August 15, 2015
Libertarians in Minneapolis have had enough of the bans! In an appeal sent to LPMN members and supporters in the city last week, residents were encouraged to contact the city councillors in their wards to ask them to support “freedom of consumer choice” by voting against a proposal to criminalize plastic bags. As a result, the City Council did not vote on the proposal last week as had been expected.
Undoubtedly, retailers have been pressing the City Council not to enact a citywide plastic bag ban. But such pressure has not been enough to restrain the Council from their banning spree over the summer, when they criminalized the use of styrofoam “to go” boxes by restaurants, then banned adults from purchasing flavored tobacco and vaping products from convenience stores. This time, an effort was needed to make sure the City Council heard from residents who can actually vote.
That effort by LPMN supporters may have been enough to give city councillors pause on enacting a new ban.
According to a report by KSTP News, the City Council has now referred the proposal to a committee, to be followed by a possible vote in December.
Delays are a common tactic by elected officials. Facing public opposition, officials often delay a proposal they want, instead playing a waiting game until opposition fades or until the public is distracted by other issues or by a holiday.
“I take my plastic bags in for recycling and I’m glad stores like Kowalski’s have stepped up to offer people that opportunity,” stated Minneapolis resident and LPMN Vice Chair S.L. Malleck, who led the call to action by Minneapolis Libertarians. “I do that because I care about the environment and take responsibility as a citizen. Many stores like Cub Foods offer a choice of paper or plastic to their customers, and others like Target offer a 5¢ discount to customers who re-use bags or bring their own. This shows that businesses recognize that reducing plastic waste is a popular goal, so they’re already taking voluntary action to meet that demand by their customers.”
He added, “Everyone should be free to choose for themselves how to deal with this issue. We don’t need more heavy-handed bans or mandates from city government.”
Excerpts from the appeal emailed to city residents:
“This proposal would infringe on your choices as a consumer and on the ability of city businesses to offer what people want. Under this proposal, you will no longer be able to choose ‘paper or plastic’ and a visit to the store will likely cost you more when all city retailers are forced to convert to higher-cost paper bags. It’s really quite odd. Not long ago, many thought plastic was better because too many trees were being cut down to make paper bags.
“More importantly, there are larger implications. The City Council will undoubtedly continue their ‘busybody’ mindset of finding even more things to ban. A new tax on sugary drinks? A ban on plastic water bottles? These have already been enacted in other cities. How about a ban on upstart low-cost services like Uber and Lyft, which are challenging traditional expensive taxicab services nationwide? It’s already been discussed by the City Council, though they haven’t acted yet. Look forward to even more areas of your life being nitpicked and micromanaged if this ban passes without resistance from city residents.
“Don’t you think YOU should decide, not City Hall? Let’s Ban The Ban!”
In recent years, bans by the city have led to pressure on other cities to take similar action, and upon the state legislature as well. Not long ago, Minneapolis was the first to pass a citywide smoking ban, taking away that choice from private bar and restaurant owners and their patrons, who previously had a diverse assortment of smoking, nonsmoking, or mixed smoking/nonsmoking establishments to choose from. That ban encouraged DFL state legislators and GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty to enact a statewide ban.
Even this relatively minor issue of banning plastic bags illustrates the authoritarian mindset that dominates conventional politics today. Today, anyone with a pet peeve lobbies for the government to enforce their views upon everyone. Republicans who don’t like gays try to use government force to prevent them from becoming married. Democrats who think healthcare insurance is a good idea use government force to mandate it upon everyone. In sharp contrast to both, Libertarians believe these and all issues should be left to each individual to decide for themselves.
“I want to thank every person who took a moment to call or email their city councillor,” said S.L. Malleck. “That was critical and seems to have made a difference. Last month, all 13 city councillors voted unanimously to ban adults from buying flavored tobacco with hardly a second thought. They may not have heard the outpouring of opposition needed to dismiss this new ban, but they heard from enough people that they didn’t just rush it through as they had done before. For the moment, I’d call that a win.”
The fight against the bans is far from over in the City of Lakes. But it is good to see this first show of strength by Libertarian residents of Minneapolis.
Concerned about the expansion of government control and the erosion of individual liberty? Please consider joining and becoming active with the Libertarian Party of Minnesota. Libertarians support liberty on all issues, all the time! Libertarianism is a philosophical and political movement to promote personal freedom, strong civil liberties, a genuinely free marketplace, and peace.
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