Reeder: Time for lights out on intrusive government
By Scott Reeder firstname.lastname@example.org January 10, 2014 5:50PM
Updated: February 13, 2014 6:17AM
The other day I found myself standing on a bed, changing a light bulb on a ceiling fixture.
My 3-year-old Caitlin asked me, “What are you doing, Daddy?”
I replied, “Changing a light bulb.”
She then asked her favorite question, “Why?”
I wish I knew the answer to that one. You see the bulb I was replacing was one of those squiggly energy-efficient types — compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs — that are supposed to last at least five years. But this one burned out in less than one year.
You could say I learned my lesson and won’t replace it with a CFL bulb again.
But, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
As of Jan. 1, the U.S. government began phasing out 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs. Last year, it did away with 100-watt ones.
So we are stuck with what the government says we can have, not necessarily what we want.
I know, I know, I can hear the chorus of voices saying, “Scott, it’s only a light bulb.”
But it reflects a broader question in our society — where should power rest, with the individual or with government?
Given a chance, most people make wise choices. If CFL bulbs were superior to incandescent ones, people would gravitate toward using them because they knew over time that they would save money through lower electric bills.
Instead, government made the choice for us. To be more precise, the decision was made in 2007 by Congress and then-President George W. Bush.
But this sort of government-knows-best interference isn’t limited to light bulbs.
Hawaii has outlawed plastic shopping bags. And some folks would like the Land of Lincoln to follow suit.
Shouldn’t a question as basic as “paper or plastic?” be left in the hands of the consumer rather than some bureaucracy?
I shop at some stores where no grocery bags are provided. The savings are passed on to the consumer.
At other times when I shop for groceries, I ask for paper bags because they can be reused as canvases for my daughters’ latest coloring masterpieces.
My wife usually asks for plastic bags because they make excellent repositories for wet swimsuits and other messes produced by our children.
In other words, we have found ways as consumers to reduce and reuse without any interference from government.
It’s amazing how society can benefit from individuals making wise economic decisions for themselves.
And yet politicians continue to wade into the minutiae of our daily lives and try to make decisions for us.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. His reasoning? Pop makes people fat.
Well, Mike, people can count calories for themselves and make decisions on what’s best for them. They don’t need an autocratic billionaire to do so for them.
We need to be free to choose.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist-in-residence at the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group that supports the free market and limited government.