I worked with a guy once who taught me that for every problem, there was a quote from Benito Mussolini, Italy’s dictator for 21 long years. My former associate, the Mussolini devotee, would say it in Italian, then in English, and then repeat in Italian as if we could all learn it so quickly. For example, Mussolini said: ” La verità è gli uomini sono stanchi di libertà.” “The truth is men are tired of liberty.” “La verità è gli uomini sono stanchi di libertà.” Are you getting the hang of this? “E ‘bene fidarsi degli altri, ma, non farlo è molto meglio.” “It’s good to trust others, but, not to do so is much better.” “E ‘bene fidarsi degli altri, ma, non farlo è molto meglio.” Okay, just one more. “La democrazia è bella in teoria, ma in pratica si tratta di un errore.” “Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy.” “La democrazia è bella in teoria, ma in pratica si tratta di un errore.” Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922, but it took him eight more years to become the full-fledged Italian dictator who was called simply “Il Duce” or “The Leader.” He ruled until shortly after the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943, and was killed by an application of piano wire in 1945. Many of Benito’s famous sayings I think came during the 1920’s when he was the world’s salesman for fascism. He often depicted fascism as just a mix of state and corporate power. Nothing to worry about. So blame my old associate for the fact that every time I see Michael Bloomberg preaching on television these days, I think about Benito. Like New York’s Mayor, Italy’s 27th PM did not have much patience for democracy or trusting people to do the right thing. And we were seeing a lot of Mayor Bloomberg this past week after a state Supreme court judge struck down New York’s proposed ban on sugary “big gulp” drinks. The court found the action by the Bloomberg-control Board of Health “arbitrary and capricious.” Bloomberg’s lawyers have appealed and it could go either way according to non-involved legal experts. With good reason, we’ve given broad powers to health boards and health officers. We’ve granted them the power to react to public health emergencies. But who among us really believes the “Big Gulp” ban is truly a response to a public health emergency. Yes, obesity is health problem. There is no doubt about it. But banning “Big Gulps” is nothing more than a political decision and an experiment. Nobody really knows what will happen. In these situations, my question for public health officials is shouldn’t these decisions be left to the political process? In other words, would it not be better for the NY Board of Health to make the Big Gulp ban a recommendation to the City Council? Then, elected officials would be “the deciders.” Because this health board just fell in line behind Bloomberg, it is now in danger of having its authority trimmed some by the courts. I know all this democracy and allowing elected officials make the major decisions is a pain for the likes of Bloomberg, but most of us have no desire to be dictated to by lite-like fascists. I do not have a dog in this hunt. I’ve never bought anything in a 64 ounce cup. (Well maybe once just to hold ice.) When I do notice them, its usually movie theaters where I’d love to ban them just because of the noise some people make with the damn big cups and straw. But I also understand the market for them. Truck drivers, construction workers, cab drivers, and anyone being confined in one place for a time will find 64-oz cups useful. In so many cases the calories involved are consumed over several hours. Frankly, that’s not a public health emergency and nobody needs to solve it. I’ve mentioned before that portion control and calorie restrictions are subject that government should approach with much care because the track record isn’t pretty. Bloomberg’s “Big Gulp” ban struck me as just an attempt to restrict calories for a population he did not think had the clout to fight back. He’d claim some credit for something that is really an uncontrolled experiment. Would the fat kid in junior high really give those calories up or would he or she be replacing them (or doubling) them with something worse? My comparison of Bloomberg to Mussolini’s lite fascist years is made only to get us thinking. Are we tired of liberty? Do we trust people? Is democracy the best way to solve problems? Best to think about it while there is still time.