Friday, June 8, 2012

Bag it up

I am proud of city council in Toronto this week.  They gave up on forcing retailers to charge 5 cents for plastic disposable bags because the law was not compatible with Canadian anti competitive laws and instead decided to outright ban all disposal plastic bags come next January.  While I don't think laws to regulate price fixing really need to cover this sort of thing I can see why we want to enforce them - price fixing is really bad in the great majority of circumstances.  Of course the vote to ban the bags wasn't unanimous and mayor Ford called the motion 'ludicrous' and talked about how it would not survive a court challenge.  Ford's primary platform is slashing taxes, gutting programs, and letting businesses do whatever they please so his stance is not in the least surprising.

There are some fantastic quotes surrounding this event:

Councillor Doug Ford said "As far as I am concerned we are dealing with a bunch of radical, leftist socialists down there."  I could suggest some radical, leftist, socialist policy changes that I would like the city to implement (like having the mayor not be an overtly racist homophobe, say) but I don't think that trying to prevent garbage from being generated really counts.

A spokesperson for the plastics industry said "the move will kill jobs in Toronto" playing the ever popular card of "fear for your job security!" that gets so many awful things done all around the world.  Never mind that it is based on no evidence and makes absolutely no sense.  Certainly it will hurt the disposable plastic bag industry but obviously for every job lost in that industry another springs up somewhere else.  For this argument to work it would have to somehow be the case that the money that is spent on plastic bags now vanishes into the ether instead of just being spent on something else.  Industries threatening job losses over government regulation have about as much credibility as two year olds threatening to hold their breath until they die.

The right wing folks are generally deriding this move as government gone wrong and excessively interfering in people's lives.  What they seem to miss is that interfering in people's lives is pretty much the entire purpose of government.  They are there mostly to prevent negative externalities from destroying society:  Prevent crime, put out fires, maintain roads, take away trash, etc.  People constantly throwing out disposable bags creates a ton of trash and litter for virtually no gain.  We could at least use recycleable and biodegradable paper bags in the circumstance where reusable bags aren't available and since people flat out won't do it on their own (the tragedy of the commons strikes again) the government needs to step in and fix it.

No comments:

Post a Comment