One of the saddest aspects of the Eric Garner case was the absurdly small-fry crime for which he was being arrested. Selling single cigarettes? That’s what he lost his life over? Critics pointed to New York City’s insanely high taxes on cigarettes as the cause of the black market, and more than a few commentators said that Garner’s death was an indirect result of an overbearing nanny state.

Those arguments were lost in the insistence that “black lives matter,” and it appears that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ignored them altogether. At least, that’s what you’d have to think considering his latest move. Instead of moving towards healing the fractured relationship between himself and his police officers, de Blasio has turned his eye toward the society-killing menace that is styrofoam. In a move that will surely make New York a much better place for all, he has announced a ban on plastic foam food containers, effective in July.

“These products cause real environmental harm and have no place in New York City,” said de Blasio in his statement announcing the new law.

While it’s unlikely that the ban on styrofoam containers will lead to a black market, it will undoubtedly raise consumer costs and force vendors to use more expensive alternatives to meet customer needs. That said, it will cut down on landfill waste and in the grand scheme of things, is hardly a regulation worth getting into a twist about.

One More Strike Against Freedom

The problem isn’t so much the ban itself, but rather the incremental government encroachment that never seems to end. Officials from city mayors to governors to congressmen to presidents should be looking for ways to remove government from the private sector whenever possible. Instead, we are on a conveyor belt of more regulation, more laws, more fines, and more government interference at every possible level.

It has gotten to the point where people talk about American “freedom” in sarcastic tones. While Americans still enjoy more individual freedom than most other country’s citizens, our government is seemingly hell-bent on making that reality a thing of the past. And sadly, it doesn’t feel as though there is a particularly strong coalition of resistance. If there was, this wouldn’t be happening.

These kinds of laws always seem relatively harmless, benign, and sensible. It’s their cumulative effect that begins to stifle competition and kill the economy. But beyond their actual aims and effects, the overarching effect is one that steals our freedom bit by bit. It’s like the story of how a frog won’t jump out of a boiling pot of water as long as the heat is turned up gradually. I fear this is the state of American freedom, with our liberties being stolen so gradually that we barely notice their disappearance.

Chalk another win up for the environmental left. At least someone’s happy.