Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bush Bulbs

Back after a holiday hiatus, I will comment on Bush Bulbs. Hat tip to Gus Van Horn for coining the phrase to refer to the anything-but-incandescent bulbs that we must legally use after incandescent bulbs become illegal in 2014 under the energy bill just signed by President Bush.

I will leave aside reference to the utter lack of moral principle that Bush, a man who at one time opposed the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, displays now that he embraces the environmentalist agenda and enacts legislation that begins to make our lives just a little bit (at first) more nasty, brutish and short.

I will not dwell on the violation of my property rights, my freedom to spend my money as I want to on the things that I value, that is represented by Bush Bulbs.

I will mention just how lousy these bulbs are.

They do not work in dimmer fixtures, which I recently installed throughout my apartment.

They do not turn on quickly.

Their spiral shape is ugly.

Their light is cold and disturbing, reminding me of a sterile office. This is not the feeling I want when I am in my home.

They are extremely expensive.

Their light flickers.

It causes headaches in some people.

The bottom line is that I don't want them.

I tried them once, way before legislation was passed to make them obligatory. That is when I discovered most of these unpleasant characteristics. I am not alone in my opinion, as evidenced by their paltry market share.

But, even if everything about them was great, what is most disturbing about Bush Bulbs is that I am forced to use them.

It is in a shower of small infringements of my freedom such as this one that I will find myself one day drowning in a society that is not free. The American Revolution was fought over stamp taxes and tea duties. But was it really? Our forefathers understood that a government that has the power to dictate even the smallest part of our lives has the power to direct all of our lives.

Bush Bulbs mean not just lights out for incandescent bulbs. Bush Bulbs mean lights out for freedom.


Mike N said...

"Bush Bulbs mean lights out for freedom."

Great integration!
I couldn't agree more!

Galileo Blogs said...

Thanks, Mike. There is another integration I am trying to make, between Bush Bulbs and President Bush's thinking process. Both phenomena involve extinguished incandescence...

Myrhaf said...

Stock up on incandescent light bulbs now! Don't wait -- the price is bound to rise as we near 2014, and stores might stop selling them before that date. I'm buying light bulbs every time I go to the store now. I want to have hundreds in my closet by 2014. Yes, I will be a criminal, but at least I'll be a criminal who can read at night.

Galileo Blogs said...

I am planning to do the same thing, but I hope the law gets repealed before then. I am not too hopeful, though. I am sure that many thousands of engineering man-hours will be wasted trying to marginally improve the Bush Bulbs, so that the Edisonian advocates of incandescence (or, more accurately, the advocates of freedom) will have a more difficult time winning a battle for repeal.

Bush Bulbs are also one of those things that fall into the nuisance category, such that few people will muster the kind of energy required to fight a law that has gathered around it multitudinous vested interests, such as the top executive at Sylvania who salivates at his short-sighted beggar-the-populace profit opportunity.

Still, we can fight it with facts and with effective, easy-to-remember mockery such as "Bush Bulbs."

softwareNerd said...

I experimented with these bulbs too, and I found many of the disadvantages you mention. Some additional flaws I found:

They do not fit certain fixtures at all, because the "starter" mechanism at the base has a wider circumference that some fixtures allow. So, even if I could get past my wife's complaint about their ugliness, they wouldn't fit my fan fixtures.

Most importantly, I do not buy the claims of long life. Perhaps they last longer than the incandescents, but I bet it isn't 7 times longer like they claim, except in some type of laboratory condition.

I can say this because I have one bank of recessed lighting where I use these bulbs mixed with regular floodlights (I do this because these new bulbs take some time to get to full lumens). In this interleaved bank, I end up changing both types. While I haven't kept a record, I think I'd have noticed if they were lasting 7 times longer than the regular flood lights. Suffice it to say that in just 3 years of experimentation, half the new bulbs have fused.

In addition, in our house, we have many fixtures that take multiple smaller bulbs. Are these smaller incandescents to be banned as well? If so, will replacements be available, or am I supposed to change fixtures?

Galileo Blogs said...

"In addition, in our house, we have many fixtures that take multiple smaller bulbs. Are these smaller incandescents to be banned as well? If so, will replacements be available, or am I supposed to change fixtures?"

On principle, all incandescent bulbs should be banned and we should be forced to make do with the Bush Bulb alternatives. The principle is that the needs of the earth and the ecosystem come first before man's needs. We can only depend on the hypocrisy and unwillingness of the Bush Bulbheads to consistently live up to their principles if we are to have a place for our refrigerator, flashlight and other incandescent bulbs.

On your point, only incandescent bulbs work well in small fixtures. In contrast, the LED Bush Bulbs emit a light that is too faint; halogen Bush Bulbs are too hot and expensive (say, for a refrigerator) and fluorescent Bush Bulbs are anything but compact. The vast majority of people choose incandescent bulbs because of these and their many other advantages.

