On May 23rd, less than two weeks from now, the Los Angeles City Council is apparently poised to not only ban plastic shopping bags at every single grocery store in the largest city in America, but they are also planning to ban paper shopping bags as well. This may seem too stunningly idiotic a maneuver for you to actually believe, but yet it is true. I know you are going to ask the obvious question — if the politicians ban the most commonly used methods by which grocery shoppers take their purchased goods home, how in the hell to people get their groceries from the store to their homes? The answer is that the LA City Council has decided that you and every other shopper are going to buy those cloth bags like they sell over at Whole Foods for a buck a bag (not that most people in LA have ever set foot in a high-end store like Whole Foods). They will force you to buy them, and then they will train you like a monkey to remember to keep bringing those same cloth bags with you back to the store over and over (maybe they will follow the plastic and paper bag ban with a requirement that all trips to the grocery store must initiate from your home, not on the way home from work, or any other time that could reasonably mean you wouldn’t be near this envisioned-cache of renewable bags that everyone will now keep at hand).
I was reading a brief blog post over at the Weekly Standard on this topic, and embedded into it was a video that was no doubt produced by Crown Poly, a plastic bag manufacturing firm in Los Angeles, where a bunch of jobs are likely on the chopping block as a result of this arbitrary decision by city government politicians to ban the sale of the very product which they manufacture. I don’t want to minimize the testimony that makes up the front-end of the video where employees of Crown Poly are stuck pleading their case in a hearing, talking about the loss of their jobs, health care, and such. But the part of the video that got my blood boiling was just after the minute mark when they show City Councilman Paul Koretz speaking to these employees, saying, “So if we were here a hundred years ago, would we be saying, ‘We must not produce automobiles because buggies and buggy whips… manufacturers won’t have jobs anymore?’ Of course we wouldn’t.” (I have pulled that video and placed it below this paragraph for you to see.)
What in the hell is Paul Koretz talking about? Of course, over time, as innovation meets demand in a free market you get new inventions and this means that everyone has to adapt. That is logical and makes complete sense. But that is hardly what is going on here. As a matter of fact, Koretz is actually turning the real situation on its end. The demand from consumers is for inexpensive, disposable means by which one can transport their groceries. It is that very demand which caused the invention of both the paper and plastic grocery bag in the first place. And it was a desire by people who want to be conscientious that also created the demand, which was fulfilled, to be able to recycle paper and plastic bags. There is no natural consumer demand for the options of paper and plastic bags to be taken from people. There is no natural desire to buy reusable bags over and over against which are quite costly. All of these employees at Crown Poly should actually be proud of the fact that their company is making exactly the product that consumers want. And with that knowledge should also come the security of knowing that because the product they are making is desired, they will have continued, gainful employment. Except until Councilman Koretz gets involved, and his colleagues — using the force of government to manipulate the market as they see fit, and managing to both infringe on the liberty and freedom of their constituents, and get a bunch of people fired whose only crime is working for a manufacturer who is producing a product very much in demand. It’s probably worth mentioning that while Crown Poly is actually in LA, a bag ban of this epic proportion will undoubtedly mean thousands of similar jobs around the country will be at risk.
Let me wrap up by reminding Councilman Koretz and his very smart colleagues that one of the reasons that they will literally have to force people to use cloth bags, besides the significantly higher cost, is that they are gross. I used them before. Once. It’s lost on the nanny-staters running LA that a lot of the stuff you buy at the store isn’t, well, sanitary — or it least it isn’t after a while. In my case, I forget a couple of tangelos in a reusable bag. I found them like two weeks later (I had thrown the reusable bags under the sink, rather than in the recycle bin like I do with plastic). It wasn’t pretty — we’re talking mold and a yucky smell (which was how I found them). Think about meat juices leaking in a bag (that gives me the willies). If you start searching online for information about gross reusable bags, you quickly learn a new word – “norovirus” — check it out this unpleasant story about how an entire girls soccer team got to experience vomiting and diarrhea courtesy of gross reusable bags.
If this ban on both paper and plastic bags is enacted by the LA City Council, the people have no one to blame but themselves, I suppose. What kind of people are they electing to office that would play some sort of “Sim City” with their lives, creating artificial false choices by mandating scarcities of resources (in this case ban on paper and plastic bags), and forcing their constituents to behave in the they way the politicians want them to – like trained monkeys? And here I thought the people were supposed to tell the politicians what to do. Apparently not in Los Angeles, where the tail wags the dog.