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April 28, 2008
The ‘LightBulb Freedom of Choice Act’: Selfishness Has Its Day
of us would agree, I think, that change is inevitable. Not always good,
not always wise, but tomorrow will not be the same as today (which, I’m
also told, makes the prospects of heartache bearable).
There are reasons, in many cases, to keep change in check. Change
oftentimes works as a wave, and in its wake, change that takes place too
quickly can prompt important knowledge and traditions to fall off the
back end and out of human memory.
There are times when resisting that change is not good, and as example I
give you the LightBulb Freedom of Choice Act of 2008. It’s a narrowly
focused piece of legislation, aimed specifically at portions of the
Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that prohibit the use of
old-style incandescent light bulbs in most sockets.
original energy bill has naturally set off howls of protest among a
vocal minority who go about their day in a constant state of dudgeon
over choices made for them. As long as they are willing to pay, they
should be allowed to make their own decisions.
sounds reasonable, except that there is sticker price, and there is
something’s real cost. This is especially true when it comes to
estimated that making this conversion will save consumers an estimated
$300 billion by 2030. More importantly, it means reducing our collective
greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil by reducing
demand. This comes at a time when we’re searching for better, more
efficient, more dependable ways to produce energy.
importantly, it tells us that what has passed as the movement for
individual rights has – if it didn’t start this way – morphed into a
movement in favor of selfishness. It is expressed in a desire for
freedom to buy old, inefficient light bulbs.
There is something for individual choice, but there are times to say,
“That is a fight not worth having.” In this case, it is a fight being
waged by people who wish to pay more for inefficiency that has costs the
rest of us will ultimately get to help pay.
far, there are a handful of sponsors and co-sponsors for the bill, but
it has also generated a good deal of buzz among self-styled
conservatives who oppose government dictating what kinds of light bulbs
they buy. A good deal of their wind is being expressed as doubt
concerning global warming, the phenomenon that helped drive the original
legislation through Congress.
would be wrong to say that most skepticism concerning global warming is
driven by a selfish desire not to contribute to the common good, but
that’s only because there is no firm data that suggests as such. It is
notable that many of the same people who don’t wish government to help
them pick light bulbs also object to paying most forms of taxation. Some
of them object to laws telling you that you can’t dump toxic substances
in rivers on the grounds that injured parties should compel good
behavior through the courts. It is also among this constituency that you
find the strongest resistance to smoking bans of any kind, including in
places where they expose other people and other people’s children to the
damaging effects of second-hand smoke.
They’ve constructed around these positions vast piles of
rationalizations, built from both junk science and dubious
interpretations of history. They attack the source of a collective cost.
the bottom of it, it’s hard not to pull it apart and find as a chief
motivator a desire to not be forced to be an agent for the common good.
We have a name for that, which is selfishness, and it applies equally to
you if you take more than your share of a pie or if you object too
strenuously to legislation that provides you with concrete benefit while
also helping everyone else.
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