The many disgruntled responses to Durango’s effort to stem plastic-bag waste are extremely telling of the degree to which market libertarian ideology and corporate skullduggery have been diffused and normalized.
Many of the letters see the effort as an intrusion into the freedom of the consumer, failing to recognize that the situation against which the city is responding is itself the result of the ubiquitous intrusion of the plastics, chemicals and packaging industries’ products into society and the environment.
The commentaries betray an aversion to the “nanny state,” failing to recognize that this reaction is precisely the one carefully cultivated by nanny corporations, often under the cover of front groups such as Save the Plastic Bag Coalition (funded by various plastics manufacturers), Progressive Bag Affiliates (American Chemistry Council) or the Center for Consumer Freedom (representing restaurant, tobacco, alcohol and other industries, funded by corporations such as Coca Cola, Cargill, Tyson Foods and Monsanto). These groups worked hard to insinuate disposable packaging into the fabric of daily life and now are leading the opposition to bag bans nationwide.
While the intrusions and compulsions of industry either go unnoticed or are defended as expressions of individual freedom, government action to curtail or reverse them in the interest of the common good provokes howls of libertarian protest. This is the industry’s insidious tactic.
Jonathan A. Jensen
Salt Lake City