Take Your Bureaucratic Hands Off My Microwave (Jeffrey Tucker)
Monday July 2nd, 2012
The Department of Energy, which is the Supreme Court of your home appliances, thinks you might be wasting precious energy. And the bureaucrats have a plan for doing something about it. They want to take away the clock on your microwave oven. You know, that's the little digital display that we oddly depend on to tell us what time it is.
The bureaucrats say find some other way. Use your smartphone. Buy a wristwatch. Better yet, use a sundial. Whatever you do, just remember: The governing elites hate the time display on your microwave. Prisoners don't really need to know the time anyway.
Yes, this is what these people are paid to do. You can read about their deliberations here, but I don't recommend doing so unless you want to get really angry. The slogan under which the government is wrecking all your home appliances is "energy conservation."
Consumers are starting to figure out the racket. When a product proclaims that it is super-duper energy efficient, that usually means that it doesn't work as well as it used to. Your replacement model will be a generation behind the one you bought last time. New and improved is new and degraded.
It's happened to everything in our homes. Our refrigerators are so "efficient" that they wear out in a few years. Our ovens need new coils every few years. Our clothes washers attempt to wash whole loads on a cup of lukewarm water (yuk!). The dishwasher is being killed with a thousand cuts. You have to run the dryer all night and set your alarm to restart the thing.
Home appliances liberated generations from drudgery. The government is bringing drudgery back, one mandate at a time. Think of it. If we wanted to be really, really, really efficient, we would just roll back history to the 1850s. Our streets would be lit with torches, our homes heated by wood-burning stoves and trivialities like microwaves would be unknown. Our refrigerators would be iceboxes, at best.
Every candle would have a big-fat "Energy Star" sticker on it. And it would be true. To the government, the hysteria over electricity at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was capitalist decadence run wild. If only Ben Franklin had never flown that kite!
So what's the deal with microwave clocks? Well, some bureaucrat has figured out that the microwave oven has to stay in the on position even when not in use for cooking food, and only to run that digital display. If the microwave were made so that it completely shut down when not cooking food, it could save, oh, a few pennies of energy expense over several lifetimes. Therefore, it has to go.
But hold on there just a minute. Can't manufacturers figure this out for themselves? If consumers really want a feature like auto-shutdown on a microwave, don't the manufacturers have every incentive to make it this way? Of course. This is particularly true with microwaves. For years, the makers have struggled to come up with features that will cause you to buy this one versus that one.
It's cutthroat competition out there. Let's face it: One model can zap that plate of leftovers just as well as the other one. There has been no real improvement in the underlying technology for decades. The improvement has to come from features like rotating plates, cool displays, nice colors and the like. If you could really entice people to buy a new microwave by building an auto-shutdown into it, it would be done in a day.
But it turns out that consumers apparently like the clock display. That could change tomorrow and manufacturers would respond. We don't need the geniuses at the Department of Energy to tell us what we want and mandate it. All they are really doing is imposing yet another thing to go wrong.
And what about the fact that if we don't have this display we have to buy a clock? It would run on batteries or be plugged in. Either way, that uses energy. What, then, would be the next step? How about a mandate that specifies precisely how many clocks you have running in each room? Then we would need home inspections to enforce it.
All in the name of saving energy. You would swear that the bureaucrats are unaware that we do actually pay for the energy we use. The system isn't perfect, because it is a public-private partnership, instead of being purely private. But the fact remains that we pay more when we use more. How about a bit of deference to consumer sovereignty here?
The DoE doesn't see it this way. I swear that these people imagine themselves to be our dictators. Nothing is outside their purview. Nothing in life is permitted to take place without their permission. And their goal is not really to bring us more energy, but rather to take it away from us. They are against wall outlets. They want us drawing all things from the sun and rain like some primitive cave people.
What a far cry we come from the policy fashions from the 1930s. A big goal of the 1930s in the United States was to bring electrification to the rural areas. Forced progress isn't better than forced regress, but this generation of politicians wasn't so insane as to believe in forcibly driving us back to the Stone Age and expecting us to love them for it.
Foreigners used to say of America that it is a great country because everything works. Sadly, this is no longer true. The litany of stuff that no longer works is getting ever longer. And there is one reason for this: regulations. Wicked, anti-human regulations. They more they regulate, the less choice we have and the less freedom manufacturers have to serve us. The whole story is starting to read like a dystopian novel. If you like it, they will ban it.
The heck of it is that these people work in secret. Hardly anyone follows their deliberations, and no one reads the Federal Register. We buy things, they break and we blame capitalism instead of the real culprits, who dwell in their concrete palaces in the Beltway, people who were never elected and can never be fired no matter who is president.
This is the very strange form that American tyranny is taking. It makes no headlines. There is no debate. It appears in our homes in a form that we don't notice until it is too late. Not one in a million people understands the real cause.
Get a good look at the lineup of microwave ovens at the store. You might even pick up a spare while you can. The government might soon make them all disappear and replace them with something else. It's always and everywhere worse than what came before.
Jeffrey Tucker is the publisher and executive editor of Laissez-Faire Books, the Primus inter pares of the Laissez Faire Club, and the author of Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo and It's a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes, among thousands of articles. firstname.lastname@example.org | Facebook | Twitter