Principles and Plastic Bags

Galveston is the latest Texas city to consider a ban on disposable plastic bags. (Eleven cities currently have such a ban.) Conservatives, as well as bag manufacturers and some businesses, are fighting the ordinance. But not all Galveston businesses are opposed.

“As business operators we typically don’t like this type of business regulation,” said Steve Cunningham, association president and manager of the Hotel Galvez. “But being on the Gulf, this one is necessary because of the damage to the wildlife and the environment.”

Apparently, the damage to other businesses isn’t something to be considered. Apparently, the violation of individual rights isn’t relevant. Apparently, principles are to be rejected.

Businesses frequently complain about regulations. But their complaints seldom address the principle underlying regulations. And so, they usually deal with each regulation in isolation.

Regulations are founded on the principle that an individual may not act according to his own judgment. Instead, he may only act with the permission of the regulators. Once a business accepts this principle, everything else is just a matter of details. All the business can do is complain when a regulation “goes too far.”

The plastic bag ban may have little impact on the Hotel Galvez. But what if Galveston decides to ban something that will have an impact on the hotel? What if others deem such measures as “necessary because of the damage to the wildlife and the environment”? Cunningham will be morally disarmed because he has accepted the principle that individuals are to be subservient to the government.

The Texas Retailers Association serves as an example. In an mail to the Chronicle, the association president wrote:

The patchwork of requirements put in place by these bans on a local level make it increasingly difficult for retailers to accurately comply while also not being effective in making a positive environmental impact.

In other words, the association isn’t opposed to retailers being ordered how to conduct business. It just wants those orders to be consistent throughout the state.

Business owners have a moral right to operate their business as they deem best. They need to stand up for that right, and they need to do so as a matter of principle.

Comments are closed.