As for the longevity of Bush Bulbs, I would not doubt that you are right. The enviro-left will fudge the facts on this issue just as they have with global warming. For them, their end (the end of man's industrial civilization) justifies any means, including lying.

The Gregor said...

I plan on selling incandescent bulbs on the black market. Email me after 2014.

Galileo Blogs said...

Happy profits, The Gregor. Please put me on your future customer call list.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Several years ago, I bought the new type of bulb because the manufacturer promised long-term savings (fewer bulbs, lower electricity costs). The light was harsh and the bulb burned out faster than a normal incandescent bulb.

Recently, however, I bought another one. This time, I invested a few minutes in reading the selection charts. I love the light. It is perfect for reading. It burns a lot cooler, and it is lower wattage, so presumably I am paying less for electricity. Whether it lasts longer remains to be seen.

I predict that by 2014 most of the technical issues will be solved. This will be one more example of a nameless phenomenon. A younger friend asked me, "Doesn't the government sometimes make mandatory what most people would eventually do anyway?"

My answer is that the government makes mandatory for everyone what some individuals would do without legislation. Sometimes ideas enforced by government come initially from proven free market practice that a small group then decides to force onto everyone else. This is especially so for lifestyle decisions, for construction practices, and for similar actions that have real-world consequences.

The main point remains, however. It is the one Galileo Blogs makes: the moral/political issue is the right to make one's own choices about what one trades for and with whom one trades, all while respecting the rights of others.

Galileo Blogs said...

I will suggest two names for the nameless phenomenona you describe: "regulatory populism" or "regulatory democracy."

Since regulators are appointed by elected government officials, it stands to reason that the regulators are likely to pander to the wishes of the majority.

The fact that one's own preferences may accord with the majority are irrelevant. For example, I dislike cigarette smoke, yet I would stand to my last coughing breath for the right of smokers and bar owners to allow smoking on their premises.

Of course, at one time in the South the majority hated blacks and wanted to enslave them, or at the very least deny them equal rights. In Europe at various times including in 20th century Germany, the majority wanted to steal from or kill Jews. Undoubtedly, a large segment of Russians applauded the confiscation of the property of the wealthy by the Communists. In our country, a majority may be pleased when tax rates are raised on those with incomes above the median, etc.

Our particular form of statism in the United States seems best encapsulated by the term "nanny state." Americans want their own personal preferences enacted into law. That means an extremely high level of drug safety, food without preservatives, electricity without pollution, no smoking, etc.

But of course, the price we pay is that a government that has the power to force us to do things we want to do, also gains the power to force us to do the things we don't want to do. That is why the sole moral standard that limits government action is the rights of the individual. An individual's rights cannot be violated, even if he is the only individual who cares about the issue.


A separate point has to do with the economics of government intervention. You are probably right that the problems of Bush Bulbs will be solved by 2014, such that most of us won't care anymore that we are forced to buy them. What is forgotten here is the economic cost of those adjustments to Bush Bulbs to make them comparable to incandescent bulbs in terms of convenience, quality of light, and cost.

That cost consists of thousands of man-hours of labor of engineers, scientists and businessmen who struggle to transform the less suitable Bush Bulbs into something that approaches the cost and convenience of incandescent bulbs.

This cost is invisible to nearly everyone in the economy. They do not see the non-existent innovations, cost reductions or new products that were not developed by the engineers whose talent was diverted towards the massive project of making Bush Bulbs fit for use.

This cost is an instance of the broken window fallacy, described so eloquently by the economist Frederic Bastiat and later by Henry Hazlitt. When a window breaks, people marvel at the boon to the glazier who makes the new window and installs it. What they don't see is the new suit the storekeeper whose window was broken would have bought if he didn't have to replace his window.

When engineers make Bush Bulbs fit for use, the do so only at the cost of the lost improvements to every other area of the economy that they would have been involved with.

The cost of the broken window is high, but it is invisible to all, except perhaps some economists who can envision the cost.


The bottom line is that Bush Bulbs, even if they are improved dramatically, represent a destruction both of our wealth and freedom. Our wealth is destroyed as it is in the example of the broken window. Our freedom is destroyed as regulators get away with more violations of our liberty.

If the engineers are successful, I will probably use the Bush Bulbs in 2014. But I will do so saddened at the loss of the unknown improvements to my standard of living that the engineers could have made if they did not have to waste their time improving the Bush Bulbs. Moreover, I will be saddened and angered at the precedent Bush Bulbs give for ever greater and more intimate incursions into the private realm of my own life, a realm that is mine and no one has the right to infringe upon.

Jim May said...

If anything, this "regulatory populism" legislation compares to that which outlawed child labor in the early days of the Industrial Revolution -- i.e. it was a way for government to claim credit for a trend which was already happening on its own.

I agree completely with the principle of freedom as stated here, but a few of the ancillary facts aren't quite there.

