Thursday, May 03, 2007

Say No to the Hideous Light Bulbs

The environmentalists are pushing hideous looking fluorescent light bulbs of the kind shown here as a way to save electricity and thus reduce the need for power plants and resulting carbon emissions. The bulbs will thus allegedly help to save the planet from global warming and, therefore, the environmentalists argue, everyone should use them instead of the customary, incandescent bulbs.

Australia and Canada have already enacted laws or regulations that will make these bulbs mandatory within a few years. Efforts are underway to do the same thing here in the United States.

In fact, my local power company is currently subsidizing the sale of these bulbs in Southern California supermarkets. Normally, $7.99 apiece, my local power company makes it possible to buy them in packs of three for just $1.

I confess. At that low price my curiosity got the better of me and I bought a pack. I even temporarily installed one of the bulbs in my garage, to see what kind of light it provided.

I concluded that I wouldn’t be comfortable doing any sustained reading under it, simply because the light it gives off doesn’t seem quite right. Otherwise though, the bulb clearly does have some uses, at least in situations in which appearance is not an important consideration. For example, it might be used in commercial storage facilities and locations in business offices given over to holding old files. Homeowners with unfinished garages that display bare studs and flex and perhaps an occasional indelible oil stain on the floor, who regard their garages merely as storage areas and/or workplaces, may find that they too are an appropriate setting for the bulb. In such garages, the bulb doesn’t need to express the owner’s normal aesthetic preferences. It would probably fit in perfectly with such things as steel storage shelves, assorted tools, boxes and crates, old rags, and stray items hanging from hooks and nails banged into a wall.

My question is, though, how could anyone want such a thing in his home, in his living room, bedroom, or dining room, or anywhere else that one is supposed to live rather than change oil or make repairs or, of course, just leave one’s car.

My point here is that to bring these bulbs inside one’s house, as the environmentalists are urging everyone to do, requires that people be prepared to give up the aesthetic qualities of their homes and, in effect, spend their lives living in the equivalent of their garages (or the garages that many others have).

If you wouldn’t mind an oil stain in the middle of your living room carpet, wall studs visible through gaps in your home’s drywall, steel storage shelves in your bedroom, and tools, boxes, and crates lying here and there—or if this is the way you already live—then these bulbs are for you. You should buy them. Over the years, they’ll save you some money on your electric bills and you won’t need to change them as often as you have to change conventional light bulbs.

But if you don’t want to live in the equivalent of a garage, if the extra cost of living in a normal home is worth it to you, then you should definitely not bring these bulbs into your home. Indeed, you should react with outrage at any suggestion that you should. Because what you’re being asked to do is turn your home into a dump.

The environmentalists want you to turn your home into a dump “for the sake of the planet” by helping to “avoid global warming.” That’s supposed to justify it. Tell them it doesn’t.

They want you to agree to live in a dump, because if they can do that, they will have succeeded in making you define yourself as not worthy of anything better. And once, they’ve accomplished that, they can go on to demand any further sacrifice they may want to impose on you.

Not so long ago, people were being told throughout the length and breadth of the former Soviet Union that they had to live in dumps and sacrifice any hope of material prosperity for themselves because it was necessary to build up the means of production of their socialist society, from which their grandchildren would benefit. And then, when the grandchildren came of age, they in turn were told that they needed to sacrifice for the sake of their grandchildren.

People finally got tired of this orgy of unending sacrifice and overthrew the Communists.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t taken very long for the concept of human sacrifice to revive and come back stronger than ever. The light bulbs are a profoundly important symbolic first step. They are an entering wedge for the environmentalists’ demand that we sacrifice our entire standard of living—variously, for the sake of the “planet,” for the sake of the countries of the Third World, and for the sake of assorted species of animals and plants. And unlike with the Communists, the sacrifice is now presented not as temporary but explicitly as a new, permanent way of life.

So tell them again: No sacrifice. Not for “the planet,” not for the Third World, not for other species. Tell them your life belongs to you and you mean to enjoy it. Tell them that the planet exists for you, not you for the planet, and that you intend to use it for your benefit.

This article is copyright © 2007, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.

Thanks to Chad Parish of the Mises Institute for the graphic.