Have you ever wondered why dishwashers today take twice as long to do a worse job of cleaning dishes? Or why it’s so much harder to get gasoline out of a new gas can? Or why cars made decades ago always turn heads, while today’s are drab in the same way?
There’s a simple answer to these modern-day mysteries: Government regulators.
Take the dishwasher. Earlier this month, the Department of Energy announced that it would revise its rules regarding dishwasher efficiency. Why? Because the existing rules — which set limits on how much electricity and water a dishwasher may use — are forcing manufacturers to build machines that are worse than ever.
The DOE was responding to a petition from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which found that average dishwasher cycle times climbed from just over an hour back in the mid 1980s to two-and-a-half hours today — with each increase in between the result of increasingly strict federal efficiency mandates.
“It is not technologically feasible to create dishwashers that both meet the current standards and have cycle times of one hour or less,” the petition stated.
Shouldn’t dishwasher efficiency be something that the market dictates? Consumers trade off convenience for savings every day. Why should dishwashers be any different? Particularly when the regulations result in a savings of something like $2 a month.
Government Gas Cans
If CEI wins this battle for consumers, it might want to petition the government to let people buy gas cans that work properly. Most homeowners of a certain age will remember those good old gas cans that had a spout at one end, and a small resealable vent at the other. The vent let air in while the gasoline was pouring out.
But regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency didn’t like that simple solution to the physics of pouring liquids. They decided old-style gas cans were too polluting and let too much gas spill on the ground.
So the EPA decreed in 2009 that gas cans must henceforth have: 1) A single, self-venting opening for filling and pouring with no separate vents or openings and 2) a nozzle that automatically closes when it’s not being used.
The result was a gas can with complicated nozzles that can be difficult to handle, are prone to breaking, cost more, and make it harder to pour gasoline. In frustration, people started drilling vent holes in their EPA-approved gas cans and entrepreneurial companies started selling nozzle replacement kits.
Socialist Car Designs
Next, CEI could go after federal regulators who’ve managed over the course of several decades to completely ruin car designs.
Think about it. Why is it that cars made 40 years ago or more are captivating, and varied, with real personalities, while new cars today are, for the most part, indistinguishable?
The reason is that there’s basically only one way to design a car today that meets all the government-imposed safety and environmental regulations.
Jeffrey Tucker, writing for the American Institute for Economic Research, notes that “the designs of new cars are boring because regulations forced this result.”
Today, the government dictates nearly every single aspect of a car’s design. Big fronts for safety, low tops for fuel economy, tiny windows, high belt lines, etc. That’s just the exterior. Almost every feature of a car’s interior is also regulated by government.
One car designer noted that “I know of at least one vehicle … that was discontinued entirely because changing curtain airbag regulations would have meant the entire shape of the vehicle had to be redesigned.”
There are plenty of other examples like this of regulators making products worse. Toilets that don’t flush, showerheads that don’t allow sufficient water flow, and other modern product failures, are courtesy of the nanny state.
And all of this, mind you, is just the tip of the regulatory pyramid, with decades upon decades of rules, mandates, and regulations now affecting nearly every aspect of our economy. Has this monstrous regulatory state improved the quality of our lives? If the above is any indication, the answer is most likely no.
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