The "broken window" fallacy doesn't really apply in this instance, as the engineering effort you describe is already being applied. CFL's as they currently stand are already objectively superior to incandescents in many applications, due to R&D already performed to date in the pursuit of a market demand that already exists. Among other things, there already exist dimmable CFL's and a wide range of color options.

As for small fixtures, I don't know what the "Bush LEDs" are, but the one I have sitting right here runs on 3 AAA batteries and is bright enough to serve as a car headlight, at speed. Cost is the issue with these, not output, and the semiconductor companies are already working hard to solve that issue, knowing the market that awaits them if they succeed.

Galileo Blogs said...

Yes, advances are being made in this area, including improvements with dimmable CFL's and brighter LED lights.

However, by compelling more research and engineering effort in this area than the market would otherwise produce on its own without intervention, the government is destroying wealth. Those extra research and engineering dollars and man-hours are wasted, as they are diverted from other endeavors that market participants value more highly. So, the broken window fallacy clearly applies here.

The insidious nature of these types of regulations is two-fold. First, they have an outcome that in itself, stripped of the context of the wider economy, is valuable. It is a visible value that all can appreciate. Who doesn't want to save money on electricity or enjoy innovative new lighting systems?

Second, the cost to the wider economy is utterly invisible, except to economists and others who can abstractly appreciate that cost.

There is enough capitalism left in our economy that it can absorb a welter of these regulations and still produce a rising standard of living. The even higher standard of living that would have existed absent these regulations is invisible to the populace. Thus, regulatory populism is... popular.

C. August said...

I know this post is months old now, but I really enjoyed reading it and the detailed comments.

One point I see that relates to GB's comment about the broken window problem and the overall economics of government regulation has to do with all the secondary markets affected. You mentioned the countless hours and innovation wasted on making Bush Bulbs better. I also see a 'trickle out' effect, as makers of fixtures, appliances, etc., need to retool their factories to make sure their products work with the different sized bulbs. Store like Home Depot will have to switch their stock of fixtures, and all the pieces and parts used to fix older fixtures. They'll have to deal with questions about the switch, and figure out how long to carry parts for now antiquated equipment. Property owners like the commenter above (and like me) will have to deal with dimmer switches that no longer work, wasting time and money replacing them.

It goes farther and deeper than that, I'm sure. My point is only to highlight the additional sickening waste of money and human energy that this stupid, baseless, regulation will cause. And it's all based on junk science!

Galileo Blogs said...

C. August,

Thank you for commenting, even if it is months later.

You are entirely correct about how far-reaching the broken window destruction caused by mandating Bush Bulbs is. All regulations, such as this one, destroy wealth in ways that go beyond the obvious.

I have been reading about one particularly subtle and heinous regulation that other Objectivists have blogged about. It is a rule that prohibits the use of lead solder. Apparently, it makes soldering much more difficult, since it now must be done at higher temperatures. The soldered connections are also less reliable. Imagine the consequences of this, with computers that break down just a little more frequently, televisions that fail, etc. Imagine all of the re-engineering required to make circuit boards and wiring that can withstand the higher temperatures.

Imagine all of the wasted engineering, scientific and manufacturing effort that does not solve a real world problem. All of this effort is not expended to make life better. It is expended merely to minimize the adverse consequences from this one regulation. All of those man-hours are a broken window loss that reduces our standard of living, or represents lost gains in our standard of living that could have been realized.

Perhaps the best way to concretize the "broken window" destruction of wealth caused by regulations, particularly environmental regulations such as the law mandating Bush Bulbs, is to consider the consequences of the law limiting the amount of water used for flushing.

Because of that law, instead of being able to flush successfully with one flush, two or three flushes are sometimes required. So, instead of conserving water as it was allegedly intended, the law causes water consumption to increase.

It also causes more clogs because the toilets flush with less vigor.

So, I am reminded of the true cost of regulation with some regularity. It is all so much waste. :)

C. August said...

I actually hadn't heard about the law against lead solder. Is it because lead is toxic? Well, I'm certainly glad that the government is protecting us from that, much like they protect us from DDT. I know that Eastern Equine Encephalitis and the West Nile Virus are now threatening my area of the country - New England - every summer, and that use of DDT would wipe out the mosquitoes, but at least bird eggs are safe.

Do you know if they will stop selling lead solder even in places like Home Depot? If so, I'll be using PVC for any new plumbing work I do. Especially when I add a bathroom without getting a permit.

Regarding toilet regulations, I didn't know that the 1.6 gal/flush thing was a law. Is every new toilet mandated to meet this standard? I actually put in a new toilet last year because I hated the looks of the old one that came with the house, and it has worked quite well. Of course American Standard had to re-engineer the flushing mechanism to try and get the same results with less water, but it's worked out so far.

Galileo Blogs said...

It is the law on toilets. I have heard of contractors going to Canada to smuggle in the larger capacity toilets.

As for your toilet being satisfactory, I have no comment except to say that someone telling me how much water to use when I flush my toilet simply stinks! :)