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?