No, what piqued her curiosity was the increasing penchant of British politicians and regulators for bans and “crackdowns” on every day items or pleasures.
The particular trigger was the Environment Secretary’s comments that his next target in the “war on plastic” would be that great scourge of our time: the disposable nappy.
Michael Gove, of course, ultimately clarified that the Government had no intention of banning disposable, plastic‐containing nappies altogether. But we can be forgiven for assuming the opposite.
Every day, it seems some UK Government official, MP or regulator advocates restricting us from buying or using something.
In recent months we have heard plans or ideas for a doubling of the plastic bag tax, bans for single‐use plastic straws and cotton buds, a ban on sales of energy drinks to teens, a tax on milkshakes, a call for McDonald’s to stop giving toys away with happy meals, a crackdown on disposable ballpoint pens, razors, and balloon sticks, and a ban on wood‐burning stoves. All these idea have been floated by the supposed free‐market Conservatives.
Sadly, this is not a Tory‐specific affliction. In Scotland, the SNP beat a hasty retreat this week after a furious backlash over its anti‐obesity strategy, which proposed banning takeaways from giving customers free poppadoms and prawn crackers. Perhaps feeling left out, the Advertising Standards Agency also banned a Costa Coffee advert after receiving two complaints it encouraged unhealthy eating. At times it feels not so much a slippery slope of lifestyles and environmental regulation and control, but as if we are caught in an avalanche.
This “no pleasure left behind” approach has good intentions, of course. For all the myriad barking ideas, politicians are cack‐handedly trying to solve two perceived problems. The first is pollution, particularly the damage that non‐biodegradable plastics cause in oceans or landfill. This genuinely imposes social environmental costs on to others and cannot be obviously solved by assigning property rights. The second is obesity, especially relating to collective healthcare costs.