It is a measure of the corroding progress of “Progressivism” that the federal government has mandated that we turn off our minds. That is, it has ordered light bulb manufacturers to cease making residential incandescent light bulbs (the wattage is irrelevant) that we have used for over a century, and purchase the new LED bulbs or the pigtail, mercury-filled bulbs.
The cartoon light bulb has served for decades as a symbol of an individual having an idea, of an individual thinking. This is the latest episode of the government vandalizing our minds.
Has the government really ordered us not to think, not to have ideas? Yes. We are no longer allowed to exercise our personal choices concerning light bulbs. Or health care insurance. Or gun ownership. Or the schools Americans send their children to, and what they learn in them. Or smoking. Or the foods we eat, or the beverages we drink. Or the gasoline we can afford or prefer to put in our tanks. And et cetera. The list of government violations of our rights, of the usurpations of our freedoms, of the steady invasions of our lives by fiat law, is long and wearisome to read. If compiled – and I’m sure someone or some organization has undertaken the task – it would be thousands of pages high – higher than the Affordable Care Act – and a big chunk of them, at the bottom of the stack, would be yellow with age.
We are no longer permitted to think that we have choices. The government has made or will make the choices for us. The lights that will turn on in our minds will be government lights. Doubtless, penalties will soon be imposed on anyone using an incandescent bulb in his home or office.
It’s all in the name of “public service,” or the environment, or the planet, or energy conservation, or “efficiency standards.” This is the nature of statism. In particular, of fascism.
In 2007, Congress voted to phase out the incandescent light bulb at the behest of environmentalists and sundry other collectivist groups. The effective date was set for January 1st, 2014. A feeble attempt was made by some in Congress to repeal or emasculate the law. It failed. Many Americans noted the passage of the law, then, in the midst of other crises, their attention was diverted and it was promptly forgotten.
But destroying the incandescent bulb wasn’t necessary, said Congress. It isn’t even true. We still permit you a choice. All the incandescent bulb must do is meet our energy consumption requirements. Then you’ll be free to manufacture it, and Americans will be free to purchase it.
Of course, like all Congressional standards, the bar was set so high it was out of sight. There was no way any incandescent bulb could meet such criteria. Everyone knew it. Especially the bulb manufacturers.
Fox News was virtually the sole mainstream news outlet that didn’t chortle or snicker about this latest assumption of power. In its December 31st news item, it reported:
When the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, the year ends — and so does the ordinary lightbulb.
Jan. 1. marks the end of a seven-year effort to outlaw the ordinary lightbulb, thanks to a 2007 law that raised minimum efficiency standards for traditional incandescent bulbs far beyond what the technology can manage.
It’s lights out for the traditional light bulb, in other words, which was essentially killed by that bill.
Fox News quoted a staffer at the Heritage Foundation about the wisdom of the ban.
“The federal government is taking decisions out of the hands of families and businesses, destroying jobs, and restricting consumer choice in the market. We all have a wide variety of preferences regarding light bulbs. It is not the role of the federal government to override those preferences with what it believes is in our best interest,” wrote Nicholas Loris.
The Fox News item discusses the “pros” and “cons” of differences between incandescent and the new LED and pigtail bulbs. (Yes, they’re commonly called “twisties,” but there are some nicknames I refuse to help propagate.)
Contrary to some reports, the 2007 law doesn’t mandate that manufacturers discontinue their bulbs, just that they improve them: 40W bulbs must draw just 10.5W, and 60W bulbs 11W. The result is the same: Incandescents simply can’t keep up with those twisty compact fluorescent (CFL) and newer LED bulbs, and even retailers are buying in bulk as the calendar winds down.
Home Depot has a six-month stockpile, according to Mark Voykovic, the store’s national light bulb merchant. “Home Depot anticipates running out of their stock of 40W to 60W bulbs six months into 2014,” he told Fox News.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, I would give that stockpile between one and two months before its gone.
The New York Times chortled in high gear. In David Pogue’s March 23rd 2013 article, “New Reasons to Change Light Bulbs,” it opened with:
People sometimes have trouble making small sacrifices now that will reward them handsomely later. How often do we ignore the advice to make a few diet and exercise changes to live a longer, healthier life? Or to put some money aside to grow into a nest egg? Intellectually, we get it – but instant gratification is a powerful force.
You don’t have to be one of those self-defeating rubes. Start buying LED light bulbs….
…LED bulbs are a gigantic improvement over incandescent bulbs and even the compact fluorescents, or CFLs, that the world spent several years telling us to buy.
Well, I guess the U.S. must catch up with the rest of the world. Thomas Edison can go fry an egg. You’re just a gun-toting, rights-quoting, unpatriotic rube who refuses to sacrifice for the common good if you don’t see the wisdom of buying LED or CFL bulbs. Most bulb manufacturers agree. What was that lyric from The Producers?
