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Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem, the ebook of the week in the Laissez Faire Club, is a story about a government that hates, fears, and bans technology precisely because it wants to keep the people enslaved in a primitive state of being. Preposterous right? Wrong: this is going on every day right in the United States, as the regulatory machine continually wrecks technological advances, past, present, and future. This article discusses two such cases.
The material discussed in this article will matter far more to the quality of your life in the future than the outcome of the president election. And yet we can know with nearly perfect certainty that no candidate will be asked about these issues. They know nothing about it. Neither do the moderators of the debates. It all takes place beneath the surface of American politics within the belly of the bureaucratic monster that actually runs the country and over which elected politicians exercise virtually no control whatsoever.
The regulation in question is “Energy Conservation Standards for Dishwasher, 77 FR 31918.” You can spend the day reading the history’s most obtuse bureaucratese, complete with legislative history and technical detail, along with testimony for and against and the Department of Energy’ final judgement. Or you can just internalize my summary: get used to hand washing your dishes. As of May 2013, dishwasher manufacturers are not going to be allowed to make or sell a machine that works.
The excuse is energy and water conservation of course. The presumption is that consumers and manufacturers have no interest whatsoever in saving energy and water even though everyone pays for both and, for the most part, our usage determines what we pay. The reason that companies and consumers have not adopted the new standards on their own is that they are incompatible with clean dishes.
There’s a pretty good chance that your current dishwasher using 6.5. gallons in a load. In the future, only 5 gallons of water can be used in the course of washing dishes. Maybe the manufacturers can ramp up the intensity of spray? Think again: new “energy efficiency” standards require that they use even less energy. Less energy plus less water equals dirty dishes. Plus, the new energy standards will substantially increase the cost of the appliance, taking it out of the affordability range for elderly people and the poor.
How the heck can the regulators get away with this? You really want to know? Here’s the answer that the Department of Energy cites: “7 U.S.C. 7701–7772 and 7781–7786; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, and 371.3. Section 301.75–15 issued under Sec. 204, Title II, Public Law 106–113, 113 Stat. 1501A–293; sections 301.75–15 and 301.75–16 issued under Sec. 203, Title II, Public Law 106–224, 114 Stat. 400 (7 U.S.C. 1421 note).”
And this is only a few years after the regulators made two additional changes that degrade the value of the dishwasher. They required that dishwasher soap stop using phosphates, and hence the soap scum stays on the dishes and doesn’t get whisked away by this natural chemical. The only real way to get dishes clean in many water environments is to add your own. Plus, with the default setting on hot water heaters at a tepid 120 degrees, the water isn’t hot enough to really clean, unless you have taken the time to hack your heater.
The latest blow to the dishwasher means its near or final death. It will look like the old-fashioned kind. It will take up space in your kitchen. It will have lots of lights and look pretty. But it won’t do a damn thing to actually clean your dishes. Such regulations are never reversed. That means that future generations will never know of a time when you could stick a bunch of dishes in a box and have them come out clean. If you want clean, you will be filling sinks again.
Further, as the amazing Sofie Miller of the George Washington University Regulatory Center testified, this regulation is also an assault on human dignity because it denies us choice in the matter. The central planners know what is best for us and they are going to give it to us good and hard.
I wouldn’t even know about this regulation — and no one would — but for her incredible activism on behalf of human freedom. She is like one tiny David with a slingshot vs. the whole regulatory Goliath of the modern nation state.
In her public comment against this crazy ruling, she pointed out that the proposed savings from the ruling as seen in the models posit a time period well beyond the life of most all dishwashers. She concludes that 84% of consumer will receive no benefit at all from these changes.
What’s more, as people shift from dishwashers to hand washing dishes, there are huge costs to consider. “Thousands of Americans will spend time washing dishes by hand as the price of dishwashers increases,” she writes. “The value of time reallocated to washing dishes by hand totals between $241.4 million and $963.6 million, or almost $1 billion, even at a very conservative estimate. The cost of this time, which will most likely be borne by low-income and elderly Americans on fixed incomes, was not taken into account in the Department’s analysis of the direct final rule.”
As you continue to ponder the implications of a government that is directly targeting your domestic quality of life for destruction, consider this parallel legislation: “Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Clothes Washers FR 77 32308.” This one won’t go into effect until March 7, 2015. So you have two and half years of somewhat clean clothes. After that, it’s pigpen.
It took me hours to dig through the details of this regulation that has been batted around since 2008, but here is the upshot.
Washing machine will become “Washington machines,” useless and heavy steel squares that are more expensive than their predecessor that actually washed clothes. Built by government dictate, Washington machines can’t use much more energy than a wristwatch. Amazing. Infuriating.
Back when washing machines were just introduced, half the American population heralded them as the great key to “liberation from drudgery.” And here they are being destroyed with no public debate whatsoever. The politicians don’t even know anything about it. The media doesn’t care.
I was intrigued to find that one poor soul actually did take seriously the Department of Energy’s invitation for public comment. The comment (view here) was from a woman named Ann Grigorian from Yorktown, Virginia. She pointed out that her washing machine doesn’t work well now and that she expects that the regulations will be worse.
“I have been doing laundry for well over 30 years,” she wrote. “I do not need a babysitter to determine for me how much water to put in my laundry. To say I can get more water by putting less articles of clothing into the washer is incredulous to me – how wasteful is it to wash three articles of clothing just to have enough water to clean them?”
Poor Ann. She is probably on a no-fly list by now.
These two machines together were the greatest boon to American women in the twentieth century, doing far more for women’s liberation than all the legislation and political activism. They created that greatest gift, free time. They allowed women to emerge as full public citizens, to spend time with their kids instead of slaving with household routines, and created the space in life to cultivated the mind and civilization itself.
The regulators want to drive us back, back, back, imprisoning everyone in life of drudgery so that the “earth” can flourish and the rest of us languish, die, and be buried in soiled clothes. The greatest insult of all: this is likely the first and probably the last article you will read on this topic.