Why Corporations Want You to Confuse Your Rights with Theirs

When the New York City Council approved a ban on sales of soft drinks in containers larger than 16oz, ban opponents used some ideological sleight-of-hand. It was so subtle that I noticed it only now!

Big Gulp cup--32 ounces
The issue should have been whether corporations should be allowed to tempt people to use too much of an unhealthy product, not individual liberty.
Photo Credit: Majiscup – The Papercup & Sleeve via Compfight cc

By framing the ban as an issue of individual liberty, they obscured a crucial fact: the ban would have regulated the behavior not of individuals but of businesses. Individuals would still have been able to buy all the soda they wanted.

Therefore, the real issue was whether irresponsible corporations would still be allowed to tempt customers to use too much of an unhealthy product. All the talk about government overreach, the nanny state, and personal choice was really about the City’s treatment of corporations, not people.

All the talk about government overreach, the nanny state, and personal choice was really about the City’s treatment of corporations, not people.

This case demonstrates what corporations gain from confusing the rights of individuals with those of corporations and the harm this confusion can bring the public. It will be very difficult to ban harmful products if the bogus individual-liberty frame is allowed to define future debates.

However wise or foolish this ban proposal may have been, governments have a responsibility to regulate commerce within their borders and also a responsibility to protect the health of the community. In similar future cases, Framologists should name who is really affected by the proposal and identify the real issue as corporate responsibility, not individual liberty.

Do you know if soda-ban defenders used this approach? I’d love to hear about it!

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