The undemocratic monarchical United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country of about 8 million people in the Persian Gulf, has decided that large soft drinks should be banned in the name of battling obesity. The move was reportedly inspired by outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s thus-far-abortive effort to do so in his city.
But unlike Bloomberg, who saw his efforts stymied by such trivialities as “the rule of law” and “separation of powers,” the Emirati Cabinet has no meaningful democratic bounds on its authority. The Cabinet is appointed by the Prime Minister and President of the UAE, who are ex officio the hereditary absolute monarchs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Nobody gets a meaningful vote here.
Indeed, Freedom House’s report on human and political rights in the UAE suggests that a soft drink ban is just another straw in a haystack of abuses by the nation’s authoritarian government. In 2012 alone, the government arrested at least 70 pro-democracy and human rights advocates. Censorship is widespread and criticizing the government is prohibited. Roughly 80 percent of the country’s permanent population are non-citizens, and have even fewer rights.
Freedom House rates the UAE “Not Free,” so an assault on beverage freedom (to join its near-prohibition of alcohol under Islamic law) is par for the authoritarian nation’s course. It’s hardly a model for governance in a democratic country that believes in freedom, personal choice, and pluralism in viewpoints like the USA. But it might be a good place for Hizzoner to retire.