Let’s start 2014 with a depressing story about the reprehensible way in which big companies get in bed with big government.
If asked to list the example of cronyism that I find most nauseating, the Export-Import Bank would be at the top of my list.
But don’t forget the corrupt TARP giveaways to Wall Street, the handouts for GM (though at least we got some good parody from that farce), the corrupt H&R Block collusion with the IRS, and the sleazy ethanol handouts to agribusinesses.
We could list more examples, but let’s look at something from today’s newspapers. We normally think of the light-bulb ban as silly environmentalism, but the invaluable Tim Carney writes in the Washington Examiner that the real impetus was from corrupt companies.
Say goodbye to the regular light bulb this New Year. …Starting Jan. 1, the famous bulb is illegal to manufacture in the U.S., and it has become a fitting symbol for the collusion of big business and big government.
People often assume green regulations like this represent the triumph of environmental activists trying to save the plant. That’s rarely the case, and it wasn’t here. Light bulb manufacturers whole-heartedly supported the efficiency standards. General Electric, Sylvania and Philips — the three companies that dominated the bulb industry — all backed the 2007 rule… The lighting industry was the main reason the legislation was moving. …“Philips formed a coalition with environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council to push for higher standards.”
Equally important, Tim explains why the companies thought cronyism was an effective way to line their pockets with undeserved wealth.
Competitive markets with low costs of entry have a characteristic that consumers love and businesses lament: very low profit margins. GE, Philips and Sylvania dominated the U.S. market in incandescents, but they couldn’t convert that dominance into price hikes. Because of light bulb’s low material and manufacturing costs, any big climb in prices would have invited new competitors to undercut the giants — and that new competitor would probably have won a distribution deal with Wal-Mart. So, simply the threat of competition kept profit margins low on the traditional light bulb. …the bulb-makers turned to government. Philips teamed up with NRDC. GE leaned on its huge lobbying army — the largest in the nation — and soon they were able to ban the low-profit-margin bulbs.
The better alternative, needless to say, is freedom.
There is a middle ground between everyone using traditional bulbs and traditional bulbs being illegal. It’s called free choice: Let people choose if they want more efficient and expensive bulbs. Maybe they’ll chose LEDs for some purposes and cheap bulbs for others. But consumer choice is no good either for nanny-staters or companies seeking high profit margins.
Reading Tim’s piece, it makes me wonder what sleaze was involved in the rules forcing us to use inferior washing machines.
P.S. Here are my 10 most-viewed posts of 2013.
*Last January, I shared some gun control humor and readers must like mocking the gun grabbers because that post easily got the most views.
*And in October, Libertarian Jesus racked up the second-highest number of views.
*Interestingly, the third most-viewed post was one from 2012. I guess you won’t be surprised to learn it was another example of gun control humor.
*We also go into the archives – back to 2011 – for the post with the fourth-highest number of views. It’s the classic set of cartoons about the rise and fall of the welfare state.
*Another oldie came in fifth place with this 2012 post featuring – you guessed it – gun control humor.
*In sixth place, we get some 2012 lessons on how a story about beer can be used to explain the failures of class warfare tax policy.
*We finally see another 2013 post with our revelation about the most free-market “state” in North America.
*But then we return to 2011 because lots of people waited until 2013 before reading the classroom experiment with socialism.
*In ninth place, you can read a libertarian fantasy from last April.
*Rounding out the top 10 is a celebration of Obama’s biggest fiscal defeat.
My favorite post of the year, for what it’s worth, reveals my fiscal wonkiness.