Seattle's New Garbage Gestapo

Monday, February 02, 2015

The newly-elected, far-left Prime Minister of Greece once asked Wall Street Journal columnist Brett Stephens why bribery isn't more common in the United States:

The OliveShop tale is a case study in what it takes to start a business legally. Yet the whole purpose of these peculiar regulatory roadblocks [including a requirement for stool samples of each shareholder, of all things -- ed] is to create opportunities to grease the skids with a fakellaki -- the little envelope, stuffed with cash -- that gets you the necessary certificate, or the government contract, or the timely medical appointment. When I interviewed Syriza leader (now Prime Minister) Alexis Tsipras in New York two years ago, his first question to me was: "Here in the United States, why do you not have this phenomenon of passing money under the table?"
Stephens's answer is on the right track: "[Y]ou're less likely to seek a bribe if you can make an honest profit instead," but I'd add something like this: If you weren't constantly in danger of violating illegitimate, unreasonable laws, you wouldn't feel the need to pay protection money at every turn.

That story, of ridiculous regulations that are made for abuse, reminds me of a new ordinance in Seattle, which imposes fines for seting out trash that includes over ten per cent food waste:
So, the collectors not only have to examine your trash, but examine it closely enough to determine if 10 percent of it amounts to food. NPR's reporting disputes my assumption, but what the collector is really saying below is he's either painstakingly rifling through trash cans or ignoring the 10-percent rule and profligately offering tags and fines. Neither is good[.]
I can't see how this won't corrode respect for rule of law, cause people to use money as part of the "truce" between the "citizens of Seattle and trash collectors" the Hot Air blogger wrongly hopes will result, or both. Regardless, this law is just as wrong, and only a little less intrusive than the scatological example above.

The Greeks discarded freedom long ago, if they ever had it. Brett Stephens unsurprisingly says that the Greeks have just "voted [themselves] down the toilet". We're doing little better, treating food scraps like gold while discarding our freedom one stupid rule at a time.

-- CAV


2-3-15: Corrected a typo.


Steve D said...

‘closely enough to determine if 10 percent of it amounts to food’

Is that 10% by volume or by weight? If my garbage is only 9.8% food and the collector tags it at 10% can I sue for defamation of character? Those idiot legislators are trying to make a completely nutty criteria sound objective and scientific by putting a number on it.

Gus Van Horn said...

Good question and good point. For what it's worth, the ordinance states:

"Significant amounts of material is defined under Draft Director’s Rule SW-401.2 as "more than 10% by volume of container, dumpster or self-haul vehicle's load based on visual inspection by a Seattle Public Utilities inspector, contractor or transfer station worker.""

So, it's putting a pseudo-objective veneer on the whim of a bureaucrat.