That familiar old question from the grocery clerk, “paper or plastic,” is quickly being replaced by a State-mandated “did you bring a reusable bag, or shall we punitively charge you for your evil plastic bags?” Ok, I admit, that’s not exactly how a savvy grocery clerk would put it. But nonetheless that’s the message that’s being sent. The State has decided plastic bags are the scourge of the Earth, and so, like every other top-down policy with which we must abide, countless unwitting citizens begin to change their habits in an effort to comply with the decree in lieu of being punished, shamed, or both. You better buy up an Al Gore-sized pile of reusable shopping totes, that is unless you want to be judged a neanderthal as you continue to strike minute blows to the health of the planet with each plastic bag.
But as is the case with pretty much every other example of Statist policies, the actual effects of the policy turn out to be counterproductive to the intended goal. In this instance, it turns out that the use of reusable shopping totes is actually worse for the environment than those pesky plastic bags. But as Frederic Bastiat predicted so long ago, and as Henry Hazlitt superbly reiterated for the masses, Statists never see that side of the equation. They only focus their attention on the immediate effects of their policy rather than the long term effects. To put it another way, they aren’t seeing the bigger picture. And because of this failure, most policies are shortsighted, ineffective, and often harmful to their intended outcomes. Alas, this is to be expected; it has become the modus operandi for the ruling elites nowadays. What a shame, too — I’m sure Bastiat is rolling in his grave.