(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
People always ask me why I live in Boulder. Now that the whole state of Colorado has basically politically turned into the intolerant town of Boulder, you live there too.
The state’s new shopping bag tax, excuse me, “fee,” which turns into an outright bag ban in a year, is a fine example of this statewide Boulder smugness.
Boulder smugness is the addiction to coerce other people to do your virtue signaling.
Boulder was always a hippie mecca. But when I moved there from Littleton, where I grew up, Boulder had a groovy you-be-you-baby attitude where both the Buddhist Naropa University and Soldier of Fortune Magazine could develop on the very same street.
With wealth, Boulder grew into a remarkably small-minded and uptight town. I remember waiting at a checkout line at the grocery store when the man in front of me said, “aren’t you that Caldara guy?” I put out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Jon Caldara.” He grimaced and merely said, “Why don’t you just f-ing leave?” To which I could only reply, “What? And leave all the diversity, acceptance and tolerance on which Boulder prides itself?”
I went to a Boulder restaurant, and they had a poster haughtily showing why they don’t use plastic straws. It showed a sea turtle with a plastic straw up its nose. Sanctimoniously it said that “we care for sea life” and therefore customers could only get paper straws, and the self-righteous satisfaction of picking soggy bits of paper from their mouths after sucking down an overpriced Coke (Boulder has a sugary-drink tax too).
But there’s just one problem with their proud virtue signaling: it’s a falsehood. No plastic straw from Colorado is going up the nose of a sea turtle unless you take it and do it yourself.
Like plastic bags (see, got back to plastic bags), if not recycled, plastic straws in Colorado are entombed in landfills. If somehow they get released into the wild (like gray wolves) and get into the water system, they get caught up in a number of treatment facilities along the way to the turtle.
Mr. and Mrs. Colorado, you may drink guilt free.
People do use plastic bags to litter. Maybe we should pass some laws against littering. But maybe we should pass some laws against stealing cars first, since Colorado is first in the nation in that.
Plastic bags, like plastic straws, statistically make up basically none of the plastic waste problem in Colorado. Like almost all virtue signaling it’s the inconsistency of the issue that makes it comical.
I mean really, is the goal of this to reduce plastic? Cuz it doesn’t.
Next time you’re in the grocery store try to tap your finger on every other piece of plastic that will still be legal in the store: the plastic bags in the produce section; the plastic that the products are packaged in; the plastic they’re delivered in, displayed on. You’ll be there for days.
Oh, and by the way, the ban only makes the plastic pollution worse (if that matters to anyone) because now instead of using lighter, cleaner American made plastic bags made from natural gas, not oil, people will be using thicker more polluting plastic bags to line their trash cans and pick up after their dog.
Score another one for the virtue signaling mandators.
Or riddle me this one: if plastic bags and straws need to be outlawed even though they bring sizable benefit with statistically insignificant cost, why shouldn’t plastic tampon applicators also be banned? I mean, other than the reality no man is brave enough to put his name on the bill. They do have cardboard applicators, you know.
Colorado, welcome to Boulder-styles silly theatrics — costly, inconvenient style over substance.
Maybe there are reasons not to use paper or plastic bags. But please just do what good cultists do and convince us to join in your behavior and not what bad cultists do and force us.
In some parts of the Muslim world women are kept covered under burkas and veils to keep them virtuous, under threat of stoning. I hope any modern American woman finds such a mandate revolting.
To subjugate another under somebody else’s definition of virtue is simply immoral, even if those in power are 100% certain of their correctness.
The situation here in Colorado is little different. They are 100% certain.
And you live in Boulder now, baby.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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