Banned Bags

I don’t live in Chicago, but I do live near Chicago.

After much discussion they’ve finally pulled the trigger on passing a ban on plastic bags for customer purchases at stores, most stores. Customers will have to find an alternative, probably paper or canvas. Oddly, the best system for eliminating disposable plastic bags that I’ve seen was in Italy, and it took a different tack.

Bags at checkout had to be purchased. Amazing how you use fewer of them when each one comes with a price. These bags were plastic, but durable plastic. My experience was that they would last for more than 10 trips (walking trips of store to apartment, not store to car). Since you paid for it, you were also likely to use it again, like a canvas bag. But unlike a canvas bag, these could be rolled up into a tight bundle which you could just keep in your pocket. The consequence was

  • You use less of them.
  • You use them multiple times.
  • You use them reliably.

The alternatives to disposable plastic bags achieve some, but not all, of these objectives. Consequently, the best alternative to disposable plastic bags seems to be non-disposable plastic bags. One could even add in a deposit to make sure people recycle them when they wear out.




A Marriage by Any Other Name

If one starts a discussion about the definition of marriage, then one should be prepared for a long discussion. Recently this has made the news through the Supreme Court with a general rejection of the definition in the Defense of Marriage Act.

Now the union described by marriage can be used in various contexts. Unfortunately, if one takes popular usage as a guide, then marriage is primarily, and unavoidably, a religious term. A simple example is Catholicism where it is a sacrament of the Church. Therefore, any attempt to legally define marriage is inherently going to rub up against freedom of religion.

The simplest way to solve this would be to clearly separate legal and religious activities, preferably with a different term. I don’t want to be too cynical, but much of the debate seems to center around money, or property, or other wealth issues that we’ve tied to the state of marriage in our laws. If we take marriage out of our laws (for everyone), then we can relegate marriage to a purely religious ceremony.

Oddly enough, the defeats in the Supreme Court have made the proponents of defining marriage as purely a heterosexual union work on removing marriage from the legal framework. I don’t know if they realize it, but this is what they should have done to begin with. It reminds me of the quote from Churchill: “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”