Free Markets, Free People


Government coercion, crony capitalism and freedom limiting laws — see light bulb ban

Reading a POLITICO article today, I found it pointed like a blazing neon sign to one of the persistent problems crony capitalism brings us each and every day.  And the result is less choice (i.e. freedom) and competition as industry and government team up to limit both.

This concerns the incandescent light bulb ban that was voted into existence by Congress and signed into law by President Bush.  It was all supposedly done for our own good (you know, that well worn path to hell paved with good intentions) – incandescent bulbs are considered “inefficient” and used more energy than the new, green bulb of choice that the government thinks you should use. 

Of course the government also knows that if left it up to you to choose, you most likely wouldn’t choose the bulb government prefers. 

So instead of letting you and the market decide, Congress decided to use its power of coercion to do that for you.  One less thing to worry your silly little head over prole.

And so the ban went into effect and the industry began to plan and change over.  Now, read this from the POLITICO story:

Big companies like General Electric, Philips and Osram Sylvania spent big bucks preparing for the standards, and the industry is fuming over the GOP bid to undercut them.

After spending four years and millions of dollars prepping for the new rules, businesses say pulling the plug now could cost them. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has waged a lobbying campaign for more than a year to persuade the GOP to abandon the effort.

Manufacturers are worried that the rider will undermine companies’ investments and “allow potential bad actors to sell inefficient light bulbs in the United States without any fear of federal enforcement,” said Kyle Pitsor, the trade group’s vice president of government relations.

So, if industry wants these rules, why is the GOP grinding them to a halt? Republicans say they’re pro-choice when it comes to light bulbs.

Government intrudes and makes a decision that circumvents the market and removes your ability to choose.  Another example of picking winners and losers, something for which it has a dismal record.   And for 4 years the industry is forced to spend money it might not have spent to retool and prepare to abide by the bad law.   It certainly makes sense that they’d be quite put out at a change in that law now because while they’re not prepared to meet the demand for incandescent bulbs.  So they claim to “fear” that “bad actors” might sell “inefficient light bulbs” in the US if it is repealed.

Really?  Like the market wouldn’t weed out “bad actors” fairly quickly?  No, what manufacturers now want is government, who made the law, to protect their 4 year investment based on that law.   Funny how that works isn’t it?

This is about nothing more than industry petitioning government to protect the investment forced on industry by government.  And why does it feel it must be protected?  Because if it isn’t, the market will most likely reject the government’s preferred product, a product on which these manufacturers have the inside track for providing.  Jacob Sullum at Hit and Run lays it out:

"A host of more efficient products already line store shelves." The [NY] Times concedes that "many of the alternatives to incandescent bulbs are more expensive." In fact, all of them are, including compact fluorescent lamps (which cost about six times as much as standard incandescents), halogen bulbs (10 times), the new extra-efficient incandescents (ditto), and LEDs (80 times). Why pay so much more, especially when—as with CFLs, the cheapest alternative—performance may be inferior? Supposedly because you save enough on energy and replacement costs to justify the investment. If so, why not let bulb manufacturers make that case to consumers, who can then decide for themselves?

Why? Because you proles can’t be trusted to choose the right way, that’s why. That was the entire point about passing the law in the first place.  Lawmakers felt that the decision must be forced on the populace, because if left to the populace they’d most likely choose the “wrong” product because it fits their needs and wallet better than the government preferred one.

All of this based in the specious science that we’re causing global warming by burning fossil fuels.  And those fuels power these inefficient bulbs.  It is up to government to rectify the situation by forcefully limiting our choices by banning certain products via law with the ultimate aim of eventually banning fossil fuel altogether –  something that is cheap and which we have in abundance.   Of course, the means of banning fossil fuels will be much more subtle than just an outright ban.  Government will do its best to make it cost prohibitive to use such fuel.  It’s permatorium, the probable nixing of the Keystone XL pipeline and implementation of policies via EPA over-reach that will raise energy prices and cause energy poverty among a large portion of the population.

But remember, government knows best.

But this case is incredible in the fact that because of bad law,  you have industry in the position of asking the bad law be enforced.  If the ban on the incandescent bulb is lifted, the guarantee the law promised them for a high-margin return on their investment is in jeopardy.  Sullum picks up the absurd argument that follows that absurd situation:

Aren’t Republicans supposed to be pro-business? Sometimes they are actually pro-market instead, and this is one of those cases. A spokesman for Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claims "the only people we are aware of who have opposed the bulb standards are some politicians and some conservative commentators." If legislators, regulators, environmentalists, and even the industry all agree this mandate is a good idea, why would consumers object? Maybe because the whole premise of the policy is that their choices do not matter because they are too stupid to know their own interests.

Bingo.

Whatever happened to the premise of freedom of choice?   Whatever happened to the idea that government was the servant, not the master?  Who was it that decided the government should be deciding what we use to light our homes, fuel our cars or any of a myriad of other things it has decided over the decades it should choose instead of you?

This is where it inevitably leads.  This is a case study in government over-reach and how it incrementally bleeds your freedoms away.  In my opinion all laws such as the ban on incandescent light bulbs is the modern version of the Intolerable Acts.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks

10 Responses to Government coercion, crony capitalism and freedom limiting laws — see light bulb ban

  • Note, too, the disparity between the hours of life for the “high-efficiency” bulb and the old bulb: 1250 versus 5000 hours.

    What’s “efficient” about that?

  • Democracy is great, except when the proles think the wrong way

  • Bruce, I don’t want to dispute your main claim in this article, but LED’s are no longer anywhere near 80 times the cost of incandescent s. They are about 10 times right now, and at that price they are a good bargain, especially here in the south.

    WHY? Because they last a very very long time, use much less energy but also produce far less excess heat. All that excess heat can cause you to use a lot of expensive air conditioning.

    Your main point still stands, it is not up to the government to tell us what light bulbs to use, or what type of toilet to flush, or how much salt we eat. But I like my LED lights, I am slowly replacing all of my lights as they burn out.

  • Well said, Bruce. I think we’ve been saying the same thing for a few years now, but it bears repeating: government intervention doesn’t prevent Big Business from taking over, it fosters that take over. When we let the market decide, then we may not get the optimal outcomes from some people’s view, but we get what most people want by definition.

  • This is a perfect example of how the federal government’s actions lead to the Panic of 2008.
    First, they meddle in the market, then the industry, which has adapted to the government’s meddling, asks for exactly what was intended by the meddling. Finally, it’s the industry that trying to change the whole system, not the government.

michael kors outlet michael kors handbags outlet michael kors factory outlet