The bulb debate has become a flash point between conservatives and their progressive opponentswrites Benny Huang of the new law making it illegal to sell or import household bulbs that use more than forty watts and the incandescent light bulb accordingly dying an ignominious death after serving humanity well for fourteen decades. See also Tim Carney's Industry, not environmentalists, killed traditional bulbs (thanks to Instapundit; plus, thanks for the the link): "consumer choice is no good either for nanny-staters or companies seeking high profit margins."
Regardless of party affiliations, true conservatives have made the old fashioned light bulb—an unassuming household item—into a symbol for something much larger. But what, exactly? At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it has become symbolic of the fight between liberty and tyranny.
Liberals will of course scoff at the laughable notion of “light bulb tyranny” and accuse me of hyperventilating overreaction. That’s just liberals doing what they do best—pooh-poohing their opponents’ concerns as triflingly insignificant. Yet I suspect that even they understand that there’s a larger principle at stake here. Heaven knows that they have done everything in their power to thwart any attempt to derail the coming ban on incandescent bulbs. If the whole light bulb issue were insignificant they’d let conservatives win this battle and get on with the rest of their agenda: killing jobs and dumbing down education.
The new bulbs are fine by me. … Given the choice, I would probably select the energy-saving model over the incandescent.
But I won’t have a choice starting on the first of the year, and that’s really the rub. There’s something very wrong with America when the federal government selects light bulbs for its citizens. The fight over illumination is about so much more than just light bulbs; it’s about governmental overreach.
The light bulb ban provides a useful window into the mindset of liberals. Here’s how they see the issue: energy-saving bulbs are better, therefore the others should be illegal. The pattern repeats itself in nearly every other realm: they determine the best policy, then impose it in a top down manner with no regard for states, localities, or individuals. Arguing with them about choice is futile because they cannot fathom the idea that the debate has nothing to do with which bulb is better, but rather who gets to decide.
… I am willing to buy a light bulb that costs fifteen times more if it will last ten times longer and reduce my electricity bill. I just don’t like the government making that decision for everyone. It should leave well enough alone, allow both bulbs to peacefully coexist on shelves across America, and let consumers decide for themselves which one is best for them.
Why can’t the government do that? The answer is simple: because Americans might choose the wrong one!
Liberals’ famous reverence for choice arose only because they couldn’t bring themselves to utter the word ”abortion” in a debate that is clearly about that very thing. Consequently, the word “choice” has been used so frequently in reference to the gruesome procedure that it is now universally understood to mean abortion. When a reporter asks a politician where he stands on the issue of “choice” people understand without any further context what the reporter means. (Hint: not light bulbs.)
I’m pro-choice too; pro-light bulb choice, that is. Speaking for the pro-light bulb choice crowd, I would like to say that we don’t hate curly-Q’s. We simply want the federal government to circumscribe the scope of its legislation to its rightful enumerated powers spelled out in the Constitution. The light bulb ban clearly exceeds the federal government’s authority to regulate interstate trade, going so far as to regulate intrastate as well. We also want the government to stop forcing their preference on the rest of us. It’s not as if we’re asking them to legalize an act of horrific violence against a child, we just want to pick the bulb we like best. Is that too much to ask?
Yes, it is, because all of this choosing and self-determination might become contagious. People might start asking the government, particularly the federal government, to stop sticking its nose into all sorts of other issues that are none of their business. Excluding the government from such decisions would necessarily reduce its power. Those top-down solutions they fancy so much might become a rarity. They won’t stand for it.