Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Those knowledge problems

I greatly enjoyed Arnold Kling's Unchecked and Unbalanced. The author writes about the financial crisis and finds serious culpability in Washington as well as on Wall Street. As always, when these two hold hands, we have problems. It's that old crony capitalism and both political parties practice it.

Kling also writes about the ratio of governors to governed. He likes the ratio in Switzerland better than ours. One canton has more elected officials but fewer people than Kling's home county in Maryland. It's always a stretch to believe that elected officials can possible know enough to fully understand all the problems they presumably want to "solve." So it's Fatal Conceit all over again.

The March 28 Forbes included "Ban Bulb Lunacy"
Next year the federal government begins the phaseout of traditional incandescent lightbulbs, giving us yet another enlightening example of politicians short-circuiting free markets. The 100-watt bulb will be banned on New Year's Day, and all the rest by 2014.

This prohibition of the standard lightbulb is justified on the grounds that it will save energy. Well, if that were true, don't you think consumers would figure it out for themselves? The chief replacement is the compact fluorescent lamp (CFLs)--those things that look like frozen pasta. They will cost six to ten times the amount of the old bulbs, but Washington politicians assure us that consumers will ultimately save money because CFLs will last longer.

But they might not. Warns expert Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute: "Cost savings are exaggerated. First, the [new] bulbs are tested under ideal conditions. Some household uses approximate these ideal conditions. Most do not. For example, if you turn a light on and off a lot, such as a bathroom light, you will save very little electricity because CFLs use a lot of electricity to start up. Second, CFLs tend not to last as long as advertised. Therefore, you end up replacing CFLs before they have achieved the savings needed to make up the [cost] difference [of the old-fashioned bulb]."

There's an even bigger problem: mercury, a poison. Heaven help you if you break one of these things. The EPA has numerous instructions on what you're supposed to do when this happens.

It also goes into detail on how to handle vacuuming carpeting or rugs:

- The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet, shut off the H&AC system if you have one, close the doors to other rooms and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming. Change the vacuum bag after each use in this area.

- After vacuuming is completed, keep the H&AC system shut off and the window or door to the outside open, as practical, for several hours.

The EPA also has bulletins on what to do when the bulb burns out.

You can't make this stuff up. ...
How likely is it that the millions of pages of rules and regs in the Federal Register are much better than this?