The progressive brain is ever active, always searching for new ways to expand the power and reach of government. Absolutely determined to perfect humanity for its own good—whether it likes it or not—no facet of human experience is too small, too trivial for the benevolent ministrations of government ministers. As a matter of fact, the less humanity likes such ministrations, the more progressive ministers like it. A case in point is brought to our attention by Kevin Williamson at National Review. Readers will not be astonished to learn that it takes place in Seattle: 

The geniuses who govern the city of Seattle have passed a law mandating that no more than 10 percent of the garbage produced by any household, multifamily dwelling, or business be composed of material that is recyclable or compostable. At the moment, violators are receiving warning tags on their garbage, but in January they’ll start receiving fines. The fines are not really punitive — at $1 per violation for individuals and $50 for businesses, they’re more a form of harassment.

Naturally, you’re wondering whether Seattle’s city fathers have sent the city’s garbage men to a seminar on solving Fermi questions. It is, after all, the trash-collectors, along with a team of special agents tasked with running down composting violators (one wonders whether that is a red notice or a black notice on the Interpol system), who are empowered to make judgments about the constitution of trash hauls and to issue fines. Strangely, this is not the case; those familiar with such training as has been undertaken to meet the challenge of outlaw garbage have been told, essentially, ‘Use your best judgment,’ and try to visually divide any given quantum of garbage into tenths. This approach to the non-compost menace is non compos mentis.

“Special composting violation agents?!” Who would seek such a distinction? Is there a special, secret training facility, perhaps hidden in an extinct volcano? What would be the course of training? Intelligence gathering? Hand to hand combat? Marksmanship? Methods of searching trash? Turning suburban housewives to become double agents, informing on their neighbor’s garbage?

Special composting Agent James Trash thrust his manly chest against Mrs. Betrayal’s heaving bosom. He could feel her heart racing, her warm, silken flesh a torrent of moist heat.

“Is that your citation book,” she whispered huskily, “or are you just happy to see me?”

“Never mind that. Do you have the evidence on your next door neighbor?”

“Oh! Oh! Oh James!” she moaned as he expertly caressed her waste receptacle, determining at a touch that she was below the 10% threshold. He wouldn’t have to bust her—today. His guitar-heavy theme song played in the background…

Ah, the romance of authority, hard men saving the unsuspecting, oblivious public…

Our friends at the Pacific Legal Foundation are doing what they do best, which is taking boneheaded, overreaching government agencies to court to force them to mind the law at least, if not good judgment. [skip]

‘Pacific Legal’s case against the Seattle garbage Gestapo is two-pronged: For one, the Washington state constitution contains privacy guarantees in excess of those secured by the Fourth Amendment, and the state’s supreme court has already ruled that police officers cannot search through a private party’s garbage without a warrant. Second, there is no avenue for challenging the findings of the city’s garbage police, no appellate process for adjudicating disputes about the contents of a Hefty Steel Sak. If you suspect that your local garbage agent has misjudged the proportion of stale Froot-Loops and moldy quinoa in your domestic waste — even if you can prove it — you have no recourse.

“But James,” Mrs. Betrayal groaned, her voice quivering like a limp, discarded cucumber in James’ iron grasp. “How can I tell she’s exceeded the 10% mandate? I’m not a trained special composting agent like you.”

“We all have to make sacrifices,” James growled as he roughly took her in his irresistible embrace, depositing her on her kitchen counter. “Maintaining the ecological balance is vital.”

“Oh James!” she exclaimed, her passion for waste disposal rising in an irresistible tide of cascading refuse.

However laudable’ brings up a good question. There is no evidence that this sort of household-level recycling (as opposed to mass automated recycling in industrial facilities) actually provides any meaningful environmental benefit, once all the involved energy expenditures are accounted for. Progressives are forever preening about their commitment to science, but curbside recycling is little if anything more than ritual.

The progressive mind has an addiction to phony precision: Seattle’s 90 percent recyclable-free garbage, Barack Obama’s $2,500 average reduction in annual health-insurance premiums, Paul Krugman’s serial predictions of an imminent euro collapse (eleven of them by Niall Ferguson’s counting) based on the very best and most precise economic data, pretty much everything Vox has ever published, etc. The euro is still there, and health-insurance premiums have gone up, rather than down, in the Obamacare era. If Seattle wants to enact a 90-percent standard, then Seattle should be made to enforce a 90-percent standard — i.e., the garbage cops should be made to weigh the garbage — rather than rely on guestimates.

“If you want me, and a sustainable refuse policy, you have to do what’s necessary,” James whispered into Betrayal’s ear, sending a shiver flashing up her Hefty bag.

“Well, I did help her put a couple bags in her trash can, and it felt like at least 12% to me…”

James dropped her like a moldy musk melon, whirling about and running for the kitchen door, keying the microphone on his secret communicator as he rushed to do his duty. “Trash here, we have a hot one. Prepare the Recycling Enforcement Team and get the truck ready!”

“Oh James, you’re so sustainable,” Betrayal oozed as she smoothed her teddy, made of meticulously recycled fibers. She knew she’d never recycle like that again. Through her kitchen window, she watched the RET, led by Trash, toss her zip-tied neighbor into the back of the trash truck and roar down the street. As the wave of righteous lust for the environment overtook her and she shuddered uncontrollably, she could almost see Trash smiling in satisfaction, another vital offal mission brought to its inevitable climax…