Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Government by Quijote
In the past two weeks, the city government has imposed a plastic bag ban and the federal government has forbid the over-the-counter sale of antibiotics. Both measures run against long-standing common practice, legislating to the ideal rather than the real, even if both respond to legitimate concerns. The conditions that gave rise to the overuse of antibiotics, such as difficult access to medical care and the proliferation of pharmacies, are the same conditions that make such a prohibition nearly impossible to sustain.
Similarly, Mexico City's trash problem--a major component of which is the rampant use of cheap plastic bags--has long been the subject of regulations adhering to noble principles which are impossible to enact or enforce. In theory, it is prohibited to deposit trash on the street, and all waste must be sorted. In practice, the absence of a sensible collection system combined with the strength of old habits means garbage simply piles up on the corner.