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Small Business Management Article
Raymond D. Matkowsky
Over the decades laws have been passed that have outlived their usefulness or have never accomplished their intentions. It is not unusual to have laws written in the 1800s still on the books. Many times people don't remember why a certain regulation was passed in the first place. Some of these directives are far from harmless and result in thousands of Dollars or Euros to be expended annually. These laws should and need to be removed. Let me give you an example of four such laws and the harm that they are or will cause.
Single Use Plastic Grocery Bags
The first that comes to mind is the use of plastic grocery bags. Many locations are banning their use. I am old enough to remember when we were told that we have to stop using paper bags because we are killing too many trees. Plastic bags were said to be the answer to this problem. Now we are told that we have to stop using plastic bags because they are rapidly consuming landfills. There is one immediate problem that this regulation will not remedy. Not all plastic bags are banned.
I am told that 70% of all plastic grocery bags are reused before they are thrown out. Many of the bags are used more than one time. Many families reuse these bags for garbage or sanitary disposal purposes. Many waste disposal companies mandate plastic bags. These uses are not banned. People will continue to use non grocery plastic bags. Landfills will probably still have to contend with plastic while the public foots the bill for substitute grocery bags.
While on the subject of plastic and landfills, presently, the State of California, USA is looking if any laws are broken when consumers are misled into thinking that recycling keeps plastic out of landfills. The reality is that 90% or more of plastic made never gets recycled. That doesn’t stop companies from perpetuating the myth. For those that are recycled, the plastic is usually mixed with virgin plastics because the recycled product is too degraded to be used directly.
This does not stop recyclers from charging high fees and then dumping much of the material in lower cost landfills. Home and businesses alike pay increased taxes that cover these fees. Many localities would be better off just collecting these with garbage and skipping the fees.
Colorado, USA has recently passed what is called “Safety Stop” law that is creating more friction between automobile drivers and cyclists. The law permits bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs. It is said that this would make streets safer. Motorists already believe the cyclists are scofflaws. Many view this as a disaster in the making and one that will make streets more dangerous. They believe some bicyclists behave badly and this law codifies this bad behavior. Regardless of the outcome, this law should be watched carefully.
This hasn’t been codified into law yet. However, it has the potential to bring great economic harm to California, USA. The possibility stems from an executive order from Governor Gavin Newsom banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035.
The problem is the date. Historically, it typically takes 30 years to bring a viable product to the consumer. That being the case, a date around 2050 would be more in the realm of possibility. The Ford Motor Company has already announced that it will continue to manufacture internal combustion engines until at least 2040. Ford would not continue manufacturing a product that wouldn’t be used or profitable in the future. California certainly may not be in-step with the auto industry.
California demands may be too early and they may have backed the wrong technology. Elected officials do not know an industry better than those in the industry. It is the public and businesses that will pay the costs. The only question is “How Much?”
Who Is To Judge?
No one can predict the future. Who can say with any certainty that Colorado’s “Safety Stop” law will not make their streets safer? At the same time we shouldn’t allow laws that do not work or have negative unintended consequences remain on the books.
In my opinion every law passed should have an automatic sunset provision if it does not do the intended. These provisions could be very liberal. Say, in the case of the Colorado law, if the law’s goal is to cut the rate of accidents between bicyclist and cars by a hundred over a two year period, but after two years only fifty accidents have been prevented the law can still be considered a success. It is up to the drafters to define the success and failure line at the time the law is proposed.
It is very important to define these criteria without ambiguity so no questions exist in the future. But clearly, if a law does not do what is intended, it is time to replace it with another idea.
Do you have any comments or other suggestions, please share them with your fellow readers. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.