Robert Knight

Just to add perspective, this rush to regulate in the name of progress is a relatively new development. The U.S. government, for instance, did not have to issue a crackdown on horse doots and the hay industry to facilitate the mass switchover from ol’ Dobbin to the Model T.

Likewise, they did not have to punish Ma Bell in order to get us all off rotary units and into cell phones. Wait. They did. They broke up Ma Bell into seven Baby Bells. I stand corrected. But touch-tones and iPhones would have happened anyway because people like them and because Steve Jobs needed an outlet for his restless, entrepreneurial energy.

The point is, apart from the Space Program, which generated lots of technological breakthroughs on the taxpayer’s dime before Obama killed it, government does a lousy job of picking winners and losers compared to the free market. The freakishly expensive Solyndra boondoggle comes to mind, as do the billions spent on corn subsidies, ethanol mandates and light bulb dictates.

Sometimes, if left alone, things would head where liberals want them to go, but at a more natural pace. But liberals can’t resist using coercion, mostly through judicial activism and executive agency diktats.

Nothing illustrates this better than the Environmental Protection Agency’s war on coal-burning power plants, which still provide nearly half of the nation’s electricity.

Last July, the EPA issued a “final Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which requires reductions of sulfur-dioxide and nitrogen-oxide emissions in 23 Eastern and Midwestern states beginning next year, as well as seasonal ozone reductions in 28 states,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

In December, the EPA brought down the hammer with more rules that will cost America’s utilities (read: consumers) “almost $10 billion by 2015 alone,” according to the Edison Electric Institute, an industry trade group. Just what the economy needs.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has managed to force two coal-burning electric plants to announce sped-up closures. Less power to the people!

But here’s the thing. Electric companies are already phasing out coal because of the boom in cheaper, cleaner natural gas. And they’ve been adding equipment to make coal-fired plants greener. So the process was well underway, but as Barack Obama might say, apart from tapping new sources of oil, “We can’t wait!”

In California, utilities and businesses are about to be sacrificed on the altar of a cap-and-tax scheme hatched back in 2006. That’s when the legislature enacted the “Global Warming Solutions Act,” which turns the California Air Resources Board into a regulatory Godzilla.

The crackdown will not only please the fringe environmentalists that dominate the Democratic Party but will bring an estimated $14 billion a year into Sacramento’s depleted coffers.

Given the heavy hand on utilities of not only the EPA but Sacramento, it’s only a matter of time before the Golden State experiences power brownouts. Actually, a “brownout” in California refers to the times in between Gov. Moonbeam’s terms, so let’s use the word “blackout.”

The fact is, California is so besotted with liberalism that residents are getting numb to abuses of power, which liberals hope to export to the rest of America.

Last December, State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) actually threatened to introduce legislation to force home improvement chain Lowe’s to advertise on a Discovery Channel/TLC television show, “All-American Muslim.”

To a liberal, apparently there’s nothing more “all-American” than using government power to force a private company to buy ads favoring a lawmaker’s chosen interest group.

Coercion – the addictive drug that liberals swear they aren’t using – until they use it.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.