Bag the Political Fallacy, too!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

There is an interesting article over at RealClear Science about the latest intrusion by the nanny state into our daily lives: plastic bag bans. Apparently, these bans not only result in increased carbon emissions (because plastic bags are more energy-efficient to produce, contributing to their cheapness), they also have a negligible effect on the well-being of marine wildlife:

In fact, the claim about harm to marine mammals and sea-birds has nothing to do with plastic bags. NOAA corrected the claim about seabirds on its web page saying, "We are so far unable to find a scientific reference for this figure." The only study NOAA can find does not deal with plastic bags or even marine debris, but "active fishing gear bycatch," in other words, fishing nets that are being used at sea, not discarded plastic bags. [link in original corrected]
This is all well and good, and hardly surprising, given the insatiable urge by collectivists to supervise the minutest details of our lives. Why would they care about what science actually says, if there is a convenient and common misconception that plays into their agenda?

But the article too lightly dismisses these kinds of bans as a "feel-good fad". They are, and many of the people who support them are intellectual lightweights, to be very charitable.

But look at what these fashionistas are accomplishing! They're getting the government to point a gun at our heads and say, "We forbid you to use plastic bags for your groceries." What this article should have noted is that even if the science pointed to a million wildlife deaths a year due to plastic bags  (or showed that the use of paper bags lowered carbon emissions),it would still be beyond the proper scope of the government to forbid us to use them.

If, as one scientist cited in the article indicated, pop-science misconceptions discredit science, so do political misconceptions harm the cause of limited government. It's not enough to correct scientific claims while the political goals to which those claims are marshaled are left unchallenged. Call out the fallacies of the environmentalist movement, sure -- but stand up to its thugs as well.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

Plastic is basically inert. It has less effect on the environment (good or bad) than paper. What is interesting is how often and why, our so called common knowledge is not only completely wrong, but it fact almost opposite of reality (especially about anything banned, restricted or otherwise by the government.
If it were only fads at work and it was simply a matter of finding something for the government to put a gun to our head about so we can feel good about ourselves, I would expect some far more of these ‘prescriptions’ to actually be right.
Unless of course the entire point of all this is a conscious exercise of power.

Gus Van Horn said...

I think that for many politicians, it's all about exercising power. Bans like this are a nice two-fer for them: They're getting to tell people what to do AND keeping/getting people used to being bossed around.

Anonymous said...

Gus Van Horn wrote,
They're getting to tell people what to do AND keeping/getting people used to being bossed around.

Which is the whole raison d'etre for the TSA and their "Security Theatre."

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

It sure is, and my blood boils every time I have to go through their silly rituals in order to board a plane.