Take, for instance, this Wall Street Journal piece on--of all things--shower heads:
Gene Goforth sells showerheads—big ones, like the Raindance Imperial 600 AIR. Selling for as much as $5,457, it has a 24-inch spray face, 358 no-clog channels and a triple-massage option. "You can just stand under it, and it helps your psyche," says Mr. Goforth, who has one in his home.Before reading the "ruling class" essay, I probably would have paid little attention to this article--except to wince at it. Like many women who don't always wear their hair extremely short, I find that the "energy efficient" showers just make it harder to rinse shampoo out of the hair--which means I take longer showers than I used to. How much energy is really being saved, if lots of people are doing the same thing?
Now, Mr. Goforth is in a lather over the federal government's tough new line on water-hogging showerheads, part of a new effort to enforce energy- and water-use regulations. "Leave my shower alone," Mr. Goforth recently wrote in a letter to the Department of Energy.
Regulators are going after some of the luxury shower fixtures that took off in the housing boom. Many have multiple nozzles, cost thousands of dollars and emit as many as 12 gallons of water a minute. In May, the DOE stunned the plumbing-products industry when it said it would adopt a strict definition of the term "showerhead" in enforcing standards that have been on the books—but largely unenforced—for nearly 20 years.
Industry response has been fast and furious. "It was not the legislative intent of Congress to authorize DOE to regulate the bathing habits of Americans," wrote Frederick Desborough, vice president of California Faucets, a Huntington Beach, Calif., manufacturer, in a letter to the DOE in June.
The showdown is a challenge to President Barack Obama and his energy secretary, Steven Chu, as they try to cajole—or compel—Americans to use water and energy more efficiently. Mr. Chu, a self-described "zealot" for energy efficiency, says he crawls around in his attic in his spare time installing extra insulation.
A 1992 federal law says a showerhead can deliver no more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch. For years, the term "showerhead" in federal regulations was understood by many manufacturers to mean a device that directs water onto a bather. Each nozzle in a shower was considered separate and in compliance if it delivered no more than the 2.5-gallon maximum. But in May, the DOE said a "showerhead" may incorporate "one or more sprays, nozzles or openings." Under the new interpretation, all nozzles would count as a single showerhead and be deemed noncompliant if, taken together, they exceed the 2.5 gallons-a-minute maximum.
I had similar thoughts when we purchased this house, and received all of the "owner's manuals" on every part of it. The house had "energy efficient" toilets, the plumbing brochures proudly proclaimed. But in order to use these "water saving" toilets, the manufacturer warned, it was necessary to flush more often during normal use--not "flush more often" as in after each use, which civilized people do anyway (but which, apparently, has become the kind of wasteful habit enlightened people look down on), but "flush more often" as in, if you're still a Neanderthal-type who actually uses toilet paper, you might need to flush two or three times during each use.
But these kinds of things do make sense, if we remember these ruling class rules:
- Average Americans can't be trusted to run their own lives.
- Left to their own devices, average Americans are wasteful drains on the planet.
- Only the ruling class knows how people must live.
- The ruling class grows in size and power by creating more policies governing the way everyone else lives, and by increasing the size and power of the regulatory agencies who create, study, and enforce these policies.
- The point of outlawing certain shower heads, or regulating toilets, is as much to increase the power of the lawgivers and regulators as it is to save energy. Even if the energy savings are minimal, or are erased by energy use by big corporations or other groups which use energy much more than the average consumer does, it does not matter, so long as the point is to tell Americans how to live and to increase the power of the people who do that.
Frederick Desborough wrote to the Department of Energy, ""It was not the legislative intent of Congress to authorize DOE to regulate the bathing habits of Americans." But Mr. Desborough might be wrong about that. A people free enough to make consumer choices without extensive government regulation in place isn't a people easily controlled by mandates, committees, councils, policies, and Cabinet-office rules.
It's not that wasting gallons of water is a great idea--but letting Congress regulate American's bathing habits--or light bulb options--or a million other tiny petty day-to-day consumer decisions--is slowly sending freedom down the drain.