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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Choosing Among the Choices

I rarely get on a political soapbox and I'm not getting on one today. It's collecting dust in the corner and keeping the peace.

But I do have a conundrum of logic I'd like to throw out for consumption; one that will inevitably make some people very angry at me and come as a surprise to others. I don't blame you either way. And if you're one of those people who prefers not to think a great deal about the convoluted issues that cannot be easily rectified, I accept your resignation from this post.

But here is the issue, as I understand it (I recognize that my personal understanding of it may be skewed by my own cultural background, childhood traumas, and biases, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. I make no excuses for my line of thought, however, and I stand by it to a fault.):

1) The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is pushing a law that would ban the sale of soft drinks bigger than 16 fluid ounces by restaurants, sports arenas and movie theaters. Consumers will no longer have "the right to choose" between S, M, L or Super Size.

2) The Federal Government is seeking to enact a law banning incandescent light bulbs. Consumers will no longer have "the right to choose" between less expensive incandescent bulbs and more expensive energy efficient bulbs.

3) The city of Manhattan Beach, CA is, by law, banning stores from packing customer's purchased goods in plastic bags. Consumers will no longer have "the right to choose" between paper or plastic.

I do not presume to argue the politics of these laws or how they impact basic human freedoms, but rather the logic. The logic proves a great stumbling block for me. If "the right to choose" to abort a fetus or to carry it to term is protected and regarded as inalienable, then why not "the right to choose" what size soft drink I would like to order, or "the right to choose" what kind of light bulb with which I want to illuminate the night, or "the right to choose" to bag my groceries in paper or plastic? Is a fetus in the womb less of a concern to humanity and the preservation of it than a co-cola, a bulb or a bag?

And since "the right to choose" between life or death for a fetus only applies to women, i.e., a man may not make the choice, then do women also retain "the right to choose" paper or plastic? Incandescent or energy efficient? Large or super size? Do these laws that eliminate freedom of choice apply only to men?



Anonymous said...

More and more of our "right to choose" is being removed from us. I think the first time I can remember thinking this is when the seat belt legislation was passed, then came bike helmets. I can understand the plastic bag issue being legislated but soft drink sizes? What the.... Well anyway, just buy two. It's ridiculous to pass a law like that on the basis that it's for the good of our health. It's not like the anti smoking laws. Those I can understand as cigarette smoking impacts more than just the smoker but soft drinks...come on now.
If your choice is going to affect only yourself....pop drinking for example....than the law belongs nowhere near it. If the law is intended to protect others from your thoughless actions ...smoking in public places for example...then I guess it is acceptable. The right to legislate is a fine line drawn in shifting sand. The determination of whether your actions affect yourself or others is a little wobbly too.

mare ball said...

Good points made above. If a choice hurts others (abortion, smoking), then I understand the gov't wanting to protect the greater good. (Sadly, I think the gov't is on the wrong end of the abortion issue - it should be protecting the fetus.) We DON'T have endless freedom, even in a free country. We do share the plant with others. I think the soda thing is a stretch. Lightbulbs? That's an energy/conservation issue, which DOES affect all of us. Same w/ the plastic bags. Human beings do need regulation at times b/c basically, we're kind of lazy and gluttonous. :-)

William Kendall said...

Lightbulbs and plastic bags are more of an energy and environment conservation thing, so I can see measures being taken there, but I'd think that the approach of educating, informing, and incentives would be much more productive then using the ban approach.

As to Bloomberg's soda idea... that's really pushing it.

Inger said...

It is difficult to trust people to make wise choices, especially when they are short on funds. I am hesitating on the lightbulbs, but it is really true that once you come up with the initial money, they will last forever and will save you money in the long run. Plastic bags, should definitely be banned everywhere. We must try to preserve this planet for the future. Our oceans are going to hell thanks to all that plastic, not just bags, but bottles, etc. Banning supersized soft drinks seems really dumb. The mayor should focus his energy on his stop and search policy. If not eliminating it, provide better training in minority relations to his cops. What's going on with that is an outrage. Eliminating supersized sodas, just plain dumb. Thanks for speaking out. I do that sometimes too when I just can't keep my mouth shut about something.

Jo said...

I see where you are coming from Lucy, and think you have a valid point about the right to choose, however, typically people generally have chosen wrongly, hence excessive pollution (garbage islands in our oceans) and excessive obesity because people will not choose smaller drinks. There comes a time when it is necessary to choose for someone who is practicing destructive habits.

Gina Gao said...

This is an interesting post.

E.D. said...

Both sides have merit - these issues, sadly, will never be solved to everyone's satisfaction. But discussion is always good!

Lexa Cain said...

I love Jo's comment. People cannot be trusted with a right to choose when that choice destroys the planet or their health. Look at the banking people who struck down the mortgage insurance law and plunged the world into a depression. No one considers consequences...

Michelle said...

I am all for my personal freedom. If I want to drink a super size soda, I should be allowed to. I don't want one, but the fact that a branch of government thinks they know better than me, is really irritating! And since I am a contrary being, it makes me want to rush out for a super sized everything. And I'd like it packed in a plastic bag, please.

Peter T said...

Re bans
they tend to be counter-productive and circumvented anyway.

Light bulb ban good example.
Effectively cheaper energy from energy saving products is simply used more,
conversely lowered utility sales leads to electricity price rises, as referenced below with US/EU data

Energy saving is not the only reason for choosing a light bulb you want to use,
if there was an energy shortage the price rise would reduce use without the need for regulations,
and the overall savings are irrelevant anyway
(c 1% of grid energy on Dept of Energy data, still ignoring manufacture/transport/recycling energy use of the more complex alternatives, again as referenced).
"The deception behind banning light bulbs and other products"

Tara Tyler said...

why does the government think they know better than people? let us make our misakes and live with the consequences! if they want to crack down on fatness or envirnment issues, they might as well pass laws to arrest them - where does it end?

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Francene Stanley said...

Strange indeed. Doesn't make sense. But think of the quote from the bible about obeying the laws of ... whatever. I guess Jesus didn't want to preach civil disobedience. But then again, did poeple from the past have the same rights we do now?