10A041 Let There Be Dark by Jim Davies, 10/12/2010

How many light bulbs does it take to change a government?

Thanks to Edison, for a century and a quarter the civilized world has been able to flick a switch and see in the dark. Available productive and leisure time therefore increased by a quantum leap; everything we do, at work and play, became far more effective. Thomas Edison did deal with the government patent office, but he raised his own funding - by marketing his many inventions as he made them; the light bulb was a product of free enterprise.

It's been so successful that even after the more economical strip light replaced it in many offices and even homes, lighting up America and the world is consuming a lot of fuel. It's still very affordable, but the eco-Fascists have got government to decree that we shall all change to a type of bulb that uses less power for the light produced.

If that was a good bargain (and on its face it clearly is) it would not have needed government to force the change; the makers of the new type would simply have promoted it with some simple advertisement saying something like "Change to CFL. Pays for itself in one year. All the rest will fatten your wallet!" CFL is its name: the Compact Fluorescent Light.

Trouble is, CFLs do not pay for themselves in any such short period. They do use 75% less power, and therefore there is a real saving from lower electricity bills, but they cost more to buy so those savings are wiped out. So the effect of the new law is to make us pay more or have less light. It took Edison (and, allegedly, God) to create more light. Government can only make less.

For those reasons, so far free investors have not seen an opportunity for CFLs to replace incandescent bulbs. Perhaps they have in mind that another invention, LEDs in clusters, may soon become cheaper to manufacture and so replace CFLs; I don't know. But I do know that a free competitive market is the only way to find out.

Will the mandate to switch to CFLs result in any change to government? Not on its own, I think; but it provides one more reminder that government is an appendage we can ill afford. Every time we turn the light on, or buy an expensive CFL.

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