As of July 1, foie gras has been banned in California. On May 30, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to ban soda servings greater than 16 ounces in New York City. In January, Kim DotCom’s website, Megaupload, was. These are but a small portion of things that have been banned by local, state, and federal governments in the U.S., and they are all good examples of bad ideas.
A government should really consider three things when deciding whether it should ban something:
1. Why is it bad?
2. Why do people buy/do it anyways?
3. Will banning it fix the problem?
The examples above illustrate government restrictions that clearly did not use this line of thinking.
Foie gras is a luxury food consisting of the bloated liver of a duck or goose that was force fed for a couple weeks before its slaughter. Animal rights activists in California thought it was abusive enough to warrant a state-wide ban, and they got it.
Is the process of making foie gras somewhat disturbing? I think so. Was this ban a good idea? No.
By failing to address the second question, it is asking for problems down the line. Banning the food does not resolve why people were buying it. There are two potential reasons: Either people don’t know how foie gras is made, or they don’t care. For either case, banning it is not winning people over to the animal rights cause. It will surely increase tensions between the food industry and the activists.
Obesity is a problem in the U.S. and in New York City. There is little doubt that drinking large amounts of soda contributes to this problem. Will a ban fix it? Nope.
Even if soda were outlawed altogether, people would simply find replacements for it. Banning sodas over 16 ounces is even more inane, since smaller containers are still going to contribute to the obesity problem. The ban has turned into such a joke in the media, its unlikely that anyone has seen this as a serious wake up call to start eating healthier.
Internet pirating poses a serious problem to the media industry. By the very highest estimates(which are surely inflated since this comes from the Motion Picture Association of America), pirating costs the movie industry $20.5 billion a year. Is banning data-sharing sites a good idea? No.
The FBI is entering into the most frustrating game of whack-a-mole it will ever encounter. As soon as one data-sharing site is taken down, three more will spring up to take its place. Yes, these sites are primarily used for large-scale copyright law violations, but trying to stop everyone from illegally downloading things could only be fully achieved with the Internet being switched off. Things like SOPA and PIPA do not address why people are pirating media, and banning it will certainly not fix the problem.