The New Prohibition

One lesson every American claims to have learned is that Prohibition was wrong, a mistake and a sad chapter in U.S. history, when the government tried to deny citizens something they wanted.

But I’m not at all sure what lesson Americans actually learned from the ban on the sale of spirits because ever since then, we’ve been banning products with far fewer harmful effects.

A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Congress took the Prohibition craze to an all-new level of madness: banning one of the safest, most useful products ever invented. President Bush quickly signed the bill without so much as a national dialogue, let alone a debate.

I’m talking about the prohibition of the incandescent light bulb.

Just writing those words gives me a chill. Am I really living in America? Could this really be happening? Are our elected officials and elites really this insane? Do they really believe this claptrap about man-made catastrophic global warming? Or are they simply using this phantom threat for the biggest power grab in the history of Earth?

Whatever the case, because of this obviously unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious, nonsensical legislation, in six years, you no longer will be able to buy the ordinary, harmless, efficient, safe, inexpensive, reliable, warm incandescent light bulbs that currently illuminate your home and office.

They will be phased out — replaced, as of today anyway, with unsafe, more expensive, ugly bulbs that cast light that causes headaches or worse side effects. These compact fluorescents contain toxic mercury, so when they inevitably break in your home and office, you are exposing yourself to hazardous materials. Just imagine what will happen when the bulbs find their way into landfills and the mercury begins to leech into groundwater and to run off into streams and rivers.

By the way, the new bulbs are all made in China — known for imposing the highest standards of safety on its manufacturing sweatshops.

The one and only reason for this draconian action by big government is the misguided assumption that incandescent light bulbs are somehow contributing to man-made catastrophic global warming. Not only is the theory that we are facing an apocalypse wrongheaded, unsupported by science and illogical, no matter how you slice it, but the idea that using different light bulbs can prevent or forestall the coming doomsday would be laughable were America not surrendering its most basic freedoms as a result of the bad joke.

Think of all the things you might like to ban in America: violent criminals from foreign lands who rape, murder, pillage and plunder; the legalized theft of your money by the government before you ever even see it; all organizations known as the NEA — starting with the National Endowment for the Arts and ending with the National Education Association; all foreign aid; the North American Man/Boy Love Association; driver’s licenses for illegal aliens; people named Clinton and Bush from seeking national office ever again; I mean I could go on and on with my wish list. But nowhere, nowhere, on my list — no matter how long I continued — would I seek to ban one of Thomas Edison’s greatest inventions.

I seem to be nearly alone in my concern about this. Just so you understand me, this is not just about light bulbs; it’s about freedom. If the Congress of the United States believes it has the authority to ban perfectly safe, perfectly useful and perfectly reliable light bulbs from being sold in America, just exactly what power doesn’t the federal government have over our lives?

Because I’ve been covering this story for so long and with such passion and conviction, many people have written to me with their own horror stories:

"My wife got after me to start using those energy-saving CFL bulbs earlier this year in our house. After spending nearly $100 to change most of those reliable incandescent bulbs to the newer CFL bulbs, the new bulbs blew out in less than six months, even though they are supposed to last seven years. This has become a very expensive exercise and now our government is forcing me to use these useless pieces of (expletive deleted) that are many times more expensive, costing me about 10 times as much as the old bulbs. Who is getting the payoff for this idiocy?"

"I worked in GE Lighting for 34 years until they sold out my group to a private equity firm last year. They are in the process of closing down all the factories in the USA that produce parts for the incandescent bulbs thus throwing numerous people on the unemployment heap. Guess where all the new generation bulbs are produced? China. The new bulbs contain mercury, cast a horrific greenish color and produce a lot less candlepower than their so-called energy equivalent rating."

"Fluorescents can be unsafe in older homes. I live in a 1910 house that had the electrical upgraded from 30 amp to 200 amp service. But not all of it could be renovated. The light fixtures on the main floor still use really old wiring because upgrading them would have meant ripping up the ceilings. Are those of us in older homes supposed to go without lighting? What about homes on the historical register that cannot be changed?"

"I would like to suggest that we call these new mercury light bulbs ‘Al Gore light bulbs.’ When the environmental disaster hits from pollution to our water, etc., then everyone will know it was Al Gore who caused the expensive environmental nightmare."

"The ban on incandescent light bulbs is just thoughtless feel-good legislation. No consideration was given to the fact that fluorescent lights cause seizures in some people — and annoy others greatly. And some visually impaired folks like me need bright light from the 300-watt incandescent bulb for which there is no fluorescent substitute."

"Sorry, but I’m dumping my 37 mercury bulbs that I bought last year and replacing them with Mr. Edison’s version. I have set aside a closet for the storage of these real light bulbs. I will buy them until I have no place to store them."

Strange things happen when the government bans stuff. That is the real lesson of Prohibition. There are unintended consequences. Personally, I hope one of the unintended consequences is that a little incandescent light bulb will go on inside the heads of Americans, awakening them to the fact they are on the NAFTA highway to tyranny.

The lights are still on, at least for the moment. Is anyone home?