Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ban politicians banning stuff

There's a report in today's Pilot on a proposal to ban plastic shopping bags. This is not news in the sense that several major cities have already done this, but it is news in the sense that this will affect me directly.

Whenever you get a proposal like this the proponents will always trot out any number of often valid reasons that the item to be banned is bad, bad, bad. But there's never any real analysis of whether those costs outweigh the benefits or whether there are alternative measures available to address the problems.

In a supposedly free society banning things - having the government tell you as a citizen that you can't buy something that you've decided would be beneficial to you - ought to be the absolute last resort.

In this case there's a simple solution that addresses the stated problems without the 'nanny state' knee jerk response. Estimate the costs that plastic bags impose on society, costs such as removing them from rivers and waterways, and levy a tax on plastic bags that covers those costs (and actually use the money raised to address the problem). If people then decide that the benefits of plastic bags still outweigh the costs, let them actually exercise their rights as adults and citizens and make that decision for themselves.

So the only ban I'm supporting is a ban on politicians banning stuff!

Take me to your plastic shopping bag overlords.

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