their right to decide what, if anything, to wear on their heads. “We are the only industrialized country in the world where there is an organized effort to weaken or repeal motorcycle helmet laws,” complains Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Is that a sign of backwardness or a point of pride? [emphasis mine]

How I feel about the last question will be obvious to regular readers of this blog.

I hope that most Americans feel similarly. Judging by the immense popularity of paternalists like Mike Bloomberg, I fear that is not the case.

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