Jeffrey Tucker over at Laissez Faire Books (Agora Financial) has posted a wonderful tirade today about a new set of government regulations which, as he put it, is “Regulators Destroying Your Home Appliances.” I liked his thought about turning washing machines into Washington machines, later in his article, so I kipped it for this commentary.
While you are there, you may enjoy reading Wendy McElroy’s latest, “Paper Money = Despotism.”)
He hit it dead on, but it is MORE than just appliances. This is done in the name of a bewildering array of causes, including:
- Consumer safety
- Energy conservation
- Water conservation
- Water quality (not the same as “conservation”)
- Fighting “manmade global warming” by limiting “greenhouse gases”
- Fighting the war on (some) drugs
- Fighting the war on obesity
- Fighting the war on terrorism
I am sure I could add many more. What have they done? (They being both the duly-elected and overly-paid congressmen and women, and the unelected and VERY overpaid bureaucrats, in cahoots with a veritable phylanx of special interest lobbying groups from Greenpeace and the Sierra Club to the various manufacturers’ associations.)
- Banning of incandescent light bulbs
- Limiting the amount of water you can use to flush a tank or urinal
- Banning of phosphates (and other enhancing additives) in detergents and other products
- Banning certain kinds of refrigerant in air conditioners, especially in motor vehicles (Freon and others)
- Reducing energy consumption of refrigerators, air conditioners, televisions, computer monitors, computers, washing machines, driers, and many more: the dishwasher fiasco Jeff mentions is just the latest and far from the last.
- Banning of certain pesticides
- Banning of certain food products or sizes (at least in certain places)
Again, the list can go on and on and DOES. Proving the old adage, “a government big enough to give you everything you ask for is powerful enough to take away everything you have.” One at a time, perhaps, and suitably phased in and with lots of opportunity for “stakeholder participation,” including community comment and all the rest of the bureaucratic and politician playbook. But sooner or later, EVERYTHING is at least considered for being modified, restricted, limited or outright banned. And for every item on the list above, you can be certain that there are a dozen more on someone’s legislative or regulatory waiting or to-do list.
Besides the obvious loss of our liberties: our ability to choose between the Edsel-Chevy Ecomizer 1.5-liter engine with 60 mpg and max two occupants, and the Ram-Benz MonsterMasher with the 8.9-liter engine and 10 mpg that can pull a small mountain of gravel; these actions damage us in many other ways.
- They NEVER cost less
- They make life harder
- They open the door for MORE regulation
- There is almost always a loophole to let the well-connected or wealthy or hermit work around
- They NEVER work to do what they are claimed to do: that first list of things.
Jeff points this out: we can’t count on a dishwasher to wash dishes any more. Or a washing to clean clothes any more. Or a lamp to work when we need it. And sadly, the ingenuity of inventors and manufacturers can’t seem to keep up with the inventiveness of the bureaucrats and the state-worshipers that conspire with them to fix just one more little thing. We invent the LED, and THEY come up with new regulations to make life still harder, despite the advantages. We invent the sonic cleaner and THEY prohibit its use around pets and children. We invent little orange plastic shovels to do our business when hiking through the wilderness and THEY prohibit us from doing that business unless we haul it out in a baggie. We invent cellular phones with 20 mile range and THEY limit the placement of the towers to ONLY locations with no more than a five-mile line of sight.
Twenty-six years ago, my wife and I moved back to the States from Germany and bought a washing machine and matching drier from one more company drummed out of business by regulation as much as competition (Montgomery Wards). We used those appliances (not high-end ones, by any means) for twenty-five years: the drier is still putting out the ergs but the washing machine finally died from lack of replacement parts. We were lucky and found a ten-year-old (more high-end) machine that was built before the last two go-arounds of regulations swept away more and more civilization; but we have little if any hope that machine will last more than another ten years. We KNOW we have the technology to build (here or in Korea) a washing machine that could have a warranty for thirty years and probably last for fifty, BUT… the Great Father in DC and all the lesser Great Fathers – and all too often the local City and County Fathers – won’t let us make or buy such a thing, due to several tens of thousands of regulations and interpretations and worse.
For a century or more, government has been the grit in the gears of our national economic machine, once the most productive and efficient and capable economy in the world and in history. That grit has worn down all the gears, smoothed all the teeth, scraped all the fittings down to bare metal and into the metal, and finally, all the TLC, all the lube, all the preventive maintenance in the world cannot deal with the conditions: the machine is grinding to a halt.
Not only does it appear that the next generation will be poorer, less educated, and above all, less free than past generations, it will be again burdened by having to do things that three or four generations now have NOT had to do: not just washing clothes and dishes by hand, not just peering blindly at a page until the light is bright enough to read the fine print, not just having to have a dozen different forms or cards or paper to be able to travel and do business, but the horror of knowing that there WAS a “brief, shining moment” that they and their children never shall see – because we let government destroy it.
We got into this mess because we shirked responsibility and failed to value and use our liberty as we should and could, and so let government take over our responsibility and use our liberty to enslave us. It was gradual, insidious, and buttressed by every good intention. None of us are opposed to clean water or clean air or a safe home or business or protection from those who use drugs and alcohol. But I like to think that the average human is smart enough to see, if it were all laid out, that it is NOT a good bargain to trade safety and security for liberty and freedom.
Jeffrey says that these regulations never go away, they just get more onerous and harder to understand and apply. But that is not ALWAYS the case, as Rome, France, and Russia have shown. All things come to an end – good AND bad. And this too shall pass.