Posts tagged with Soda

Soda Jerk - Supersized Unintended Consequences

Soda Jerk: Noun. - someone who works at a soda fountain.

In most cases this definition would be ample and accurate. However, the term has now been bestowed upon the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. In Bloomberg's case the honorary title must be separated into its two components: Soda (a sweet drink consisting of soda water, flavoring, and often ice cream) and Jerk (an annoyingly stupid or foolish person).

Bloomberg has decided to combat obesity. His first major target is sugary drinks. His weapon of choice is government regulation of drink sizes. The mayor's website,, explains under its banner Combating Obesity, "The NYC Department of Health is continuing its efforts to combat this epidemic by seeking to prohibit the sale of sugary drinks in containers of more than 16 fluid ounces at restaurants and food carts."

It is tempting to address the overreaching hand of government, big brother, or the nanny state. However, those issues, and the relevant arguments of freedom and constitutional rights, will be ignored by Bloomberg. New York City will eventually adopt his proposal. For reasons incomprehensible to those outside of New York, New Yorkers appear to be willing participants of government intrusion. Ergo (a conjunction to replace "therefore" and sounds cool), the discussion will focus on the resulting catastrophes or unintended consequences of the pending legislation.

Unintended consequences are results of actions that were unexpected, undesired, and usually un-thought of by those proposing an action. They may be obvious to others, yet will be largely ignored by those seeking a particular action or outcome. Let's look at a few examples of unintended consequences.

San Francisco legislated the now all-too-well-known low-flush toilet. Hoping to conserve water, the city leaders missed an unintended consequence. Because of the lower water usage, there is now more sludge in their sewage plants. This has resulted in obnoxious odors and over $100 million in sewer upgrades.

Water districts throughout the nation have asked patrons to lower their usage. However, where conservation, or forced rationing, has been taken seriously there has been a significant unintended consequence: lower income for municipalities. Irate customers tend to be another unintended consequence of lower water usage because water districts simply raise rates to compensate for lower usage. Dam if you do; Dam if you don't. (A little water district humor there.)

Here are a few others before moving along:

  • Voluntary and mandated reductions in nicotine and tar have created greater health risks for those that choose to smoke.
  • A ban on the use of DDT has led to an increase in fatal malaria outbreaks.
  • Some believe that the use of corn to produce ethanol as an alternative fuel source has reduced the world's grain supply and increased the cost of food. The change in land use has also been credited with increasing greenhouse gases.
  • Georgia's new immigration law - written to decrease illiegal workers in Georgia - has created a shortage of agriculture workers.

Unintended Consequences of the Big Gulp Soda Jerk

First, there is no reason to believe that those wishing to drink massive quantities of sugary drinks will be hindered by Bloomberg's proposed ban. Many will likely double-down on the largest quantity available - the 16 ounce. In some cases, this will cause an increase in consumption for those currently buying 20 or 24 ounce drinks. Some will switch to diet soda which is now thought to create long term weight gain. The unintended consequence? The number of obese New York residents will continue to grow.

The ban will have the unintended consequence of negatively effecting the environment. As stated above, it is likely that some consumers will just buy two smaller sodas. The environmental impact of producing twice as many 16 ounce bottles, cups, and other containers will be significant. More paper (tree harvesting) and more plastics (increasing fossil fuel refining) will be required to meet the increased demand for smaller servings. Pollution from the increased need for transportation of raw materials, final product, and disposing of end product will be significant. Years down the road a study will measure this increase in tons of pollutants expelled into the air.

The increased usage of a slightly smaller container - a container that requires almost the same resources as its larger cousin to produce will have another unintended consequence. The ban will provide greater quantities of recyclable and disposable containers. This net effect of New York City increasing its trash output would be difficult to measure since they are kind enough to ship trash by several methods to multiple destinations. Virginia is just one of many destinations.

Of course there will be at least one positive unintended consequence. The cost of two or more smaller sugary drinks will exceed that of the supersize drink. This will increase the sales taxes collected by New York City and State.

That's all. Now go away - down below here - and talk amongst yourselves.

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