In a recent Big City column in the New York Times, Ginia Bellafante offered an unusual but compelling historical comparison: between New York City’s handling of the Typhoid Mary situation back in the early 1900s, and the city’s current attempts to regulate soda consumption.
Bellafante’s take? That the city is making the same mistake twice: first by essentially locking up typhoid carrier Mary Mallon for the rest of her life, and second by trying to prevent soda from being sold in large cups. Both cases revolve around diseases of poverty, and in both, the city has attempted a narrow solution instead of addressing the vast underlying problem:
The articulated goal should not simply be to create a population of poor people who are thin, but to create a population of poor people who are less poor. . . . It is hard not to wonder whether Mr. Bloomberg’s soda-limit initiative might have garnered more enthusiasm . . . if it had been delivered within the context of a more consistent and compassionate message about the city’s commitment to the underserved.
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