I normally resist the temptation to pay attention to George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, given his reputation as a bit of a publicity chaser, but this Monday press release from him was enough to get me to forsake my usual practice:
Undergrads Required to Lobby for Obama Policy
At 4 PM today, undergraduate students in a major university will be assigned homework requiring them to lobby their local legislators in favor of a major Obama policy – fighting obesity.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRLog (Press Release) - Mar. 4, 2013 - More specifically, some 200 undergrads will be asked to contact legislators in their home cities, counties, or states asking them to adopt legislation similar to that already adopted in New York City – and apparently to be considered in D.C., Cambridge, Mass, New York State, and perhaps elsewhere – banning restaurants, delis, movie theaters and many other businesses from selling high-sugar drinks in cups or containers larger than 16 ounces.
Because asking the students to lobby on behalf of whatever opinions they themselves actually consider worth lobbying for would just be too old-school. Readers at Overlawyered have met Prof. Banzhaf before in various of his academic and activist capacities: proposing lawsuits against parents of obese children and against doctors who do not adequately warn their patients against obesity, urging that parents who smoke not be allowed to adopt kids, threatening school officials in Massachusetts with lawsuits naming them personally if they allow soft drinks to be sold on school property, promoting suits against individual administrators at his own institution, GWU, and filing a losing complaint against single-sex dorms at crosstown rival Catholic University of America.
Monday’s Banzhaf press release does mention that students will be given other optional topics to lobby about if they don’t pick the NYC-style soda ban. All the other examples given, however, involve alternative ways of extending regulation and taxation in the food and beverage realm. Presumably any student that believes that the government should stay out of this area has had the foresight to drop the course.