Americans are smart enough to decide for themselves which products they’d prefer to use. It’s only inferior or unnecessary products (think of ethanol) that require congressional intervention to survive. Useful or innovative products (iPods, cell phones) thrive on their own.
Not surprisingly, this is exactly what’s happening. Steve Rosenstock of the Edison Electric Institute says compact fluorescent lights make up more than 20 percent of bulbs sold in the U.S., up from just 1 percent in 2001. The market is working, as it always does when lawmakers stay out of the way.
The light bulb ban isn’t the first time Congress has attempted to protect Americans from wastefulness. Some years ago, lawmakers outlawed toilets that use more than 1.6 gallons per flush. The low-flow toilets don’t work as well, of course. Ironically they often require several flushes to, shall we say, get the job done.
Reflecting on the failure of a well-intentioned federal law, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said it made him “wonder what ever became of our capacity to govern ourselves.” Simply put, that ability goes away when Washington tries to regulate everything.
Here’s a brighter idea: Let’s allow Americans to choose our own light bulbs. And let the best bulb burn on.