Jerry Brown Signs Bizarre Straw Restrictions Mandate

P. Gardner Goldsmith | September 25, 2018
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What a hero.

On September 20, California Governor Jerry Brown ponied up to the bar and signed California’s “straw statute”, a “law” that will make it illegal for restaurant employees to offer straws in drinks unless customers ask for them.

A Scott Shackford writes for Reason:

Brown rarely puts out statements when he signs bills, but he specifically did for AB 1889, noting that plastics are killing ocean life.

And, as Schackford notes, Brown’s stance is less than compelling. Christian Britschgi of Reason has done extensive work explaining the silly assumptions and anti-science behind the claim that straws from the US are filling the oceans and killing wildlife.

Just last month, Britschgi noted:

As I reported back in January, the oft-cited factoid that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day came from an enterprising 9-year-old's unconfirmed survey of three manufacturers. Despite this revelation, government agencies have continued to cite the number in support of restrictive straw policies.

And they’ve passed a really dumb law.

As Shackford writes:

AB 1889 doesn't go so far as to ban straws entirely, but it does forbid full-service restaurants from giving customers plastic straws unless the customers ask for them. Violators face fines of up to $25 a day, up to a maximum of $300 annually. So it's essentially a tax on giving out plastic straws, should a restaurant decide to ignore the law.

And, of course, the law will undoubtedly have unintended consequences. When Starbucks decided to shift from straws to adult-style “sippy cups” calle “nitro” cups, it turned out that the new lids used more plastic than the old straw-lid combination.


Of course, such a flip comment actually hides the fact that, as long as no business is forced to do so, such experimentation can be beneficial. Markets run on tests, to see what consumers prefer. Do they want straws, adult sippy-cups, cardboard boxes with little telescoping straws? Prices for the materials and the price points achieved by the sales will help drive resources towards where people prefer them, and reveal information about scarcity and societal desires that no political edict can come close to fitting. This is why market economies always do better at raising living standards and conserving resources than command-and-control economies.

And there is a lot of validity to the claim that Governor Brown is commanding people. Sure, customers can still ask for the straws, but consider this: the free speech of restaurateurs and their employees is being stifled by this “world-saving” law. They cannot ask people if they want straws. The customers have to ask.

Talk about creating a priori limits on speech.

Additionally, Governor Brown signed SB 1192, which:

…requires restaurants that offer children's meals to offer water or unflavored milk as the ‘default’ drink rather than soda or juice. It further requires them to display water or milk as the drink in images and in menus. At least it doesn't forbid restaurants from providing other choices if they're asked.

So, again, free speech and the right to operate one’s business in a peaceful manner without threats from others are smashed by Governor Brown and his gang.

Stunning. You know, there’s a term for the nominal ownership of business that is actually controlled by the state.

It’s called fascism.

It almost prompts one to go so far as to mistakenly call the Governor by a different name.

Jerry Brownshirt.

But, alas, that would be so inflammatory. We couldn’t have it.

And, hey, in California, the way their government is operating, they might ban sarcastic digs like that.

There’s a saying in US politics: “Where California goes, so goes America.” Let’s hope this isn’t the case. The path that California’s politicians tread has a very dark destination.

I’d prefer freedom.