Southern Man

Monday, November 22, 2010

Loco over Four Loko

By now everyone knows that the caffienated alcoholic beverage Four Loko has been banned by the FDA (at least in its present form) citing "public health concerns."

For new readers, Southern Man will again list the three pillars of his political/social belief system:

  • You are responsible for your actions.
  • Your rights end where mine begin.
  • What consenting adults do in private is no one's business but theirs.
In other words, Southern Man is an individualist / anti-statist and votes for candidates that promise to reduce the broad scope and overreaching authority of the State. That doesn't mean he's an anarchist; he simply wants the State to be smaller, less expensive, and less intrusive. That said, the Four Loko saga opens an interesting question: to what extent do we need the State (in this case, the FDA) to watch over us?

The FDA, by and large, does a lot of good things. In part because of the FDA Southern Man is fairly confident that the canned green beans and boxed cereal and meat and such he buys at the neighborhood grocer Wal-Mart Super Center are reasonably safe to eat. He also realizes that business is profit driven and is careful about what he buys. FDA or not, once you know what really goes into canned tomato paste you'll never touch it again, but at least you probably won't die of botulism from canned tomato paste. In other words, one role of the FDA is to make sure our food is safe. Boring, for the most part, but safe.

Four Loko was banned because the FDA has not approved the combination of alcohol and caffiene. Southern Man doesn't care what adults pour down their throats and the makers of Four Loko are by no means concealing the contents or the nature of their products. One might also point out that Red Bull + vodka has more alcohol and caffeine than Four Loko. And, fortunately for the Brooklyn coffeeshop proprieter selling a drink he calls "diece" - ten shots of espresso, which is actually six more than four - the FDA cannot yet regulate what people choose to mix together. And that is the step that Southern Man would whole-heartedly fight. But does the FDA go too far in protecting us from ourselves? The neighbor down the road from The Land used to run a small dairy; they've long since given that up because of the enormous burden of well-intended regulations imposed upon them by the State. Oh, they still run their dairy, but not as a formal business; when Southern Man buys fresh eggs and raw milk from them we're both breaking the law. Another neighbor makes "farm gas" that he doesn't bother to denature; in other words, it doubles as moonshine whisky. Again, technically illegal. Should the FDA protect me from my neighbor's potentially unsafe eggs and whisky?

There's a fine line here. Southern Man may be repelled by the secret ingredients of canned tomato paste but at least it's safe. He's glad that the FDA regulates the production of canned food. On the other hand, the makers of Four Loko don't pretend that their beverage is anything other than what it is. Southern Man may advocate a warning label for such (he's a big fan of content labeling as opposed to content restrictions) and it is his opinion that the FDA should reverse their ban on alcohol-caffeine beverages.


At Monday, December 20, 2010, OpenID raliv said...

As an experienced user of 4loko, I can honestly attest that I am GLAD that 4loko is going off the shelves.

The sooner the better, too. Every night I drink one, I turn into raging zombie. Horrible nights with massive hangover. I clearly can not control myself.

I have never had a good night after drinking 4loko. While I respect the rights of others, get that swill off the shelves. They are just too tempting as the easiest and cheapest way to reaching PARTY - ENGANGE mode.


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