The economics columnist David Warsh, who is a friend of mine, has a column criticizing as too right-wing an Economist survey on government power that I thought was too left-wing. The best part of the Warsh column is the beginning:
I'm as susceptible as the next guy to lashing out at the nanny state. The jigging around of Daylight Savings Time over the last twenty-five years is my latest peeve. For a quarter-century after 1962, DST (what the British call Summer Time) began the last Sunday in April and ended the last Sunday in October. For the next fifteen years, it began the first Sunday in April. Now we move our clocks ahead the second Sunday in March and don't set them back until the first Sunday in November. Europe waits until the end of March.
Dependable time and stable money are among government's most fundamental responsibilities. Changing the calendar periodically to suit lobbying interests and bureaucratic enthusiasms is a bad idea.
Meanwhile, outrage at the government's determination to favor the new fluorescent light bulbs by imposing efficiency standards on the old incandescent ones is one of the few concerns I share with the Tea Party. "It makes me want to explode," says my friend, the critic Katherine A. Powers. Washington should repeal George W. Bush's mandate and let the price system do its work.
Exactly. If the compact fluorescent bulbs are really as energy-efficient and long-lasting as the packages claim, then consumers will figure that out, with the help of advertising, and buy the compact fluorescent bulbs instead of the old kind. If a new technology is truly superior, it'll be adopted on its own merits, without government imposing the new technology by banning the old technology. No one needed a government ban on typewriters to decide to buy a computer, or a government ban on horses to buy a car, or a government ban on radio to buy a television. This is a point that seems obvious but for some reason is widely ignored by politicians, who are too easily swayed by firms marketing products that aren't genuinely superior (windmills, ethanol, naked-airline-passenger machines) and that therefore want the government to in one way or another force consumers to adopt their technology.