H. L. Mencken, the great 20th century iconoclast, defined “Puritanism” as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.”
Boulder is chock-full of puritans these days.
Last month a brave little band of Boulder busy-bodies submitted an initiative petition to put a 2-cent-an-ounce tax on sugary soft-drinks on the November ballot.
The tax would apply to bottled and fountain drinks with 5 grams or more of added sugar per 12 ounces. That works out to a 24-cent tax on a typical can of, say, Coca Cola or a $1.44 tax on a six-pack.
Wow, that’s a Real Tax on the Real Thing.
Just like King George III’s tax on tea.
If they pass this tax of abominations, don’t be surprised if the local Sons and Daughters of Liberty disguise themselves as hippies and throw 342 cases of Coca Cola into Boulder Creek.
All of this is being done for the children, of course. And for people of color. For their own good, of course. To fight the obesity epidemic, of course.
For the record: According to a story in the Daily Camera, the soda tax is expected to raise $3 million a year “for programs designed to increase access to healthy foods, nutrition education and physical activity in low income communities of color.”
Or more plainly, the $3 million the putative tax will raise will be spent creating a new city bureaucracy to nag and coerce people into adopting the Latter Day Neo-Puritan diet, consisting of foods and beverages most Americans, and especially American teenagers, don’t much care for — which is why school cafeterias have thrown away hundreds of thousands of tons of “healthy” meals.
Just guessing here: I suspect people living in “low income communities of color” resent being nagged and manipulated by affluent puritan busy-bodies as much as white people do.
Trying to ban foods and beverages kids consider a treat is not going to make them eat healthier, now or in the future. Quite the opposite.
When puritans and prohibitionists succeed in banning something that gives people pleasure — tobacco, alcohol, drugs, pornography, pop, ice-cream, fireworks, almost anything that makes people happy — demand for it explodes. Back in the days when Coors wouldn’t sell its beer outside of the West, people drove thousands of miles to acquire a few cases and bring them back to the east coast. Once the company began national distribution, the cachet went away. Today Right Coasters drive to Colorado for the pot, not the hops.
When kids are denied something because they are kids — “kids don’t eat ice cream; it’ll make you fat,” “kids don’t do drugs; they’ll rot your brain,” “kids don’t drink pop; it’ll rot your teeth,” etc. — they get curious and before long start experimenting. No one smoked pot in middle school until the “kids don’t do drugs” thing started up.
And when kids are told “kids don’t do something,” then doing it becomes a way of declaring you aren’t a kid anymore, and it becomes a rite of passage.
Proponents of the tax argue that it will cause a significant drop in soft drink consumption. In a town where the average price of a home is $1 million, huh? I’m skeptical.
If you think that this sort of Nanny-statism is going to stop at the Boulder City Limits, you’re whistling in the graveyard.
All three Boulder County Commissioners have endorsed the soda tax. (Full disclosure: Commissioner Deb Gardner — she’s the one I’m running against next November — is one of the original perpetrators.) Don’t be surprised if a county soft-drink tax proposal suddenly materializes.
There was a time in the 1970s when Boulder prided itself on being a live-and-let-live, do-your-own-thing kind of town. Asked to describe the Boulder scene in the ’70s, cartoonist Rob Pudim told Newsweek, “The only rule is that there are no rules.” That was before the local picky eaters took over the place.
If you had to describe Boulder today, it could be neatly summed up by what Left Coast people used to call the Prime Directive of the People’s Republic of Berkeley: That which is not forbidden is mandatory.
How will it all end?
First they came for the ice cream — and I didn’t speak out because I don’t like ice cream.
Then they came for the soft drinks — and I did not speak out because I don’t like soft drinks.
Then they came for the French fries and the hamburgers — and I didn’t speak out because I don’t like burgers and fries.
Then they came for my dinner — and there was no one left to speak for me. That’s because they were all over in Weld County chowing down on burgers, fries and ice cream, and washing it down with Cokes.
As a matter of full disclosure, Paul Danish is currently running for County Commissioner. Should any other candidates for County Commissioner or current Commissioners desire equal space on this issue it will be provided by Boulder Weekly.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.