Rob Ford’s Free Market Plastic Bag Fail

Watching people who believe in capitalism witness it doing something they don’t like can be an absolute joy. Little is more satisfying than watching someone rail about how the market will deal with an issue and then watch them lose their minds when it doesn’t do so. The free market can deal with all kinds of issues according to these people, and absolutely nothing else could possibly deal with them. You know that old fraudulent idea that the market regulates itself and will create choice? Yea that doesn’t work in real life, a like the rest of libertarian ridiculousness.

Case in point. The previous mayor of Toronto David Miller introduced a plastic bag “tax”, I use quotation marks because the city didn’t collect the money, private companies did. This was done to discourage the use of plastic bags that end up in landfills and causes the environmental problems its known for. Companies were all too happy to jump on board with the idea. Metro spokesperson Marie-Claude Bacon said, “We buy the bags for 2¢ and sell them for 5¢.” That’s a 150% profit policy. It would be laughable to be against it. Not only that, they also get a tax break because they donate a percentage of that to charities and environmental programs. They get another benefit for doing it. If people chose not to use plastic bags then they need less of them and save money by not giving them out for free anymore. That’s three different ways companies profit from the policy.

Despite all the benefit there is to everyone in that policy, current Mayor Rob Ford needed to make a new issue to be the champion of. He’s even claimed the stores themselves want the choice of whether or not to charge it. He and his financial backers need to keep perpetuating the idea that he’s the hero of the people or something, that he defends them from big government. He a lot sounds like an American conservative. So he’s stood up and claimed the people hate being “forced” to pay a 5¢ “tax” on plastic bags at stores. Even though they have the choice of bringing their own bags, even plastic ones if they want. So in an effort to make it appear as though he “get’s the job done” he decided to do away with the plastic bag “tax”. He said the market should decide that. Individual stores will make the decision as to whether or not they will continue charging the 5¢. His premise was that the stores would stop because he thinks the people want it to end. He even put his personal propaganda organ, the Toronto Sun, behind promoting the idea.

Guess what? Now that its no longer mandatory to do so, the stores are still charging the 5¢. Thus far only Longo’s has stopped. Obviously because its far too profitable for them to continue. So what happens next? Ford and The Sun start complaining that its unfair that stores are continuing to charge the 5¢. They even have a weird moment when try and paint those that continue as the bad guy, and phrase it as though they are breaking the law.

“Longo’s is the only outfit that has agreed to comply council’s decision and won’t charge its shoppers.” [1]

The city council has decided to make it optional, not mandatory that they stop charging for the bags. Charging for the bags is an option, just as not charging for them is. If the the decision of the council was to allow stores to chose what they wanted to do, how are they refusing to comply with the council’s decision by making one of those choices? Its all done to portray those that continue to do so as somehow having done something wrong. I would not be surprised if perhaps there was some kind of moneyed interest somewhere. Likely someone from the plastics industry who thought (incorrectly) that abolishing the mandatory 5¢ would bring everything back to companies buying massive amounts of plastic bags and giving them out for free again.

While neither The Sun nor Rob Ford are libertarians, its still hilarious to see them getting mad because the market didn’t do what they want it to do, while claiming it would. That if you remove regulation, it will create the situation they want.

[1] http://www.torontosun.com/2012/07/04/grocery-stores-continue-to-nickel-and-dime-for-plastic-bags

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