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As opposed to using pricing mechanisms to achieve goals is no better illustrated than in this pathetic excuse for a law:

“Power-hungry TVs will be banned from store shelves in California after state regulators Wednesday adopted a first-in-the-nation mandate to reduce electricity demand.”

Let’s see …we want consumers to reduce electricity use, so rather than raising the price of electricity (an output standard possible using taxes or permits) we rely on a direct method of regulation. Kudos to people who can predict the unintended consequences of this program.

Why would we ever want to leave it up to consumers to choose ways to economize that are most in their interest. How will this law change the electricity use of people that do not use televisions for example? And what if I really like my inefficient TV for some reason, but would prefer not heat my hot water up as much?

Hmmm … and I loved this part of it: “TVs larger than 58 inches, which account for no more than 3 percent of the market, would not be covered by the rule, a concession to independent retailers that sell high-end home-theater TVs. The commission is expected to regulate them in the future.” I am sure no corporate interest had a say in carving out this exception.

Environmental groups are happy. The governor is happy. And all of this will save people money! Yep, and I have a new car to sell you too.  Watch your wallet, and look out for what producers will be made better off by this program.

By the way, if my TV was more energy efficient, I would leave it on when I left the house, just so that when I came home I would not have to wait those 5 extra seconds for it to start up … I might miss another play in the football game if I did it.

I guess if you look at the Constitution this would fall under the “General Welfare” clause? What happens when this program does not work out and does not improve the general welfare? Who gets sued for the subsequent unconstitutionality of this law? Because if you don’t use the general welfare clause, I am having a hard time seeing where else in the Constitution (the state one) where it says, “the legislature shall insure that televisions are more energy efficient.” But you might argue that this is a state issue and not a federal issue. Aha, if you take the Supreme Court’s lead on what the commerce clause is intended to do – anything that happens within a state that can possibly affect market prices elsewhere DO fall under the umbrella of the federal constitution. Try this on for size.

But I suspect that the benevolent Feds are not going to strike down this law as unconstitutional.Please wake me up when this nightmare is over. Here are similar ways to deal with analogous problems:

  • We want to reduce the use of gasoline – mandate fuel economy standards in cars rather than forcing the price of gas to increase
  • We want to reduce the emissions of noxious chemicals in power plants – mandate coal scrubbers be installed on every power plant rather than pricing emissions (we at least fixed this partly)
  • We want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions – mandate that people’s respiratory systems get more efficient
  • We want to reduce baseball attendance – put a maximum size on stadiums rather than allowing ticket prices to rise
  • We want to reduce water consumption during a drought – have the water police enforce a no car washing standard rather than have the price of water rise

What can I do to reduce the incidence of stupid laws passing? Any ideas?

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