The Final Straw

Approved by the Libertarian Party of Colorado

The news out of Santa Barbara, California should be ominous to all people who believe in freedom, reason, and self-determination. The city council has passed an ordinance criminalizing the use of straws
of all kinds–compostable included. Servers now face the very real possibility of jail time and a hefty fine, simply for handing out straws. Maybe you were a server once upon a time. Maybe you believe that single-use plastic is wasteful and destructive, but do you honestly believe that workers should be jailed for providing straws without a request from the customer? Do you trust government officials to stop there?

Sadly, this is not a hypothetical scenario. It is completely within the realm of legal possibility that a server would serve up to six months in jail and be fined $1,000 for the sin of providing a patron with a small plastic tube, without asking if the customer would like one. The ordinance is an encroachment on personal and economic liberty that is unlikely to yield results, outside of restricting freedom. At its core, freedom is God-given. It is not something that is granted to us by government, it is not provided by other people, it simply is. Freedom can only be restricted; therefore, any restriction on freedom must serve to protect the people from immediate harm. Otherwise, restriction of freedom is merely a power-grab to rob you of your authority in life and give it to the State.

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the
governed.”

—Declaration of Independence, 1776

We entrust our lives to those we elect to government. You vote for them, because you believe that they will behave and act as you would, if you were in their shoes. You must then ask yourself: “Would I separate my neighbor from his family, lock him in a cell and take his money, simply for using a straw?” This is the kind of self-reflection that we expect our representatives to also undertake. Unfortunately, government officials, Democrat and Republican, are shamelessly unwilling to question the results of their actions. Or, God forbid, they are more than happy to incarcerate and rob their neighbors, regardless of what is right. As stated in our Declaration of Independence, government officials derive their power from the consent of the governed. However, all too often, they extrapolate your consent from the absence of your voice. This is true whether you were aware of their plans or not, whether they gave you notice or not. In this case, the city of Santa Barbara believed that their residents consent to being put in chains, thrown behind bars, and forced to surrender a large amount of money—for handing out straws.

Far too many of elected officials view their positions in this way. They utilize the force that we give to them to execute an agenda that is not within the purview of government. Santa Barbara is a prime example, and certainly won’t be the last, of the dangerous precedent that government can set for itself. The City Council passed a vulgar display of power that only government can wield—a display that serves as an early warning to lovers of freedom and their fellow man. It shows us how far governments are willing to go to repress those who are living under their influence, and how little they regard you.

“…Laws should be limited in their application to violations of the rights of others through force or
fraud, or to deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm.”
-Libertarian Party Plank 1.7 Crime and Justice

The Libertarian party of Colorado believes that the environment can be defended without the threat of violence from government officials, that you and your neighbors can do more than government—that your voice always matters. There are those seeking office in Colorado who will surely follow the example set forth in Santa Barbara. Governments should never punish the people for exercising their free will. When governments can place you in chains for utilizing your free will, that is tyranny. When governments allow your goodness to shine–when they do not restrict you–there is healing, there is peace, and there is innovation. Freedom from government overreach should be what we all aim for, lest we end up in chains and behind bars, for using plastic straws and paper napkins.

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