Saving Us From Ourselves, One Old Bag at a Time

BagAs I woke up to the news this morning, I learned the Legislature of the State of Texas has decided to turn its attention from minor issues like education, the budget, and our water (and lack thereof) to tackle the seminal issue of Austin’s ban on single-use plastic bags.

Representative Drew Springer, R-Muenster, penned House Bill 2416 and refers to it as the “Shopping Bag Freedom Act.” If passed, it will outlaw bag bans like the one in Austin that went into effect March 1. Well, I say thank God someone is looking out for our personal freedom to pollute.

Other representatives pointed out retailers could have chosen to ban plastic bags voluntarily, eliminating the need to impose the ban on everyone. Good luck with that. I didn’t see any retailers rushing to do so before the city council’s ban.

I must state here that Bryan and I started using reusable bags several years ago, so the ban didn’t mean any great change in our lifestyle. We made the switch the first time we read that the bags, drifting across the landscape as litter like mass-produced tumbleweeds, end up in rivers, which carry them to the ocean. Once there, instead of obligingly sinking to the bottom and waiting to be encased in limestone, they float around doing excellent imitations of jellyfish. Many sea creatures, including endangered sea turtles, eat them, expecting a delicious meal of jellyfish sushi, and instead getting an intestinal blockage that leads to a slow and excrutiating death.

But then, who cares if another species in the food chain goes extinct? At least people won’t have to  remember to bring bags to the store or return plastic bags for recycling. That might take a full minute away from their fascinating lives watching “Operation Repo” and “Survivor.”

As I try to calm down, I’ll point out that the bag ban is not the first legislation we’ve had to accept to save us from ourselves. After all, builders were anxious to buy more expensive lead-free paint for their projects for the benefit of all those babies who ate it. The Food and Drug Administration, typical government pork, ignores the fact that manufacturers love listing their ingredients voluntarily, even if they are carcinogens. Besides, as an Amurrican, you have the God-given right not to buy and consume any product that’s harmful–IF you can find out about the dangers.

Seatbelt laws are unnecessary, because we need the right not only not to use them, but not to have them cluttering up our vehicles. So what if motor vehicle deaths immediately declined when the law was enacted? I’ll bet all those auto makers would have put seatbelts and airbags in their cars voluntarily anyway. Just another example of the government sticking its nose in where it doesn’t belong.

This country has a history of laws trying to save us from ourselves that is at least as long as our history of freedom of choice. When everyone in this country does what is most beneficial for himself and others around him, we can deep-six the laws that try to make us act like smart, responsible human beings.

That seems like an impossible task, especially on days when the Texas Legislature tries to derail a rare step in the right direction.



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