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Recycling: Governments Do Less With More Taxes, Consumers Do More

I read an article by an Swedish PhD candidate about recycling in his native Sweden that I encourage you to read. Republican Party leaders and policymakers should also read it as the party struggles to find its message on this issue. I expect there are many Americans who feel the same way about recycling, but do not bother talking about it lest they be shunned by the green political police. The article discusses the Swedish “recycling disaster” and how it does little to help the environment, but does wonders for centralizing government power at the expense individual freedom.

I am no expert in global warming, the environment, or recycling. We pay people in the government with taxes to focus on these things. Remember, taxes are what we pay the government to provide key services to – in this order – keep our cities, states, and the nation secure, clean, and to a certain point, educated. Anything other than those basic services and, rest assured, the government bureaucrats will surely bungle it.

The following statement is likely heresy, but I have yet to be convinced that this recycling nonsense makes much sense. The government tells us that we have to fill our homes with silly plastic containers and multi-colored bins, clean and sort the trash, and, if needed, drive it to some dump. What is wrong with this picture? At the core we are paying more and get less. That does not make much sense does it? If recycling makes economic sense, i.e., the benefits outweigh the harm, then so be it and I would be all for it. Yet the current system does not really make sense and seems to do more harm than good.

Picking up and disposing of garbage is a basic service that we expect the government to provide. We pay for these services. As taxes continue increase, not decrease, in order to provide these basic services we should expect more service, not less. Logically if the government has more money, we would expect better services and less effort by consumers in getting rid of trash. So why is it that consumers are encouraged, and in some cities required, to sort their garbage? In some cities home owners even need to transport certain waste to recycling centers.

The more I learn about this recycling business, and it is a multi-billion dollar business, the more I wonder what exact does Arlington County Virginia do with my tax dollars. How much more regulation or required sorting and cleaning is in the works for consumers? In Sweden, this matter has reached the point of idiocy with a “recycling police” to ensure people are sorting as ordered. As usual with any command, centralized, or non-market based system, it is folks that can afford it least who need to do the most work, not the government. Al Gore pays people to sort his trash, a luxury that most Americans cannot afford.

Just as the Kyoto Treaty is bad news for U.S. sovereignty and does little to stop the worst polluters, developing countries, from ceasing its polluting activities, a local government forcing consumers to clean and sort trash does little, if anything, to clean the environment. Like Per Bylund argues in his article, sorting trash at home is time wasted that could be used working or investing in productive things. Ultimately, the taxpayer is paying the government to do more, but in reality it does less and the consumer does more.

While Republicans should be talking about these issues from a free-market perspective, significant segments of the Party have bought in to what can only be termed as environmental radicalism of which the recycling movement is a by-product. As Republicans seek to find a brand, leaders should take a second-look at environmental issues and develop a platform based on free-market principles and sound science, rather than socialist-based thinking and quackery.

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