For Your Own Good

Jacob Sullum at Reason comments on the government’s new imperative to demand that you purchase a more efficient and cost effective product that costs you 10 times more than the more popular model.

Jenkins says those efficiency standards are clearly justified because the industry supports them and because they benefit consumers, who will save enough money on electricity to more than make up for higher bulb prices. Consumers, of course, have always been free to take advantage of this bargain, and the vast majority have not: According to the Energy Department (PDF), more than 80 percent of residential light sockets were still occupied by standard incandescent bulbs last year. Because consumers are too stupid to perceive the clear advantages of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), LED bulbs, halogen bulbs, or the new, extra-efficient incandescents, they must be forced to buy them. Is it surprising that manufacturers support a law that allows them to foist newer, more expensive products on customers who otherwise would pass them up?

Jenkins accuses Barton of misleading the public by “saying that bulbs meeting the new standards are cost prohibitive.” In fact, Jenkins says, “a Philips incandescent bulb that meets the new standards currently sells for $1.49, lasts about 50 percent longer than older incandescent bulbs, and saves consumers more than $3.00 in energy expenditures.” He presumably is referring to the Philips EcoVantage bulb. By his own account, it costs nearly five times as much as a standard 100-watt incandescent bulb, which can be had for 31 cents (in a $2.48 eight-pack) at Lowe’s. But I can’t find a vendor that sells the EcoVantage equivalent of that 31-cent bulb for less than $3 (in a $5.99 two-pack), almost 10 times as much.

This urge to force you to buy things you don’t want for your own, stupid, ignorant good really seems to be taking of in the government today. I guess they figured that if you need their guidance to buy health insurance, you’re probably too stupid to pick out your own light bulbs, either. After all, CFLs and LED lights are superior to incandescent bulbs in all respects, and if you were smart, you’d know that …

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  1. #1 by Annoymouse on Mon 05 Sep 2011 - 00:04

    Just as the govt figured out how to make the conservatives chase their own tails, the democrats are fully exploiting the paradox of low govt trust but high level of desired action for the environment to rip people off

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