Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bloomberg's Maximum Soft Drink Regulation

"Old Enough To Vote, Old Enough To Super Size"

I understand the argument--that a lot of Americans lack the self-control and sense to get reasonable size soft drinks.  And there's some truth to it.  But why, then, do we trust these people with voting?  Anyone that can't figure out that ordering the Big Gulp everyday is going to make you fat is in way over their depth when it comes to understanding federal spending, deficits, inflation, and interest rates.


  1. I'm curious. Apparently you and Bloomberg think that the size of the container is a meaningful measure of the amount consumed. That is, by forcing people to buy 1oz at a time (for example), no one will consume 10oz. Doesn't strike me as prima facie believable.

  2. What makes you think I agree with Bloomberg that this will work? I agreed with his concern, not his solution. Yes, you can still get a Big Gulp by ordering three standard size drinks.

  3. Eris: Well, transaction costs do matter, and as I understand studies of the matter, people often tend to finish their drink (or try to), when they would consume less if they had less available.

    I agree that it won't work as proposed (since people will just get refills, and 12 ounces is plenty enough to let you get lots of sugar).

    While I think it might have some slight marginal effect at a much smaller size, purely analytically, I agree with Clayton (and, I think, with you) that it's none of the State's business at any level.

    Bloomberg especially, and the State in general, is not our mommy.

  4. There are certainly situations where a consumer may be unable to adequately recognize the risks involved (the reason California banned use of sulfites in salad bars), or where a particular class of consumers is on average too immature to make sensible decisions (cigarettes, alcohol, porn, firearms for example). But when you apply such laws to the adult population as a whole, it says something about the maturity of your adult population, and it isn't good.

  5. How long before they add fluoride and vitamins to the drinks?

  6. when I leave a fast food restaurant, I routinely go back to "top off" my soft drink for the road. Will that be allowed?

  7. If the commissars are serious, they will follow up with rules banning multiple drink purchases, straw buyer laws, bans on blackmarket Coke trafficking, etc.

  8. "What makes you think I agree with Bloomberg that this will work?"

    I don't. And it's not what I said. I said the cup size isn't relevant to the amount consumed. Bloomberg seems to think it is. I took your "there's some truth to this" to grant at least partial assent to this strange belief. It's the model that's wrong: calories come in discreet measures and people consume calories in discreet measures. Neither are true.

    Too many people focus on taking the cup away (or making it smaller) as if the customer won't fulfill the desire to eat more somewhere else.

    "transaction costs do matter"

    The transactions costs--free refills--are as near zero as costs can become. The law appears not cost effective on that basis alone: only a handful of people will be too lazy to refill their cup. And that's assuming such customers eat at one time in a single restaurant.

    People who desire five Starbucks' supersize coffees a day aren't concerned with transactions costs. Making the cup smaller will make them want six or seven or eight cups.

    Are there any studies that show, one way or the other, that people who overeat eat less (consume fewer calories overall) if the burgers weigh 5oz instead of 6oz?

    In Stephen Furst's biography (for example) he recounts leaving one meal and eating another immediately afterwards. In so far as he is representative of (formerly) compulsive over-eaters (and he seems to be to me), changing the cup size is not and cannot be a measure of the amount consumed. He consumed until some inner measure was reached. And it made him fat.