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Seattle Gun Buyback Program

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Gift cards for your guns?…

This program will likely fail. No self-respecting gun owner is going to accept a $100 or $200 gift card for a weapon when most private re-sale prices are well above this and the weapon could go to someone who could make good use it for sport or defense (perhaps his or her first weapon).

On the other hand… As several of the YouTube comments have speculated, this “no questions asked” gift card offer is a great way to get rid of stolen or otherwise dirty weapons and possibly make a profit- selling them to the police for other people’s money! Oh, sweet irony, what a deal! Maybe the program will be a “success”!

Good luck on this one, Mr. McGinn.

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Seattle “Mini-Groceries” Provide Healthy Food Options To Poor Neighborhoods

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This is really good for the community, and a great example of private enterprise filling a community need with a little help from local government to get started. A woman has started a small chain of affordable health food convenience stores in poor neighborhoods of the Seattle area.

Her model is the old-fashioned corner store, before they all became convenience stores. And she says the economics pencil out, because of the low overhead on a store thats one-tenth the size of a typical grocery store.

Read this article for more:

http://www.kplu.org/post/trial-mini-grocery-brings-fresh-food-poor-neighborhoods

The Plastic Battle In Seattle

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http://www.examiner.com/article/city-wide-ban-on-plastic-bags-goes-into-effect-seattle

Emilie’s article on the Seattle bag tax is spot-on. While it encourages the wasteful to think twice, It also punishes the good folks who already reuse and recycle the majority of their plastic bags (they will be encouraged to buy garbage bags).

When the government steps in to coerce behavior, it disrupts the delicate balance of market forces and incentives. This is a tricky endeavor. The effects are hardly ever as expected, and hardly ever fully positive. In this example: People who used plastic shopping bags as trash bin liners pre-tax will be encouraged by the five-cent-per-bag fee to conform and use reusable shopping bags. What will they use to line their trash bin? They will have to buy a box of trash bags for a few dollars at a time (but hopefully cheaper than five cents a bag!) and those bags will likely contain more plastic than the thin shopping bags being used before the tax. They will buy trash bags at the store and carry them home in their reusable shopping bags… to throw them in the trash one at a time just like any other trash bag. The cost-benefit incentive for these consumers has been changed by the state intervention- so not only will this be a financial penalty for everyone (particularly those who were already thrifty), it will have the effect of creating the same or more plastic waste in those households. What will the net effect be across the state? We will have to wait and see.

This is the great irony of government intervention: Well-meaning though it may be, the results are often negative. The state is ultimately ineffective at regulating personal behavior directly, and must realize this. The most it can do is threaten post-facto punishment and hope the punishment serves as a sufficient deterrent. All the city can really do in this case is influence which plastic bags people will be throwing in their garbage from now on- those they were already getting for free, or those they now have to purchase? If the purpose of this tax is environmental conservation, it doesn’t seem to be as effective as they might have planned- so what is it for?

What if the goal was really to save the environment? Remember the Three R’s? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? Seattle has gone after the first R with the five-cent bag tax- but what about the other two? Has the city forgotten them? Just as important as reducing the number of bags circulated- and this tax may not be reducing as much as intended- is ensuring that people are reusing and recycling the bags they do get. The report says that only 13% of Seattle’s plastic bags end up getting recycled. If they really wanted an ecologically effective solution, Seattle should have focused on how to get people to make better or more frequent use of the existing recycling system in addition to using less bags in the first place. They could focus their efforts on educating the public on reuse ideas and easy recycling habits, and the effects of pollution on our waterways and ourselves. They could actually try to keep more plastic in circulation and out of landfills, waterways, and oceans. Ultimately, the well-being of the community and environment comes down to the sum total of each individual’s (or family’s) desire to care for and maintain that environment and their stake in it. This is a complex situation and cannot be easily “fixed” by waving the magic tax wand and/or maintaining a nanny state to watch over us and make sure we behave properly at all times (see Adam Smith’s “Man of System”).

Getting Seattle’s plastic bag recycling rate up past 13% would be a great step toward a cleaner Seattle  and a cleaner Washington by using education, outreach, and persuasion rather than the force of government taxation- but ultimately, it is up to the people to make the right decisions and demonstrate that they can be responsible for their environment. The state can only provide the tools. The people must do the work. Protest this tax if you are inclined, but reduce your plastic usage at the same time and show the government you don’t need them to hold your hand.