Errm, Very Libertarian Boris.

So London will ban plastic bags will it?

Yet when I saw that London councils had unanimously decided, with cross-party approval, to do away with the plastic bags given out free in the capital\’s shops and supermarkets, I am afraid that my heart sang.

Ah, no, this isn\’t libertarian at all. Doing as the local gauleiters insist you do is no more libertarian than insisting that you do as the national ones do. The libertarian solutions would run along the lines of offering a choice: perhaps you pay a deposit for your bag? Perhaps you are offered a choice of plastic or paper? The decision is thus left to the individual, with, if there really are external costs ot that choice, the imposition of a tax or fee to cover that externality.

Of course the British retailers are protesting, because they are worried that the great British shopper will be inconvenienced.

They fear that if we are all issued with nothing but paper bags, or if we bring our own bags to the shop, then we will waddle out without buying that extra packet of custard creams, with disastrous effects on their profit margins.

All I can say is that people who make this dire prediction cannot possibly have been to an American supermarket. The Americans use paper bags for their groceries.

They are far less practical than our plastic bags. They leak, they tear, they have no handles; and yet if you study the American supermarket shopper from behind, it is clear that these paper bags are no inhibition on their consumption of groceries.

One thing that you really should note. Such paper bags, in the American style, only work if you are shopping by car, in the American style. They are simply not compatible with any form of walking shopping. And are we, I wonder, actually desirous of encouraging more shopping by car?

6 thoughts on “Errm, Very Libertarian Boris.”

  1. Mr Johnson, for all his no-doubt-sterling qualities, is talking through his hat when it comes to the bagging choices available in American supermarkets.

    Every supermarket bagger in the nation knows the refrain ‘paperorplastic?’ and your groceries will get bagged in your choice. Both types are handily reusable for various other purposes – we take both.

    The standard American supermarket paper bag, which has handles, could probably be used to transport lead bars if one had a mind to. They neither tear nor leak when filled with a normal amount of groceries. The supermarket paper bag is the standard receptacle for recycling newspapers, and can be stuffed to capacity without tearing and still carried by the handles.

    And many American grocery stores will pay you a rebate ( a few cents per bag) if you re-use their paper or plastic bags.



  2. “The Americans use paper bags for their groceries.”

    What, all of them..? Does even Boris believe this?

    When I last shopped in a supermarket in the States (can’t remember which one) I was offered a plastic bag identical to the ones back home.

    “Of course the British retailers are protesting, because they are worried that the great British shopper will be inconvenienced.”

    Au contraire. Should this law come in, I’m going to my local supermarket, ordering a huge load of groceries, waiting until they are all rung through, then saying ‘No plastic bags..? No sale!’ and leaving the shopping and walking out.

    Enough of us do that, this law will be repealed faster than Boris can grope a Spectator bird…

  3. The commenters are correct. The plastic bags have been ubiquitous for at least 25 years and normally used in preference to paper–unless paper is requested; nor is there objection to using “Both” as an answer to the either-or question. Most paper bags aren’t of the “handled” type and those are seen more often in stores other than chain supermarkets but they’re still in fairly wide use.

    No–what America needs is neither plastic nor paper bags but, just as in days of yore, a good
    five-cent cigar priced somewhere under $5.00

  4. Wow! If I get the gist of his argument he said, “Some people fear this change will inconvenience consumers. It will, but they’ve still got to eat. Haha. Screw them. ”

    Did he get his job through some sort of social program?

  5. Hmm, as an American I can tell you that I order the plastic bags in preference to the paper ones.

    The paper bags aren’t any stronger or weaker than the plastic but

    plastic has handles, paper *rarely* does.
    I can stuff 3 dozen plastice bags inside another plastic bag very quickly and save them for re-use as small trashcan liners – can’t do that with paper (paper doesn’t store in as little space and won’t work in as large a range of receptacles).
    Paper bags are slick and its difficult to lift and carry 6 or more bags simultaneously, which i can do with plastic.

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