Sunday, October 26, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Bloomberg not so far afield with big-soda ban

crisp column sig

By
From page A8 | April 02, 2013 |

Many liberals were duly embarrassed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent proscription of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. On “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart made considerable sport of Bloomberg, and comedian Bill Maher said this is just the sort of thing that gives liberals and government regulation a bad name.

The prohibition is currently on hold in the courts, but the reaction has been so negative that I suspect we’ve seen the end of it.

Still, on March 24 The New York Times printed “Three Cheers for the Nanny State,” an op-ed in which Sarah Conly, an assistant professor of philosophy at Bowdoin College, asks why we’re making such a big deal over something as trivial as a ban on super-sized soda. This isn’t prohibition, she says. New Yorkers can still drink all the soda they want.

Conly says the problem is that we have a “reflexive response” against being told what to do, even if it’s something that’s good for us. We like to think of ourselves as “free, rational beings,” who, given enough liberty, can create the life that we want.

But, Conly says, this is totally false.

I sense objections from the right – and the left, as well – but hear Conly out. She refers to the work of psychologists and economists, especially Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who argue that human beings often fail to reach their goals because of built-in cognitive biases that easily derail us.

For example, Kahneman and Tversky posit an “optimism bias,” an inclination to believe that while bad things are likely to happen to people in our situations, they are less likely to happen to us than to other people.

This probably helps account for the 20 percent of Americans who still smoke and millions of boys and men who play football each fall. An “optimism bias” deludes them into imagining that they are less likely than everyone else to contract lung cancer or to be paralyzed or permanently befuddled by repeated blows to the head.

I haven’t read Kahneman and Tversky, but I’ll presume to propose another bias that supports Conly’s contention that our decisions aren’t as independent and rational as we’d like to think. I’ll call it a “persuasion bias.”

The Christian apologist C.S. Lewis once said that you could disabuse yourself of the notion that sex is an appetite just like any other – as some secularists claim – by trying to imagine a dark, dingy theater filled with men salivating over a well-cooked steak with all the trimmings being paraded across the stage.

But isn’t this precisely the way we see food and drink in our culture at present? What some people have begun to call “food porn” surrounds us. It can be classy and elegant – like on the food channels – or it can be blatant, juicy, breaded, deep-fried porn with fries on the side, mouth-watering and irresistible, as in fast-food commercials. The unrelenting message is the same: consume.

As we try to make rational decisions about what to eat, we imagine that we’re on a level playing field. We have fresh fruits and vegetables year round, we have low-fat, low-calorie choices, and we even have fast-food restaurants that post their calorie counts. But as we get fatter and fatter, it’s worth remembering what we’re up against: an advertising industry that blatantly, subliminally and constantly beguiles us with the pleasures of eating and drinking.

On top of all this, consider the essential thesis of Michael Moss’s new book, “Salt Sugar Fat”: Big-Food corporations spend a great deal of energy and money designing “foods” that we just can’t resist.

You really can’t eat just one. And thousands of intelligent, creative people with a lot of money are working hard to make sure you keep eating and drinking, more and more.

In this light, maybe Bloomberg’s attempt to push back a little isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds at first.

John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Email jcrisp@delmar.edu.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Back from the ashes: One man is home for Halloween

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Free flu shots given at church

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Gala boosts The Leaven’s efforts in Solano

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5

 
Military graduates have county ties

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B10

Slim chance to stop coming higher RX co-pays

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

.

Opinion

Question of the week: Do think Fairfield has a crime problem?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Sound off for Oct. 26, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

Tourists get more than expected

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Leisure Town’s leaders support professional management

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

80-year-old nun still teaching

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

 
Mormons address mystery surrounding undergarments

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3, 1 Comment

.

Entertainment

Jimmy Fallon’s picture book inspired by daughter

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Harris’ atypical life is now atypical book

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Lena Dunham bares more in new memoir

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

.

Sports

Raiders try to erase only zero left in win column

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sweet dreams: Sleep expert helps Giants in October

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Giants surge past Royals 11-4 to tie World Series at 2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Stanford routs Oregon St. 38-14, faces Oregon next

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Stow shouts ‘Play ball!’ before Game 4 of Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Splash shots still define Giants’ ballpark

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Bumgarner to face Shields in Game 5 of Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Mo’ne Davis throws out 1st pitch at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Marlins’ Stanton expects to have normal offseason

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Raiders activate cornerback Hayden, DE Autry

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Kings’ Gay, McLemore cleared to play in opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Hodgson helps Sabres beat Sharks 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

MacKenzie, Svoboda tied for PGA lead at Sea Island

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

Of mutual interest: What’s next for funds when Fed stops buying bonds?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Apple Pay Q&A: What you need to know

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Crowdfunding gives a leg up to animal projects

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Google exec sets records with leap from near-space

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Review: Macs, mobile unite with Yosemite system

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12 | Gallery

 
Smart Spending: A spin with Wal-Mart’s savings app

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

40 years later, ‘Power Broker’ is standard reading

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Obituaries

Eugene Sylvester Carter Sr.

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Guillermo Lara Lopez

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Melvin Tate

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dr. Robert M. Takamoto

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics