February 23, 2020

THE REAL REASON YOU CAN’T USE THE GROCERY BAG OF YOUR CHOICE: The Perverse Panic over Plastic. The green campaign against plastic isn’t merely a waste of time and money. Besides inconveniencing humans, it’s harmful to the environment. Banning plastic grocery bags contributes to global warming because it leads to more carbon emissions. Forcing Americans and Europeans to recycle plastic leads to more plastic pollution in the ocean because some of the recyclables end up being dumped in Asian rivers.

So why do greens keep stoking this panic? Because it makes them feel virtuously superior. The plastic bans are best understood as a modern version of medieval sumptuary laws, which forbade merchants and other commoners to wear clothes or use other products that offended the sensibilities of  aristocrats and clergymen. The sumptuary edicts consistently failed to accomplish their stated purpose, but they kept getting issued anyway (there were thousands of them across Europe, as I explain in City Journal) because they enabled nobles to lord it over their social inferiors.

The plastic panic also serves to provide employment for green activists. It’s one more example of what I call the Crisis Crisis: the never-ending series of hyped threats leading to policies that grow the government and leave everyone worse off. (There’s more on this in my new book, The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It.)

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