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Three Cheers for the Nanny State by Sarah Conly: Rhetorical Analysis

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A Rhetorical Analysis of Sarah Conly’s
“Three Cheers for the Nanny State”
Mayor Bloomberg and his administration have been behind the large sugary-drink ban. Sit-down and fast food restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas, mobile food carts and trucks that are permitted by and received a letter grade from the city Department of Health all have to comply with the ban. Supermarkets and convenience stores are not part of the ban because they are regulated by the state. Any size above 16 oz. wouldn’t be available to buy for a high-sugar drink. The sugary drinks that would be banned are all non-diet sodas, energy drinks, fruit drinks or sweetened teas that are less than 50% milk or milk substitutes and have more than 25 calories for every 8 oz. excluded from the ban is alcoholic beverages or low-calorie drinks including diet sodas, water, unsweetened coffees and teas or vegetable and fruit juices without added sugar. The ban was approved by the Board of Health in New York City and was planned to take effect on March 12, 2013. There was going to be a grace period where the establishments affected by the ban could change everything that needed to be changed like menus and cups that are going to be stocked.
In her article “Three Cheers for the Nanny State” from New York Times, Sarah Conly questions the ban on large sugary drinks in New York City. There has been much controversy over the proposed ban and if it is imposing on American’s freedom. “It’s because such a ban suggest that sometimes we need to be stopped form doing foolish stuff, and this has become in contemporary American politics, highly controversy, no matter how trivial the particular issue,” is Conly’s take on why there is so much controversy (1). People feel strongly that they know what is best for them, but that isn’t always true. “It’s this common desire to be left alone that prompted the Mississippi Legislature earlier this month to pass a ban on bans – a law that forbids municipalities to place local restrictions on food or drink,” (1). Most people know where they want to be in life, yet don’t have a plan on how to get there. Conly comments “Research by psychologists and behavioral economists … identified a number of areas in which we fairly dependable fail” (2). This tendency is called cognitive bias, which is where peoples own minds trick them. Optimism bias means that people think something bad won’t or can’t happen to them even though there is no reason for this was of thinking. Status quo bias is where people value what they already have over something new. With both these biases, it is hard to make the right choice in certain situations. This doesn’t mean that ordering a 32 oz. soda is a mistake for every person in America. Yet laws can’t be made special for every circumstance. The laws mostly have to take into consideration the majority of the people and how the law will affect them. Having some liberty taken away is an agreement in a democracy. Having the anxiety that this ban will lean into more bans on how to live life isn’t’ a fair assessment. Conly’s thought was “Making these analyses is something the government has the resources to do, just as now it sets automobile construction standards while considering, both the need for affordability and the desire for safety,” (3). Laws and bans are a tool that are to help American’s get to where they want to be in there life. Conly does agree that passing the soda ban would be a good idea.
In her editorial, Sarah Conly does a great job at crediting argument by quotes and studies done by other philosophers, but the argument is hard to follow if the reader is not a philosophy major or someone who knows about the subject. Also the way that the opposition is rebutted makes the reader confuse about how the reader stands on the subject until the end when Conly states what side she is on.
Conly is a philosophy assistant professor at Bowdoin College. She also is the author or a book called “Against Autonomy: Coercive Paternalism.” The book she wrote is all about laws that make a person do things, or prevent them from doing things, for their own good. Conly sates in her book that humans believe they are more rational than they really are. There is lots of evidence from psychology and behavior economics that backs up the statement that humans are bad at choosing effective was to reach their goals. In certain situations people need help from others to keep them going away from their goal, for example government regulations (Philosophy). Everything from her book is exactly what she used to back up the soda ban and to try and persuade people into thinking the soda ban wouldn’t be so bad. Having the book published by Cambridge University Press helps with Conly’s credibility in what she is saying.
Another way Conly shows credibility is the quotes and studies that she states in the editorial. John Stuart Mill is a credited British philosopher from 1800’s. Bringing in the research that was done by a psychologists and behavioral economists who won the Nobel Prize show that the whole argument is bases on facts that have been researched and supported by many creditable people.
The argument is multisided because both sides is represented in the editorial. It starts off by stating the opposition and the opposition is brought up throughout the paper. Every time the opposition is mentions, it also states why it is wrong. That doesn’t always help Conly in her argument though. After she stated Mills theory, she goes and contradicts it in a way that makes it confusing for the reader to fully understand why she would have quoted him.
Conly wrote this editorial for the New York Times for a particular reason. The readers of the New York Times mainly are educated people who want to say caught up on what is going on in the world around them.

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