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Freedom Grows Dim



July 24, 2011 – Comments (5)

Having set minimum efficiency standards for cars and appliances, it is no surprise that some in the Federal Government will attempt to take steps to free us from our oil addiction by mandating increased lighting efficiency.

In fact, despite the Government hating that never ends, there might be some unintended consequences that work out well for me over time.

One of the most amazing discoverys I have made is that all those nincompoops who posted that we could never buy incandescants again should have consulted light bulb manufacturers instead of radio and tv personalitys. In fact Philips VP Randall Moorehead has been quoted as saying “Everyone In The Industry Knew … We Could Still Make Incandescent Light Bulbs” Under The New Standards". It is amazing how many were so fearful of never being able to illuminate the dark again, they simultaneously failed to illuminate us.

I also learned that more efficient light bulbs will destroy the economy and reduce GDP. Has anyone told the politicians what they are doing to us? It turns out that more efficient lighting means lower electricity usage, which in turn means lower electric bills, which in turn means I keep more of my own money in my own pocket rather than contribute it to GDP growth through my electric bill. Since my cost of living will be lower, I might be able to pass those savings on to you, my employer or my customers, rather than having to raise prices to pay for electricity. That is one theory, another is that I will raise prices anyway and keep the change!

Since these efficient incandescants last longer and will be replaced less often, that will be another devastating blow to an economy desperate to recover it's inexorable transfer of my pitiful income to wealthy investors in electric companys. Of course when our money is not transferred to wealthy investors, we get to keep it. This is yet another example of Government at its worst! But I can use a few extra bucks in my pocket, so I guess I can stand it.

As we all know from earlier posts on the subject this efficiency standard was legislated in 2007 and the efficiency standards are phased in from 2012 until 2014 nationwide. Unfortunately we also know that Government intervention into free market forces suppresses innovation. “There’s a massive misperception that incandescents are going away quickly,” said Chris Calwell, a researcher with Ecos Consulting who studies the bulb market. “There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades" . This quote seems to violate the free market belief that Government legislation supresses innovation, but don't be fooled into thinking that Government legislation spurred innovation. We all know it just doesn't!

I am not sure what I will do with the savings from the first new electric bulb I am dragged kicking and screaming to buy against my will, but I certainly will not happily buy more efficient incandescants and save even more money. Maybe I will just burn it to spite global warming and protest against me saving money.

Best wishes,



5 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On July 24, 2011 at 8:44 PM, ChrisGraley (28.49) wrote:

I didn't need the government to tell me it was cost effective to switch to LED's.

But the government mandate herds the guy that doesn't know any better to CFL's which will eventually kill his family.

Or even if he is lucky enough not to break one, when he throws it in the trash, he'll poison the rest of us.

Don't worry, big daddy government will eventually spend even more money to force us to do something else when another bulb company comes around with campaign contributions. 


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#2) On July 24, 2011 at 8:55 PM, FleaBagger (27.52) wrote:

You're probably right that this law benefitted you. It may have even benefitted most of us. The people who suffer are those who would have started innovative businesses with the capital that was instead invested in reconciling the difference between congressional mandates and consumer mandates (to wit, no CFL's in our homes, at all, ever, and no $10 light bulbs, either - I'm looking at you, LED's). Yes, like so many laws congress passes, this one has demonstrable benefits. In fact, this one has less tangible resultant harm than most. But, if we dismount from our high horses and really investigate what is unseen, in the spirit of Henry Hazlitt, we may find that there was a tremendous investment that went into making these innovations in lighting, and not a magical investment that came out of thin air, but one that could have gone into other things that consumers wanted more than more efficient light bulbs, which, by definition, there was not enough demand for to justify the investment until the choice was "innovate better incandescents, suffer through CFL's and their mercury, or pay $10+ per bulb for LED's."

The cost of innovating more efficient incandescents was not worth it to America until congress took away our freedom of choice. I'm pro-choice. Obviously, you're not.

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#3) On July 24, 2011 at 8:58 PM, JakilaTheHun (99.92) wrote:


The problem, as I see it, is that we never have full information.  Through research, usage, and experimentation, we learn more about things over time.  And private actors are able to respond much more quickly to new information than slow-moving government actors. 

Fluorescents are known to have some risks, including the potential for mercury contamination and emission of UV radiation.  We believe the benefits outweigh the risks, but let's say hypothetically, that new scientific research suggests that the bulbs do more contamination than thought and pose major environmental problems. 

And let's say there's been no advancement in bulbs other than fluorescents.  (Let's say no LEDs.)   So incadescents become the best environmental option in this scenario. 

Only problem is, now a bill will have to work its way through both houses of Congress and be signed by the President in order to undo the damage.  And let's say it's not Congress's first priority.  And maybe the political party in power is not amenable. 

Then what happens?  You're stuck with the more environmentally destructive option until a decade or so down the road when Congress finally repeals the previous bill. 


Maybe this is unlikely with bulbs, but there are countless examples of this happening with other technologies.  Government actors decide to promote an objective, they pass a regulation, or create a subsidy, and then later information reveals the problems associated with this technology.  Except, now, there are entrenched economic interest working against repealing the regulation or subsidy. 

This should sound very familiar because it's exactly what happened with oil and the automobile.  The reason why America has so much sprawl, highways, and auto emissions is precisely because regualtions, subsidies, and taxes (on the railroads) that were thought to be beneficial in the early to mid 20th Century --- now in 2011, we know a lot of these things have major problems. 

But it's difficult to change things, because the oil and auto industries are very powerful now. 


While I don't necessarily have much of a problem with the incadescent ban (I don't plan on buying them again, as it's cheaper to use fluorescents anyway), the sort of reasoning that government mandates are automatically the best solution to a problem is extraordinarily flawed.  

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#4) On July 24, 2011 at 9:06 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

Freedom through coercion.  Indeed, this how governments always provide freedom ;)

David in Qatar

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#5) On July 25, 2011 at 11:00 PM, tomlongrpv (54.48) wrote:

Devoish  Your logic sounds good to me.  If we look back in history wasn't it true that the invention of more efficient transporation also endangered the economy.  Those trains with many carriages and, worst of all, the horseless carriage, eliminated many strong and growing areas of the economy--like making buggy whips and cleaning up horse manure (you can't use the s word here--sorry).  Now someone wants to diminish jobs changing light bulbs and dealing with the disposal and recycling of the old bulbs.  How terrible!  We need to stick with the short-sighted "free markets" that whereaminow and the other anti government types so value.

It always costs more money up front to do things more efficiently and there is always the free rider problem.  If some of the anti regulation types had their way we would all be choking to death because coal is a way cheaper means to heat houses and power vehicles.  Sure it pollutes the air, but it costs a little more money to pick cleaner alternatives and enough other people won't do it that I am going to choke anyway so I may as well save some money too.  We are a society of free riders.

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