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Plastic And Chesterton’s Fence

The placcie wrap reduces waste

Of course plastic to this modern world is the very devil, the use of it needs to be expunged from our society. And yet we still face that logical problem exemplified in Chesterton’s Fence. Why did we start using it in the first place?

This is the idea put forward by the early 20th century writer, GK Chesterton, and it’s a logical structure. Imagine two walking in the countryside and coming across a fence. Looking around, they see no use for it and think perhaps that it should be abolished, destroyed. Why have this, there seems no apparent reason for it.

The logical insistence is rather different though. We need to know why the fence was built in the first place. For only once we know the reason for it can we say that the reason, the justification, has passed. That is, unless we know why in the first place, we cannot say that it is of no use any more.

We are indeed not talking about a fence in the country-side here, but the same logic still stands. Why did we move over to using plastic, even single use plastic? Only once we know that this need or desire is dealt with in some other manner can we then insist that the material should no longer be used.

So, why did we start to use plastic? Because, compared to what came before, it’s the miracle material. It’s incredibly, incredibly, cheap. It’s also very clean — as with most single-use items of course. But it’s so cheap that we can only use it once.

This is, in a manner, just the economists’ insistence that there are always opportunity costs. Or, as Thomas Sowell puts it, compared to what?

What are the effects of not using plastic as against the effects of doing so? It isn’t enough to note that the use affects the fishies. We need to know what is the effect upon them and everything else of not using.

And the thing is, the fact that we do use tells us that there are at least some benefits over not using. For if that weren’t so we wouldn’t have switched to using, would we?

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Spike
Spike
1 year ago

We use plastic bags because they are vastly better than paper bags in terms of raw materials – especially so since the discovery that you don’t have to make bags thick enough not to puncture, if they include strands that ensure that a puncture doesn’t rip out.

We have single-use containers because we have much better things to do than sort our trash, except when forced to by implied use of armed force, and when municipal collection systems are perverted into nannyism.

Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp
1 year ago

Still waiting to find out who is taking plastic from my bin and drowning turtles with it? South Oxfordshire District Council? Ernst Stavro Blofeld? Who?

Boganboy
Boganboy
1 year ago
Reply to  Rhoda Klapp

I did see a sensible proposal to get rid of plastic in Oz, now that the Chinese don’t want our garbage.

A bloke in Newcastle was proposing to burn the stuff to produce ‘green’ electricity. It wouldn’t be as cheap as good old coal, let alone gas, but with the green subsidies it’d be viable.

The Greens vetoed it of course.

John B
John B
1 year ago

Those who want rid of plastic, or must have organic, seasonal, local food or other modern things did not live in times before we had these things so have nothing with which to compare.

We need camps where these folk can be sent to spend a couple of years without all the things they want banned: no plastics, no fossil fuels, only local, organic, seasonal food, no meat, etc.

I think they might return with a different outlook.

Spike
Spike
1 year ago
Reply to  John B

Send the bastards all the way back, and make them wash their few items of clothing by hand.

Pcar
Pcar
1 year ago

Plastic? I love it. Light, flexible or rigid, versatile, waterproof, durable, cheap; easy to cut, mould, apply, make Shrink wrap, boil/cook in bag (kippers), vacuum pack, Primula cheese & toothpaste, car panels, light switches, computers & phones, When disposed of – like glass & ceramics – doesn’t rot/contaminate, but sits in landfill for future archaeologists Problem is not plastic, it’s littering due to brainwashed peeps belief state, not individual are responsible for all Fence similar to field gate If it’s closed leave it closed, if it’s open leave it open Unless risk to others – some townie twat opened, but… Read more »

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