I honestly don’t yet know if the New York mayor, Mike Bloomberg, is right to be banning big cups of sugary drinks. I have no idea whether Coca-Cola has a case when it claims there is absolutely no connection between children guzzling sugary drinks and children getting fat. What I can say with confidence is that we in the West have a fatness problem.
You should have been at the ball game in the Bronx, where I had the good fortune to be in the Yankee stadium hospitality suite with Bloomberg.
With all the legendary courtesy of the American catering industry, the white-hatted staff were piling each plate with enough calories to feed a family of Eritreans for a week. There were barons of beef, swaddled in ribbons of delicious yellow fat. The bed of the Atlantic had been denuded to provide the tails – just the tails – of a thousand lobsters. It was a kind of gastronomic United Nations: here the Mexican enchiladas, there the Chinese chop suey, and everything served on an all-you-can-eat basis, where all-you-can-eat turns out to be a very large quantity indeed.
And I think it is fair to say that while all of these things may make you fat, because they’re being consumed in ballpark hospitality suites, they won’t be the target of Mike Bloomberg’s wrath – unless a bunch of fatty-boombatty bridge-and-tunnel people start showing up.
For those of us who are instinctively libertarian, it is all a bit difficult – at least philosophically. But never mind the philosophy; what about the practical effects? This is the same Bloomberg, after all, whose smoking ban was also derided, and then imitated around the world.
His action against smoking is now seen as a big step in reducing a particularly nasty addiction that had claimed the lives of millions. Across the West, we are seeing a falling away in the number of cancers contracted, a fall in the number of deaths.
A hipster in Brooklyn had to step outside to light up an American Spirit, thus saving the life of a 68-year-old retiree in Fresno …
If we could reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, and release some children from the captivity of fatness, might that not be worth exploring?
I think we should pay tribute to the continuing boldness of the mayor of New York. He has been a public official for longer than Obama. He has run a corporation far bigger than Romney’s. He is the 11th richest man in the US, with wealth of $US22 billion, and yet he still cares about the size of paper cups and childhood obesity.
Do we need to do this again? “For the children” is not an “instinctively libertarian” argument, nor is it necessarily better for those self-same kiddies. The quantum of causality between smoking and cancer would be many times greater than the link between New York’s soda consumption and its residents relative largeness (though, frankly, I always thought it was out in the ‘burbs where the real fatties lived. If they’re all chowing down on lobster tails at the stadium, it’s not going to make much difference anyway).
And caring about the size of paper cups does not make you great, but rather, as my Scottish ancestors would say, a wee little man indeed.
Meanwhile, another late entrant to the Upper Class Twit of the Year would have to be David Cameron, who has brought new meaning to the phrase, “No Child Left Behind”:
A Downing Street spokesman says David and Samantha Cameron were distraught when they realised they had left their daughter at a pub after Sunday lunch.
The couple’s daughter Nancy wandered off to the toilets while they were arranging lifts. They realised she was not with them when they got home after lunch on Sunday, The Sun reported on Monday.
The Camerons’ local is the Plough Inn, which seems to take rather more care with its produce:
All of the beef, lamb, pork & chicken are free range and slaughtered within Cotswolds & Gloucestershire area. No animal travels further than 25 miles from farm to slaughter house, thus reducing the stress that the animals occurs on long arduous journeys. The beef is dry matured on the bone for 28 days,lamb 10 days & pork 6 days. This process is vital for producing the best quality meat.