“Don’t be stupid!
Be a Smarty!
Come and join the Nazi Party!”
And, like most German businesses and industrial giants who supported Hitler, and after his accession to power in 1933, offered him the leashes with which to fashion around their necks, ours all heeled on order from Washington D.C.
The rest of the world means the European Union. I haven’t read any news stories about how the African and South American continents are struggling with light bulbs. A more recent New York Times article of November 1st, “This Little LED of Mine,” by Diane Cardwell reminded us:
European regulators have also been pushing consumers to switch to more efficient bulbs. Last year, the European Union completed its phaseout of 40-watt bulbs, the last common incandescent model still available.
And federal regulators here seem to be in cahoots with the manufacturers.
For several years, manufacturers have been making LED lights that increasingly mimic incandescents, while steadily bringing down their prices. Big-box retailers like Wal-Mart are jumping into the market, offering their own brands of the bulbs, often for $10 or less.
Regulators are getting involved, too. The Environmental Protection Agency recently finished overhauling lighting standards for its Energy Star program, making it easier for more LEDs to qualify for generous discounts. And California, a leader in all things green, is going even further, with elaborate new requirements to control not just how much electricity the bulbs use but how the light feels.
Am I exaggerating or hallucinating when I accuse America manufacturers of cooperating with a fascist scheme to subject Americans to the will of Washington? Well, let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth. Fox News also had this to report:
While consumers might not appreciate the drop in choices, they should like their plunging energy bills, said the National Electrical Manufacturers Association – the main trade association for bulb builders.
“NEMA’s members are in the energy efficiency business,” Phallan Davis, a spokeswoman for NEMA, told FoxNews.com. “Electroindustry products are becoming more and more energy efficient and the systems that often manage their use add to energy and cost savings. NEMA believes that energy efficiency policies, for the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, should be a central component to any national energy policy,” she said.
And those “energy efficient” policies will join the nutrition efficiency policies, and the health efficiency policies, and environmental efficiency policies, and solar efficiency policies, and the banking efficiency policies, and every other efficiency policy an ambitious policy creator can imagine and shepherd through the venal, corrupt halls of Congress.
There are countless Americans who are completely oblivious to the fundamental issues, such as Katherine Salant, whose November 19th Washington Post article, “Say goodbye to the incandescent bulb,” is a front-seat demonstration of myopic pragmatism:
Though the LEDs are not exact equivalents of the 60-watt bulbs they replace, they are close enough that most consumers will not, in my estimation, experience much of a change (when I tried several in my own house, my husband didn’t notice a thing).
Based on my home testing, and rating five LED 60-watt equivalents for both price and performance, the two that seemed the best bet for most homeowners are CREE’s “Soft White LED 60 watt Replacement” and Philips “11w – 60w,” (available at Home Depot for $12.97 and $14.97 respectively). They are both Energy Star rated, which means that they are both eligible for rebates when local utilities offer them.
In addition to a pleasing color of light (they each are 2700 degrees Kelvin, close to the 2800 degrees for an incandescent 60-watt bulb), both bulbs have excellent “light distribution.” That is, when switched on, the light shines both up and down, making these suitable for reading as well as for general use.
There you have it, from an expert who has a degree in architecture from Harvard. Like the global warming issue (aka the “climate change” issue), the lumen “science” is settled. She’s “tested” it. You, too, won’t experience much of a change. The test, after all, is about near-equivalence. Rights? What rights? What has politics to do with the issue? Are you with the Tea Party or something? Go away. I’m not interested in that intellectual stuff.
The advocates of the new bulbs and their friends in the press keep blithely nattering away about the alleged energy cost reductions and longevity that would balance out the prices of the new bulbs, as though that will compensate for being denied the choice of setting one’s own standards. But are those germane, legitimate issues? Where in the Constitution is the article that empowers Congress to regulate candle light, or gaslight, or electric lights? Some facetious Supreme Court justice might cite the commerce clause or the “public welfare” clause, as the Court did when it sanctioned ObamaCare, or socialized medicine and health care.
The energy consumption comparisons are irrelevant. The brightness differences are irrelevant. The costs are irrelevant. The issue is not whether or not the new bulbs are any better or last longer. The issue is the government robbing Americans of their freedom of choice, with the assistance of America businesses and manufacturers, who cave at the first sign of government interest in what they are doing or not doing.
Thomas Edison did not work under government orders or try to comply with government standards, nor would he wish to. Today, his freedom of thought has been abolished by the “efficiency” experts of a vast bureaucracy. And so has ours.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Edward Cline is the author of the Sparrowhawk series of novels set in England and Virginia in the decades leading up to the American Revolution, and also of Whisper the Guns and First Prize. His essays, books reviews, and other nonfiction have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and other periodicals. He is a frequent contributor to Rule of Reason and The Dougout.