Monday, July 27, 2009

The rise of the light bulb fascist.

Apparently the European Union, and the bureaucratic thugs that run it, have inadvertently discovered a method of stimulating one area of the economy: prohibition.

Having learned nothing about drug and alcohol prohibition the EU has decided to ban the production and importation of conventional light bulbs. As a ritual sacrifice to the Goddess Gaia the EU technocrats have decided to phase out the conventional light bulb, in favor of the “eco friendly” but vision-unfriendly compact fluorescent bulb.

I know those bulbs are supposed to save us money, which I favor, but they don’t. I have one bulb in my room that is CFL, which is fine for watching television. But if I want to read I have to turn on the overhead light with three regular bulbs instead. In the lounge the three table lamps are CFLs as well, but all three have to be one to give any acceptable lighting in the room. I had one CFL on the back patio but dumped it entirely—dinners on the patio were impossible with the light it emitted. It was far too dark. So I’m no fan of these vision-destroying bulbs either.

But the technocrats in the EU want to “save the planet,” which usually means an assault on the property rights or freedom of individuals. And, in their wisdom they are phasing out conventional light bulbs. Der Spiegel reports on the results of the upcoming ban in Germany.
Hardware stores and home-improvement chains in Germany are seeing massive increases in the sales of the traditional bulbs. Obi reports a 27 percent growth in sales over the same period a year ago. Hornbach has seen its frosted-glass light bulb sales increase by 40-112 percent. When it comes to 100-watt bulbs, Max Bahr has seen an 80 percent jump in sales, while the figure has been 150 percent for its competitor Praktiker.
"It's unbelievable what is happening," says Werner Wiesner, the head of Megaman, a manufacturer of energy-saving bulbs. Wiesner recounts a story of how one of his field representatives recently saw a man in a hardware store with a shopping cart full of light bulbs of all types worth more than €200 ($285). "That's enough for the next 20 years."
It should be noted that Weiser favors EU action to ban his competition. No surprise there. Most large businesses are run by greedy individuals who prefer political redistribution of wealth to having to earn it in a competitive market. The problem, as they see it, with competitive markets is that consumers can’t be trusted to buy what you’re selling. Weisner thought the best way to force consumers to buy his product would be to impose a $7 tax on each regular light bulb sold in the market.

One marketing company reports that between January and April sales of regular light bulbs have jumped 20 percent. Sales of the “earth-saving” CFL bulbs shrank by 2 percent.

Spiegel notes that the normal bulbs are despised by the Greens because they give off most their energy in heat. True, that was one aspect of them I liked—at least when I was living in Berlin. Much of the year the weather is a bit cool and not only did the light bulbs allowed me to see well, but they helped heat up my apartment. (It was small enough that a few bulbs could do that.) The heat was a fringe benefit. When it was summer the benefit was less (though the last summer I spent in Berlin was rather chilly) but summer light is longer so I used the bulbs less anyway.

Bascially the EU bureaucrats have ignored the consumers completely. And the consumers are fighting back by stocking up on the bulbs. Spiegel notes that large numbers of people complain about the so-called “eco friendly” bulbs saying that the light “is colder and weaker and the high frequency flickering can cause headaches. Others have complained that the new bulbs are sold with fraudulent promises. The environmentalists promise these bulbs “las much longer than traditional bulbs” but Spiegel reports that tests found that half the bulbs “gave up the ghost after 6,000 hours of use—or much earlier than the manufacturers had promised.” (That corresponds with my experience of the CFLs I used, until now I just assumed I had a bad batch.)

Spiegel quotes lighting designer Ingo Maurer telling his custoers: “We recommend protests against the ban, civil disobedience and the timely hoarding of lighting implements.” One prominent art gallery, Hamburger Kuntshalle, has purchased 600 traditional bulbs so they can light their exhibits properly.

One MP, from my favored German political party, the Free Democrats, called the ban “light bulb socialism.” I would disagree. Socialism is state-ownership of the means of production. What many people confuse with socialism today is nothing more than raw fascism. Just ask Obama, he should know.

I suggest that when the ban is completed there will be a whole new industry created as a result: light bulb smuggling. Apparently politicians are just too damn stupid to ever learn from history, so they repeat it, over and over.

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