Myopic Tactic Saves Plastic Bags -- for Now

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Are some states, at least, starting to do what the federal government ought to be doing? That's an interesting question raised by a recent AP story on states preventing cities from enacting certain new regulations, such as banning plastic grocery bags:

The Missouri bill goes beyond plastic bags. It also would also prohibit local governments from requiring businesses to provide employees paid sick leave, vacation or health, disability and retirement benefits. And it would block cities and counties from adopting their own "living wage" requirements. [link added]
If, as I do, you favor government properly limited to the protection of individual rights, this might sound somewhat encouraging -- until you place it in the context of the totality of the article, or merely read the next paragraph:
States have pre-empted some local policies for decades. A movement to restrict local gun ordinances began in 1971, for example, and has been enacted as law in 45 states, according to the National Rifle Association. State lawmakers in Oklahoma and Michigan this year are pushing similar measures for knives.
This reminds me of an account I cannot find the source of, I think by Ayn Rand, regarding a fruitless debate she had with someone regarding nationalization. Rand used one industry (steel?) as an example, and found herself apparently winning a mind with the points she made -- only to realize that she had gotten nowhere at the end: The other person merely replied something like, "Yeah, but what about coal?" So much for him realizing that nationalization of industry, period, is immoral and impractical.

Rather than seeing the beginnings of a movement to stop government from interfering with contracts between consenting adults, we are just seeing another tactic of pressure group warfare becoming more widely deployed. Businessmen, acting only in the range-of-the-moment to protect some particular concern, are failing to see the value of being left alone generally. Worse, their tactic further entrenches the precedent of the government dictating every minor detail in our lives. In the process, some businessmen might win the battle of the bags (or the benefits, or the wages, whatever), but will continue to lose the war to run their businesses as they see fit. In the meantime, the states -- and not just the cities and the federal government -- are becoming more accustomed to improperly micromanaging our activities. This is the exact opposite of what ought to be happening, and is a far cry from, say, the federal government stepping in to keep states and cities from keeping Jim Crow laws on the books -- or, in more positive terms, protecting individual rights

-- CAV

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