During the second week of October 2010 Mayor Michael R Bloomberg pursued an agenda to prohibit users of federal and state aid, more specifically “bridge cards” or “half dollars” or “food stamps” depending on how you take your slang, from buying “pop” or “soda water” or “soda”. It was formally acknowledged by the Mayor as a push on anti-obesity. Policy analysts of sorts like George Hacker disagree with the Mayor’s aggressive agenda, and think that an educational campaign would better serve a community doped into poor beverage purchase by savvy marketing campaigns. With type-2 diabetes targeting 1:8 adults in NYC it’s become necessary to figure some kind of solution.1
What’s a pragmatic politician to do? What are the socio-ethical pitfalls of the two pragmatic strategies?
The difficulty with any leader, ever being pragmatic is that they will regularly fail to remedy problems by acknowledging their bias and the existence of archaic/modern political systems of sorts. While pragmatism has been a formal philosophical sect since the mid 1800s, it seems as though it has been widely hailed in the United States succeeding the four FDR presidencies. Bloomberg and his relative opponents in this pragmatic band-aid effort are all products of the triumphs of the FDR and WWII era (Boomers and X-ers), so they’d naturally subscribe to what they’ve known to work in the face of extreme adversity, nuclear warfare, social calamity, economic capitulation, etc….
Pragmatic politicians can’t afford to fix problems outright because of their philosophical gridlock, and lack of progressive (progressive: in its classical sense not its modern politically charged definition) vision. Regarding the – to or not to prohibit – scenario of the extended Bloomberg mayoral reign, both he and his opponents are seeking a short term remedy without properly root causing the problem of obesity in the city of New York. When considering the modern problem of lifestyle diseases like diabetes it is necessary to factor in the pursuit of happiness and recognize that although obesity and the like are cause by consumption of food products, they actually register with the consumer as marketed consumer goods – material consumption is not about material things, but it is about self definition, It’s not necessarily a good thing when you don’t know your makers/marketers.2 A real remedy to the problem would merit some investment in the affected public, but that is not to say that the educational initiative alone would remedy problems…we’ve seen how throwing money a problems produces few results.
The reality is that pragmatics won’t acknowledge in their rhetoric and policy is that it is cheaper and more convenient for a consumer to buy Orange Crush than Orange Juice. Policy that regulates what one can buy with their consumer currency and education combined won’t address the economic void between the food stamp holder and the 18 Billion US Dollar 88% of Bloomberg LP equity holder. I’m reminded of a drawing from the 1845 Eleazar Morton book A key to true happiness.3 The book is rare and text is out of print, but I have a copy and the argument, although designed for a primitive age of superstitions, is the same. The text ribbon at the bottom of the graphic reads “Poor Ignorant and Unhappy | Intelligent and Happy”, as a man with a sash that reads “The People” and a yard stick that reads “Universal Education — Intelligence”. On the left (wrong) end of the yard stick reside the ignorant, and the right (right) reside the intelligent.
The argument that Michael Bloomberg makes is one of adding a band-aid to a problem that stems from ignorance, lack of control, and desperation. Poor, ignorant people will have no incentive, even with government direction (unless they are forced), to buy food goods in their best interest.
What does anyone need with 18 Billion US Dollars? When there are segments of the population that they’ve sworn to protect that can’t find the means to procure 18 US Dollars on a consistent basis? As the M1&M2 (Federal Reserve reported Cash) figures continue to rise during decades of job depletion it is necessary to ask the ubber wealthy if they in fact value human resources and if they are willing to invest in the poor and ignorant population’s self-actualization (intelligence) instead of pragmatic remedies to political problems….when will we learn?