"Nearly 250 years ago, the eyes of the world were on Philadelphia and the birth of American democracy. On Thursday, Philadelphia will again make history by becoming the second U.S. city, and the largest, to pass a tax on soft drinks."

- City Council leaders Darrell L. Clarke, Bobby Henon, Blondell Reynolds Brown, and Bill Greenlee, The Inquirer, June 14

By Mark Randall

(with obvious help from Thos. Jefferson)

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dispense with the sugary brands that have consumed them, and that they have consumed, and then resume among the streets of the city that separate and unequal station to which the Laws of Economics and City Council have doomed them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the reasons they should be glad of this.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their City Council with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and Universal Prekindergarten. That to secure these rights, Democratic Machines are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, so that whenever any City Council becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right and Habit of the People slightly to alter it, and to institute a new City Council, laying its foundation on the same principles and organizing its powers in the same form, as this seems to them the most likely way to effect that very Safety and Happiness in which they have always so thoroughly delighted.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that City Councils should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. Let the many blessings of the Soft Drink Tax be submitted to the eyes of a candid world therefore, the better to end all further scrupling:

That the city makes itself financially dependent on behaviors it otherwise discourages is no paradox for it is obvious that degradations in public health will be countered in equal measure by improvements in public education. In like manner better recreation centers will provide places to burn those calories that the citizens will be required to ingest to fund the renovations. This is a victory for Equality of Outcomes.

That citizens may also choose to contribute to the well-being of their fellows by buying diet drinks instead of sugary drinks speaks to a general respect for the freedom of choice. This is a victory for Liberty.

Though the city knows that many, in the interest of their health and pocketbooks, may reduce their consumption of taxed beverages, thereby reducing revenues, it nonetheless puts its faith in a segment of reliably inveterate miscreants. This is a humbling and long overdue acknowledgment of just how much government depends on the stupid among us. We celebrate Diversity and our debt to the diversity of intelligence has gone too long unrecognized.

That the tax should fall more heavily on the poor it is designed to help is no paradox for it enables those most in need to help themselves either by eschewing the taxed products or by continuing - now with a new civic purpose - their ruinous habits. This is a victory for Empowerment.

That a single industry should be the target of this tax is of no moment. Every edifice begins with a single brick. There will be many more bricks in the edifice of the State.

We, therefore, the representatives of Philadelphia City Council do declare the Soft Drink Tax a momentous and inspired piece of legislation, logically conceived, fairly and generally directed, and deftly and discreetly amended for purposes that need not divert the public's attention. And for the support of this tax, with a firm reliance on the inertia of the single party with which divine Providence has endowed us, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Incumbency, and our immeasurable Vanity.

Mark Randall is a Philadelphia writer and pianist. mrandall@markrandallnotes.com