Leonard Pitts Jr.: Freedom to make stupid decisions

BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Published: March 15, 2013
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Perhaps you remember when Dr. Doom conquered the world.

Or perhaps you don't. Sadly enough, even in this day and age, not everyone is comic book literate.

Suffice it to say, then, that back in the '80s, Marvel Comics published a graphic novel in which the villainous Victor von Doom achieved his dearest goal: to rule the world. And he made it a better place, too. Famine ended, the stock market climbed, crime fell, occupying armies withdrew, racial oppression vanished. Doom turned the planet into a paradise and the only cost of his beneficence was free will. He created a device that took away the ability of human beings to decide for themselves.

When the Avengers defeated him, the world returned to wrack and ruin as humanity reasserted its right to be as bleeped up as it wanted to be. The Avenger Hawkeye wondered aloud if they had done the right thing. Whereupon Captain America admonished him, “The world isn't perfect. … But people are free to make their own choices — and that's the way it should be.”

He could have been talking to Michael Bloomberg.

The emperor — beg pardon, the mayor — of New York City was defeated Monday, not by the Avengers, but by a state supreme court judge, Milton Tingling, who struck down Bloomberg's ban on the sale of extra large, nondiet soft drinks. Justice Tingling, though not known to possess superpowers, nevertheless zapped the forces of overreach. “Arbitrary and capricious,” he called the restrictions, which would have taken effect Tuesday.

But Bloomberg's ban was more than that. It was the very definition of liberalism run amok, a good idea (people should limit their intake of sugary soft drinks) driven headlong into the weeds of overkill, overregulation and basic preposterousness. The resemblance to conservative extremism and its resort to unwieldy laws to govern behaviors it disapproves (did someone say transvaginal ultrasound?), is doubtless unintended, but no less real even so.