Mayor Bloomberg and the Quest of Immortality: Is the health cult a quasi-religion?
In May 2012 Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, proposed a ban on the sale in public places of large-sized containers (over 16 fluid ounces) of sugar-sweetened drinks. Most soda beverages will be affected. The ban will have to be promulgated by the city’s public health agency, which is controlled by the mayor—so it may be assumed that the ban will become law. It is to be introduced gradually, not to go into full effect until March 2013. In an address announcing this initiative, Bloomberg described it as the city’s response to obesity, described as one of the major health issues facing the nation. He referred to Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign as a worthy antecedent (though, as far as I know, she has not advocated legal prohibitions). There have been some protests against this latest action of what some critics have called “Nanny Bloomberg”, by the beverage industry and some irate libertarians. This rather muted protest is not surprising since the actual impact of the ban will not be felt for some time.
Bloomberg (now aged 70) has been mayor of New York City since 2002, and is currently on his third term (he succeeded in overturning a term-limit law). He has switched party affiliation several times. Apparently he has been successful in improving the financial situation of the city. Before entering politics he had a brilliant career as a financier. In 2012 Forbes magazine estimated his personal wealth at 22 billion dollars, making him one of the richest individuals in the country. Whatever his motives in becoming a politician, greed clearly is not one of them. He refused the mayor’s salary, instead is paid the symbolic fee of one dollar per-annum. He also does not occupy the official residence of Gracie Mansion, and instead resides in his private apartment on the Upper East Side. His co-resident is a woman to whom he is not married—something that he would probably not get away with as mayor in many other American cities. In an international perspective, however, he is in good company—both the current presidents of France and Germany live with similarly non-matrimonial partners. I cannot say whether Bloomberg’s quasi-European lifestyle has anything to do with his idea of New York City as a quasi-European welfare state. He certainly has a very broad notion of the mayor’s responsibility for the wellbeing of citizens in many aspects of their lives—not just as a nanny, but as a fatherly Tsar of All the Boroughs watching over citizens who don’t know what is good for them. I have never met Bloomberg, but it is my impression that excessive modesty is not one of his problems.