News of a new ban in New York City – this time on sugary beverages exceeding 16 ounces – provides an interesting view of the contrast in the use of power and PR embodied by the two most recent New York City mayors.
Rudolph Giuliani and his successor Michael Bloomberg will have served a combined 20 years as the chief executive of the nation’s largest city when Bloomberg finishes his third term in a year and a half.
Giuliani is largely credited with cleaning up the streets and the budget of the city during his eight years as mayor. He reclaimed 42nd Street and Times Square from the sex traders, placed limits on the hooligans who hustled passersby regularly (such as the ubiquitous car window washers), brought pride and honor back to the NYPD and reduced the murder rate significantly, and brought fiscal sanity back from the days of near bankruptcy – and these achievements were all well before Giuliani shined on 9-11.
Bloomberg has himself balanced budgets without layoffs or tax hikes, has overseen the re-growth of downtown New York since 9-11, and has continued Giuliani’s legacy by reducing crime by an additional 35% since 2001.
Bloomberg is also a notorious nanny-stater who wants government to save us from ourselves. Case-in-point are his ubiquitous smoking bans in the city, and now his latest attack on personal responsibility with a ban on large soft drinks (see: New York Plans to Ban Sale of Big Sizes of Sugary Drinks).
Using PR to promote and advocate healthy living certainly has its application in the marketplace. While you may argue there are higher priorities for promoting healthy living, Bloomberg definitely puts his money where his mouth is since he has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to anti-smoking programs.
Bloomberg is undeniably an excellent salesman, but using public policy for social engineering is a whole other matter. As he extols the benefits of more restrictions on our freedom in the marketplace, the process of using public policy to prompt healthy living tends to assume more and more power for government.
Bloomberg uses his pulpit to convince people that government knows best and the law must be used to make people understand this (see: Bloomberg On Soda Ban: "We're Simply Forcing You To Understand").
This is exactly where he and Giuliani split on the use of power and PR to effect change in our culture. In contrast to Bloomberg, Giuliani used his pulpit to reassure and inspire people. He spoke frankly and related to people as one of them.
Human nature cannot be controlled. People will be told they cannot buy a drink in excess of 16 ounces and they will purchase two drinks totaling 32 ounces instead of their desired 24 ounces.
These drink limitations will also add more trash to landfills. Where are the environmentalists when you need them?
To be clear, Rudolph Giuliani is no small government crusader, but his predecessor has set a new standard in a way that would make even Giuliani plead for common sense solutions and not the heavy hand of government controlling our behaviors for our own good.