Chu on Light Bulbs


Every now and then, an Obama official blurts out a remark that exposes the Left’s philosophy so plainly and clearly that it sounds like poetry.

This past week, that honor goes to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.chu

A bill passed in 2007 on energy-efficient light bulbs will effectively outlaw incandescent bulbs.  Another bill, scheduled for a House vote on Monday, July 11, would repeal the 2007 bill.  On Friday, July 8, Secretary Chu held a conference call with reporters, during which he defended the 2007 bill with this show stopper:

We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.

Folks, it just doesn’t get any clearer than this.  I may frame this gem and hang it on my wall under a picture of Dr. Chu.  From light bulbs to health care, the role of the Federal government has become, quite openly now, to take away choices.  Should we forget about Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, Friedrich von Hayek, and Adam Smith?   And should we also forget about the Constitution’s quaint notions of personal liberty?

I guess so, according to Dr. Chu.  When Big Government decides it should take away choice, then it can take away choiceAll BG needs is a determination (made by some “expert”) that it’s for our own good.

So …

What “uneconomic” choices will Big Government take away next?  Perhaps gambling?  It’s mathematically provable that gambling is a losing proposition.  So why not outlaw that too?

And how about Ben Affleck movies?  Some “expert” critics think they stink — a waste of the buyer’s ticket price.  Should Big Government outlaw attendance at Affleck’s movies?  How about outlawing Ben from making his movies in the first place?

There’s no end to what Big Government will try to do for us if we don’t restrain it.    It’s what BG and Progressivism are doing to us, making more and more things either mandatory or forbidden, that are robbing us of both our economic and political freedoms.  In Milton Friedman’s words:

The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that’s why it’s so essential to preserving individual freedom.

I’m sure Dr. Chu’s experts have data, models, charts, and figures that show that fluorescent bulbs are a better deal under certain assumptions.   Heck, I once had a math professor who liked to say “Under suitable assumptions, anything is true.”   But what happens when Chu’s assumptions don’t apply?  What if fluorescents cause migraine headaches in some people?  What if some buyers prefer the warm glow of an incandescent to the narrow-spectrum glare of a fluorescent.  For them, an incandescent bulb may be an affordable luxury.  Why should they be banned from buying the bulb they want?

There is simply no substitute for leaving these choices up to the individual.  From light bulbs to health care, no Washington bureaucrats can ever hope to do as well with their committee-derived, one-size-fits-all policies.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with Dr. Chu publishing his studies and advising consumers of the benefits of swapping out their incandescents for fluorescent or LED light bulbs.  Informing Americans of the pros and cons and even pleading with them to make the change is fine.  But when Secretary Chu requires it, backed by Federal law, Big Government steps over the line — once again.

The 2007 bill calling for a staged outlawing of incandescent bulbs was developed under Nancy Pelosi’s “leadership” in the 111th Congress and signed by George W. Bush (shame on him).   Let’s hope the 112th Congress votes to repeal it, thereby sending this message:

Thanks, but no thanks, Dr. Chu.  We prefer free markets and freedom of choice.

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David Leeper's 40-year career in engineering includes senior management positions at AT&T Bell Labs, Bellcore, Motorola, and Intel. He holds a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He is now retired and lives in Arizona with his wife, Susan, of 43 years. Both are active in volunteer work, including teaching for Title I schools, reading for the blind, and local/national politics.