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I’m With Stupid – July 1, 2011

by Todd Hartley

If you’ve ever wondered why conservatives hate liberals so much, you need look no further than an article that ran in The Aspen Times on June 29 to find part of your answer. The story, which ran on the front page, concerned the Basalt Town Council and a decision by that group to explore the idea of “charging a small fee for use of disposable paper and plastic bags in the town’s two grocery stores.”

The council’s idea, essentially, is to enact an ordinance requiring shoppers to pay 20 cents for each disposable bag they require for their groceries. In this manner, the town council hopes to encourage people to start bringing their own reusable bags with them when they shop.

While reducing the use of disposable bags is an admirable goal, I have to take exception to the way in which the Basalt Town Council plans to do it, as I feel this is just another example of the insidious trend of liberal fascism.

As much as possible, governments should try to avoid telling people how they should behave.  The very notion runs counter to the principles of liberty on which this country was founded. I realize that in certain scenarios – violent crimes, for example – regulations are necessary, but when it comes to things like grocery bags, do we really need another layer of bureaucracy?

Furthermore, who the hell does the Basalt Town Council think it is dictating the way a business should operate? Have we really become so authoritarian around here? If the Basalt Town Council starts telling grocery stores that they have to charge a fee for the use of bags, are they going to insist that every other retail operation follow suit? Gasoline consumption is bad for the environment, too. Is the Basalt Town Council going to impose a limit on the number of miles Basalt residents can drive each week?

And, not that it really matters, but let’s talk about these so-called “single-use” disposable plastic bags, shall we? Does the Basalt Town Council  really think that people just throw the bags away when they get home? Maybe some people do, but I don’t know anyone that does. After I take the groceries out of my plastic bags, I reuse them to line the wastebaskets in my house or pick up dog poop with them. If I didn’t have any plastic grocery bags, I would just end up buying trash bags made from – you guessed it – plastic.

Plus, on the rare occasions that I acquire so many plastic grocery bags that I can’t find uses for them all, I recycle them. I’ve always assumed just about everyone else does, too.

But grocery bags aren’t really the issue here, nor is the amount of the fee, although 20 cents per bag seems a little excessive. The issue is government sticking its nose where it’s not wanted or needed, and in this respect, I don’t mean to single out the Basalt Town Council, because they are far from the worst offenders.

Health experts are pushing for federal taxes on soda and other sugary drinks; the citizens of San Francisco will soon be voting on a ballot measure that would make circumcisions illegal in all cases, religious or otherwise; and everywhere I go I see parking spaces that are reserved for drivers of hybrid vehicles. I can’t be the only one who finds that incredibly sanctimonious and annoying.

Here’s what I would like to see happen: Since, as far as I know, there’s no legal precedent that would allow the Basalt Town Council to dictate the way a grocery store conducts its business, I’d love to see the Kroger corporation (owners of City Market) threaten a lawsuit against the town. Trust me when I say Kroger’s pockets are much deeper than Basalt’s. With no leg to stand on, the town council would have to back down. At that point, it would be great to see City Market institute a bag fee on its own, because it really is a good idea. It’s just not a good idea for a town government.

Look, Basalt Town Council, I understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and I applaud you for wanting to do your part to help the environment. But just because you’re doing something in the name of eco-friendliness doesn’t give you carte blanche to trample on the rights of people and corporations within your jurisdiction. I shouldn’t have to explain to you how un-American that is.

Bear in mind that Todd Hartley knows nothing whatsoever about legal precedents.

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