FDA’s regs implementing Food Safety Modernization Act could tank small farmers and other food operations, commenters write in by thousands [Baylen Linnekin, Jim Slama, HuffPo]
Proposed Austin curbs on fast food restaurants might ensnare its beloved food trucks [Linnekin]
Any day now FDA could issue long-awaited, highly burdensome new menu calorie labeling regs [Hinkle] Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (Ind.-ME) introduce bill to excuse grocers and convenience stories from rules and simplify compliance for pizzerias [Andrew Ramonas/BLT]
“Panel weighs in on soda ban at law school” [NYU News covers my recent panel discussion there with Jacob Sullum and Prof. Roderick Hills, pic courtesy @vincentchauvet]
“Organic Farmers Bash FDA Restrictions On Manure Use” [NPR via Ira Stoll]
Nick Farr looks at NYT retrospective on the Stella Liebeck (McDonald’s) hot coffee case [Abnormal Use]
“Sugar is the most destructive force in the universe” according to expert witness who meets with less than favorable reception in corn syrup case [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
Even if some of its speedcams were illegal, Montgomery County says it doesn’t plan to issue refunds “because drivers admit guilt when they mail in their signed tickets and pay the fines” [WUSA, auto-plays video]
I’m back from a speaking swing through Nebraska. At the University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln, I spoke about food and drink paternalism as exemplified by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiatives in New York, with Prof. Steven Willborn providing a counterpoint from a more liberal perspective. At Creighton University Law School in Omaha, I spoke (as I often do) on the ideological state of the law schools, drawing on my 2011 book Schools for Misrule, with commentary from Profs. Ralph Whitten and Sara Stadler.
Both events were well attended but I was especially pleased at the strong turnout for the talk in Lincoln on food and the nanny state, a new speech I hadn’t tried out before on a general audience. Here’s a description:
The public is increasingly in revolt against “nanny state” interventions, from Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to limit soda sizes in New York, to efforts to ban Happy Meals in San Francisco. Some thinkers dismiss concern about paternalism as merely trivial and personal, not on a par with issues acknowledged as “serious” such as police abuse, free speech, surveillance, and the proper functioning of the legal system. Left unchecked, however, the project of paternalism quickly generates very serious problems in each of those other areas: it gives police and enforcers great arbitrary power, hands a special government megaphone to some speakers while stifling others, funnels uncomfortably personal information into government hands, and fuels abusive litigation. No matter what you think of potato chips, if your interests are in liberty and good government, you should be paying attention.
I’m next scheduled to speak on the food police Sept. 23 at a Heritage Foundation panel discussion with Baylen Linnekin, Nita Ghei, and J. Justin Wilson, hosted by Daren Bakst. Details here. More on my fall speaking schedule here.
The new four-judge decision is unanimous, which means every judge to consider the matter has now agreed that the NYC Department of Health overstepped its legal powers. And they’re right, as I explain here at Cato. Earlier here, here, here, etc.
One person who presumably had not expected today’s result is Emily Bazelon at Slate, who has claimed that Judge Milton Tingling’s trial-court decision was somehow a venture into conservative activism. None of the New York appellate judges heard from today give evidence of sharing that view.
Per the Los Angeles Times: “New research [on which more -- W.O.] shows that prompting beverage makers to sell sodas in smaller packages and bundle them as a single unit actually encourages consumers to buy more soda — and gulp down more calories — than they would have consumed without the ban.”
I’ve done a new Cato podcast with interviewer Caleb Brown discussing Cass Sunstein’s attempts (channeling the behavioral economics literature) to distinguish a softer, less threatening “paternalism of means” from a bossy, intrusive “paternalism of ends.” I don’t think the distinction really works in practice, but as usual with Sunstein’s work, it’s at least worth hearing out. I go on to recommend the work of Joshua Wright and Douglas Ginsburg challenging the new behavioral economics, and suggest that while the scholars of the behavioral economics school do make some headway in showing that private choice is fallible and mistake-ridden, they are less successful at showing that trained experts can improve on these choices without touching off new unintended consequences.
