March 18, 2013
by Hank Cardello
Critics said the proposed ban had too many loopholes, for example covering sodas but not milkshakes. They decried yet another case of overwrought nannyism. The judge called the ban "arbitrary and capricious." Businesses called it unfair and unworkable. All true—but all beside the point.
The point, one Bloomberg should respect as a business leader, is that solving vexing societal problems in which business plays a role is a slower and bloodier process when business' needs are ignored, whether the problem be obesity, smoking, guns, automobile safety, or whatever. Time and again, progress has come faster when an industry saw that what was in the public's best interest was in its own best interest, too. The U.S. auto industry for years fought off activists like Ralph Nader who wanted safer cars. Only when Detroit figured out that paying attention to safety conferred competitive advantages already enjoyed by Volvo, Mercedes, and other European automakers did it willingly embrace safety beyond what the government mandated.
Bloomberg's accomplishments in business have given him powerful currency, both in money and influence. As mayor he has used that currency to make changes that have benefited a majority of New Yorkers, such as banning smoking in public places, reducing crime, and helping residents find affordable health care. He also has encouraged the private sector to invest in affordable housing. This initiative will help 165,000 more New York City families find affordable housing by some time this year.
His social activism hasn't stopped with food and housing. He has demonstrated leadership on the national stage as co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a 900-member group that aims not to ban guns but to keep criminals from illegally obtaining them. And he has used his personal fortune to bankroll national and international causes that he is passionate about, fighting crime, improving education, and helping local governments run better.
But in his anti-obesity campaign's focus on Big Gulps, Bloomberg's currency is being spent in the wrong place. In his evolution from business titan to social activist, he has forgotten what made him so successful as a businessman. He is approaching the obesity crisis with an activist's fire-throwing fervor, attempting to solve it by making a scene, micromanaging business, and busting chops. Instead, he should bring his well-honed, considerable business skills to his crusade, focusing on finding ways to help both sides get what they want.
Here's what he should do.
Bloomberg deserves credit for taking on this deadly and costly public health crisis. I hope that even when he is no longer mayor he will continue the fight on the national stage, as passionately as Bill and Melinda Gates have adopted education and the Pew family has advanced arts and culture. But he needs more than just passion and fervor. He needs to be persuasive, practical and business-savvy, drawing on the very qualities that built his fortune and reputation.
Hank Cardello is a Hudson Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Obesity Solutions Initiative.
Click here to view the full list of .
Home | Learn About Hudson | Hudson Scholars | Find an Expert | Support Hudson | Contact Information | Site Map
Policy Centers | Research Areas | Publications & Op-Eds | Hudson Bookstore
Hudson Institute, Inc. 1015 15th Street, N.W. 6th Floor Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.974.2400 Fax: 202.974.2410 Email the Webmaster
© Copyright 2013 Hudson Institute, Inc.