November 28, 2020

Gen Z Conservative

The thoughts of a young conservative on political issues relevant to all ages

Is American plastic pollution problematic?

Is American Plastic Pollution Problematic?

My Take:

Just look at the above graphic. For all that’s discussed in the Mainstream Media, what does the extent of American pollution really look like to you? Is American plastic pollution problematic, or just a scapegoat the left uses to implement restrictive economic policies?

In my opinion, it is definitely the latter. American plastic pollution is just nowhere near the scale of some other countries. Yes, we do probably pollute too much. But just look at the others on the list; despite having far smaller economies than America’s, they still manage to pollute far greater amounts. Sure, all pollution is a problem if it depletes our food supply or negatively impacts our health, but it looks like plastic straws and coke-bottle rings aren’t all that much of a problem.

What is? Disastrous policies in both the third and first world that have pushed developing nations to adopt unsustainable industrial and waste management systems.

Our agricultural subsidies for American farmers destroy the ability of former farmers in those nations to compete with cheap, subsidized American products. So, they go to work in factories. Once there, they have to cope with inhumane working conditions because there is such a labor surplus.

Furthermore, those companies operate under government oversight that is generally lax at best, so they pollute as much as they like. Then, the oceans are filled with trash and some annoying brat at the UN says we need to ban plastic straws.

So, is American plastic pollution problematic? No, it’s absolutely minuscule, as I discussed briefly in my opinion piece on climate change. But, American farm policies, especially the ridiculous subsidies given to farmers, are causing second- and third-order problems.


As a fisherman, I hate the pollution of our waterways. Fly fishing is a wonderful sport, but few people will be able to enjoy it if we keep polluting. That’s why I’m writing about this. We need to address the actual problems, not made up ones. And anyone who answers “is American plastic pollution problematic?” with a “yes” is simply lying. Southeast Asia is the problem, not the US.

I’m not some Social Justice Warrior that cares deeply about climate change or working conditions in the developing world. Minimum wage laws are ridiculous everywhere they are tried because they work by distorting the labor market, and most of the current climate consensus is founded on nothing more than climate change lies.

But, I do think that if we are to be as prosperous as possible, we should apply the lessons learned in Rich Habits to all aspects of life and learn about and fix what we are doing wrong.

And what we are doing wrong is continuing to allow American subsidies to distort labor conditions in developing countries to the point where basically anything goes. The rising tide of capitalism lifts all boats and helps the poor, but only if free trade is truly free. It won’t work if it’s shaped by tariffs, subsidies, or restrictions on either side.

There are conservative, capitalist approaches to pollution. Milton Friedman even addresses them in Capitalism and Freedom! Of course there are; as in every other aspect of life, the classic law of private innovation and government stagnation holds true. Private solutions always beat public projects.

Most of the capitalist, free-market solutions involve simply informing consumers and workers about which employers pollute the most. No one wants to work somewhere or buy a product from a company that is polluting their source of water with plastic. But right now, that’s happening because of a lack of knowledge and labor market distortions.

Those problems are easily fixable, we just have to try to fix them. America’s pollution isn’t a problem. However, some of its trade and domestic agricultural policies are problematic from a free trade and pollution standpoint.

By: Gen Z Conservative

Image at top By Our World In Data –, CC BY 3.0,

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