Food Safety Modernization Act would impose only modest costs on farmers, or so we kept being assured when it passed in 2010. Someone tell the orchard guys [WaPo, earlier] Town of Brooksville becomes ninth in Maine to pass symbolic “food sovereignty” resolution [Jordan Bloom, The American Conservative; Food Renegade (Dan Brown of Blue Hill)]
“Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food” by lawprof Timothy Lytton [Prawfs]
“Why Is Your Child’s Safety The Responsibility Of Some Stranger Who Sold You Instant Soup?” [Amy Alkon]
Aaron Powell ties Bloomberg’s soda ban in with John Stuart Mill and the dreadful-sounding new book Against Autonomy [Libertarianism.org] Too bad editors of the New York Daily News, which lives by newsstand choice, can’t identify with food choice [Charles Cooke]
“This amendment would prohibit federal regulation of the size and quantity of food and beverages,” the Texas senator’s office explained of his budget proposal, which was not adopted by the Democratic majority. [Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner]
On Monday, Judge Tingling struck down the soda ban in a sweeping opinion that does everything but hand Mayor Poppins his umbrella and carpetbag. This wasn’t just a temporary restraining order putting the regulation on hold for a few weeks. The judge struck down the ban permanently both on the merits (“fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences”) and as overstepping the rightful legal powers of the New York City Department of Health…
[For] the mayor and his public health crew… the biggest reproach in the decision isn’t in being found to have gotten the facts wrong, it’s being found to have violated the law.
And if anyone is expected to know and play by the rules, it’s a nanny.
[Bloomberg's] administration seemed caught off guard by the decision. Before the judge ruled, the mayor had called for the soda limits to be adopted by cities around the globe; he now faces the possibility that one of his most cherished endeavors will not come to fruition before he leaves office, if ever. …
The measure was already broadly unpopular: In a New York Times poll conducted last August, 60 percent of city residents said it was a bad idea for the Bloomberg administration to pass the limits…
Ross Sandler, a professor at New York Law School, said city laws deemed “arbitrary and capricious” had frequently been reinstated upon appeal.
In a sweeping decision, trial court judge Milton Tingling has struck down the ban on sugary drinks decreed by the New York City Department of Health, which had been scheduled to go into effect tomorrow. I discuss the ruling in a Cato podcast above. I’m also quoted by Jillian Kay Melchior at National Review Online:
It was a sweeping ruling, because the judge said not only was the ban arbitrary and capricious, but it also went beyond the public-health agency’s powers under the statute. It meant that, even if Bloomberg went back and got a better factual justification for it, he had no legal right to do it. The agency just plain lacked the power. It means that the powers that public-health agencies claim because of emergency dangers like a raging epidemic — they don’t get to rule by dictate about other elements of our life that are not emergencies.
A press release from George Washington University Prof. John Banzhaf describes his latest stunt as follows: “Undergrads Required To Lobby For Obama Policy.” In this case, it’s more for a policy identified with Michael Bloomberg — limits on the size of sweetened drinks — which students were asked to promote in letters to their own lawmakers. I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty, where I list some of the other occasions on which Overlawyered readers have met the gadfly professor. (&Katherine Mangu-Ward, Center for Consumer Freedom) Update: many reactions, including another press release from Prof. Banzhaf.
The mayor is urging New York state to adopt his city’s ban on large sugary drinks [NY Daily News, CBS New York] And under recently announced details, the city’s ban will prohibit the buying of 2-liter sodas with pizza deliveries and the buying of family pitchers at kid’s birthday party venues, even though such orders are commonly split among several customers in a party [New York Post]:
Typically, a pizzeria charges $3 for a 2-liter bottle of Coke. But under the ban, customers would have to buy six 12-ounce cans at a total cost of $7.50 to get an equivalent amount of soda.
“I really feel bad for the customers,” said Lupe Balbuena of World Pie in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
It will also restrict the offering of mixers as part of bottle service in nightclubs.
Tim Carney is glad to see the New York Times returning repeatedly to this theme [Washington Examiner]
Not entirely unrelated, a video from the Institute for Humane Studies on how regulation contributes to the widespread use of corn sweeteners in place of sugar in our food supply (“Why Is There Corn In Your Coke?” with Diana Thomas):
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