Please turn on JavaScript

Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Concord: The Bottled Water Nanny State

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Concord: The Bottled Water Nanny State

Some busybodies in Concord, Massachusetts, a city whose citizens were renowned for their contribution to the American War of Independence, won a vote to ban the sale of bottled water in their city.  The charge to limit freedom was lead by Jean Hill, an 82-year-old activist, who used the externality argument of "saving the environment" as her primary weapon (David Abel and Jason Woods, Boston Globe, "Concord fires first shot in water battle," May 1, 2010).
All these discarded bottles are damaging our planet, causing clumps of garbage in the oceans that hurt fish, and are creating more pollution on our streets.  This is a great achievement to be the first in the country to do this. This is about addressing an injustice.

The type of regulation that she recommends is called "command and control."  Economists consider it to be heavy handed and prefer a tax on goods producing the externality, discarded bottles, or a subsidy for recycling them.  To be fair, Hill also favors a change in the state's bottle law that would extend a refund to consumers who return bottles for recycling.  Activist like Jean Hill prefer command and control.  It fits their personalities.  Abel and Woods report
For Hill and other environmental advocates, bottled water is unlike other products, because there’s a ready and free alternative at the tap.

Hill's presumption that she knows how others should ingest water was not given in jest making her argument impossible to digest.  It is OK to drink bottled sodas but not water because we can get water through the tap?  Bottles containing soda pollute less than those containing water?  Bottled water consumers know preferences and elect to consume bottled water for reasons of their own.  They should not need to justify their actions. 

Heaven help us when environmental activists team up with the health police.  Their solution will be to eliminate bottled products entirely.  It will be better for their neighbors' health and the environment. 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I believe that Ms. Hill's intentions are good, and who wouldn't want to see a cleaner environment, but this just isn't the problem. The argument can be traced back to the statement that gun's don't kill people, people kill people. The same applies here, water bottles don't pollute the environment, people do. Their are many of us who do take recycling seriously, and do impact the world in a positive fashion(at least pollution wise). However the majority of the world still has not gotten on board with the idea of recycling. Brands like Sun Chips have had to make bio-degradable bags that disintegrate after 3 months of being pollution on the side of a freeway. This shows that people do care, there just aren't enough of us at their yet. Their isn't a perfect idea in this world, because the world isn't perfect, so I commend Ms. Hill on her aspirations. The problem is that there are to many substitute beverages out there, and this will have an inverted effect on health in this city. Now people will be drinking more soda and alcohol, because it is more readily available, this will cause obesity, and eventually in the long run lead to more money being spent going to the hospital. Once again, this is a great idea, but the effects just aren't worth the cause. I would like to see what sparks from this, something where all bottles are made with the same materials the sun chips are made of, or something in those regards.

  3. The problem I have with Ms Hill is that if people are going to pollute then they are going to pollute getting rid of bottle water isnt the solution. Honestly if I was debating whether or not I should move their or another city I would choose the other. Getting rid of bottle water might hurt this cities economy.