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The Freakonomics Take on Austin's Bag Ban

You're welcome: The city is looking for more input on a proposed ban on disposable bags.
Photo courtesy
You're welcome: The city is looking for more input on a proposed ban on disposable bags.

Austin’s proposed bag ban isn’t a part of today’s City Council meeting. But the city is gearing up for a forum on the controversial (and somewhat convoluted) proposal. The contrarian economists at Freakonomics are even weighing in on the proposal.

The team at Freakonomics focus on one argument against the ban coming from liquor sellers. (“Package stores” were excluded from the initial draft of the ban, but were included in a subsequent revision.)

On the Freakonomics blog, UT professor Daniel Hamermesh writes:

One particularly clever argument by liquor retailers is that it will encourage people to buy less — not a good thing, so they argue, when unemployment is high.  This is a bad argument for so many reasons: 1) Booze demand and bag provision are at most only a tiny bit complementary — one can always carry the six-pack out by hand; 2) To argue that high unemployment is a reason for anything other than macro stimuli is totally self-serving.  I think all universities should hire more economists to reduce unemployment (although others may differ).

Bag ban boosters and opponents have another chance to sound off soon. The city announced it is holding a forum this Monday to vet the issue further and poll interested parties:

The forum will include presentations from City staff and key stakeholders about proposed strategies to address the impact plastic and paper bags have on the City's waste stream and environment. The Austin City Council approved a resolution in November 2011 directing the City Manager to develop an ordinance providing a comprehensive phase-out of single-use plastic bags offered at retail checkouts within city limits. The forum will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30 at Austin City Hall, 301 W. 2nd St., in the Council Chambers. Refreshments and validated parking will be provided in the City Hall Parking Garage. Please bring your parking ticket into the meeting for validation.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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