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We had to replace our 12-year-old washer and dryer a while back.
“What a compelling lead sentence, Jon! I can’t wait to see how this cliffhanger ends!” Don’t worry, I’ll get to the point soon.
Since our old appliances were bargain basement, no-frills models, we thought we’d treat ourselves to something a little higher-end. The cheapest new units were double what we paid a dozen years ago and they had fewer features. The really expensive units looked nice, but behind the bells and whistles they felt plastic and cheap.
The middle-aged salesman shocked me with his honesty. “These new models have some nice features,” he said, “but they probably won’t get your clothes as clean as your old basic washer.” He told me that customers complained all the time, but there was nothing he could do. Government regulators insisted on “high-efficiency” washers and dryers; manufacturers (and salesmen like him) had to comply.
From washing machines to microwaves to refrigerators, government regulations are making consumer goods far more expensive while reducing their effectiveness and longevity.
The Department of Energy claims that their new appliance standards save consumers money through reduced environmental costs and energy use. But a recent study by the Mercatus Center confirms shows that you and I don’t see that extra money in our wallets.
As the infographic shows (click to expand), the environmental “savings” are often exceeded by the costs they impose on consumers. And when the U.S. government calculates the environmental benefits, they include estimated benefits to everyone on earth — not just the American consumers who pay the higher price.
You see, the government thinks we’re all stupid. Or, in their more polite terms, “irrational.”
Regulators believe that consumers make irrational choices when purchasing appliances because they often choose to forgo lower energy bills in the future to pay a low purchase price for an appliance upfront. By forcing consumers to buy higher-end appliances they wouldn’t otherwise buy, regulators believe that they are conferring a benefit by protecting consumers from their own irrational choices.Justifying regulations based on the premise that consumers are irrational is a dangerous precedent. It sets up government agencies to regulate based not just on market failure but also on personal failure.
If I had my way, I would buy, say a $300 washer that would last me another 12 years. According to my betters, this is crazy talk. Instead, government wants me to buy a $900 washer that doesn’t work as well and will die after six years. That is the rational decision — to a Beltway bureaucrat at least.
In a free country, I could purchase the appliance I want with the features I want at whatever price the salesman and I agreed upon. As long as Washington insiders consider freedom “irrational,” citizens like you and I need to watch them like hawks and hold them accountable.
Follow Jon on Twitter at @ExJon.