Gulliver, Meet the Lilliputians

California state officials have been busy writing regulations:

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) just passed a new regulation that requires glazed glass in automobiles that is supposed to reduce the need to use air conditioning. The catch is that the same properties that block electromagnetic sunlight radiation also blocks lower frequency electromagnetic radio waves. That means radios, satellite radios, GPS, garage door openers, and cell phones will be severely degraded. Even more surprising is that it requires this glass even for jeeps that have soft covers, plastic windows, and no air conditioning. Furthermore, the rules are so stringent that they effectively make sunroofs black, even though many consumers use the covers.

Also, the California State Energy Commission is promulgating stringent energy-consumption requirements for flat-screen TVs. At a minimum, these will surely increase prices to consumers (if manufacturers could increase energy efficiency without raising prices, they would have already done it, since efficiency is a selling point) and may effectively ban some size-technology combinations. This is being done on the theory that it will reduce overall electricity consumption and help avoid the need to build new power plants.

I watch very little television, and the largest TV in the house is a projection system which is several years old, used mainly for the occasional Netflix. But if I were so unfortunate as to live in California, and wanted to purchase a huge flat-screen TV, what right do these bureaucrats have to stop me?

From the specific standpoint of energy efficiency: the energy use of a device is equal to its power consumption multiplied by the length of time it is used. If I have a large flat-screen system drawing 600 watts, and use it 10 hours a month, I am using less total energy than someone with a 300-watt system who watches it for 50 hours a month.

Consider another common home appliance: the electric stove. The nameplate on my oven says 9.5KW, or 9500 watts. This is surely the peak demand, and the average as the oven thermostat cycles on and off is probably closer to 5000 watts…this is still almost ten times as much as the power demand of a large flat-screen TV.

One person might be a gourmet cook and run his oven 2 hours a day. Another might do quick stir-fry on the burner and warm up stuff in the microwave–far more energy efficient than the heavy oven-user. The electric meter lets you make this tradeoff: you can use less electricity for the oven and more for the television, while keeping the same electric bill. Or less for the television and more for incandescent lights. Or any of a billion tradeoffs based on personal taste. Bureaucratic edicts do not allow you to make these tradeoffs. You are simply one unit among millions or tens of millions. Bureaucratic logic: The average large flat-screen TV as used by the average Californian uses X kilowatt-hours per month; hence your personal access to these products must be limited based on this average.

The Declaration of Independence speaks of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Clearly, the Founders intended individuals to pursue happiness based on their own personal definitions of the same–they did not assume that happiness must be pursued in precisely the same way by each individuals.

Big-screen TVs may not be an important factor in your personal happiness–they are certainly not in mine. But whatever is important to you, be assured that there are government officials–usually led on by academics and various “experts”–who believe they have a total right to take it away from you.

Unless there is a major change in current trends, the realistic image of American life will be Gulliver, tied down by Lilliputians.

10 thoughts on “Gulliver, Meet the Lilliputians”

  1. Big whoop. Just like all the industry moving out of CA now everyone will just buy their TV from out of state. Just another hit on the CA economy.

  2. need to worry too much. You local Community Organizer will have an exemption allowing him to have an oven in his house, for preparing feasts in honor of The People and their Leader. If you are cooperative, he may sometimes allow you to participate in the cooking.

  3. In a free market, the price of electricity would rise until demand decreased to equal supply. People are free to chose ways to save electricity – such as watching a neighbor’s TV set; or maybe taking to the streets to protest the environazis; or maybe moving to a red state; or matbe inventing a mechanical solution.

    But governments only consider solutions that use the police power of the state. They have the right to do whatever they want because they have the guns. As the liberals said in the 60’s: “All power guns from the barrel of a gun”. Now the liberals control the power; they have the government. The liberal solution is to gain each liberal goal by restricting the choices of the proletariat (that’s you and me).

    Some how I feel like a Berliner living in 1932, or a Muscovite living in 1922. We’ve just elected this charasmatic young man who gives great speeches but the people who surround him seem to be fanatics.

  4. Thank you, David, for this perspective. My grandmother has lived through real-life communal cooking & living, and told us about it in vivid detail. I think I’ll pass on that excitement.

  5. This goes to show how environmentalism can be used as an excuse to control every facet of our material lives. Once we’ve surrendered control over our material lives, we won’t be able to prevent the destruction of our intellectual and spiritual freedoms as well.

  6. Scary thing is CA is about 12% of the country and there may be a real temptation by automakers to use the CA standard for the whole country.

    The CA bastards oughta just slap on a big State carbon tax, let people adjust to that, and use the revenues to bail out their sorry asses, while leaving the rest of us alone.

  7. “Big whoop. Just like all the industry moving out of CA now everyone will just buy their TV from out of state. Just another hit on the CA economy.”

    Tim, unfortunately quite the opposite will happen if history is to repeat itself. From auto emissions and batteries to chargers and transformers when California passes laws like this they become the de facto law of the land. This will drive the cost of televisions up for evryone.

    A manufacturer is faced with either (1) walking away from the Califonia market and hoping, as you suggest, that Californians will go to a neighboring state to buy ther products; (2) offering multiple versions of its products including some that comply with California law and some that do not and are presumably cheaper; or (3) ratcheting everything sold in the USA up to the higher standard and offering one higher priced California compliant model to everyone. It is not just the manufacturers who are concerned either. If they were to go with option 2 the size of the entire supply chain and distribution system would about double. Retailers would have to carry two models of everything – a California compliant version and a non-California compliant one. Inventories would increase substantially. Option 3 has been the least among the evils and that is what has happened virtually every time Califonia has passed an absurd environmental reg like this in the past.

    The transformer (the black box with the plug sticking out of it that goes into the wall) on your cell phone charger cost you anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar more if you bought it in the last year or so because everyone sold in the USA now complies with the California Energy Commission’s standards. Every car sold in the USA complies with California emissions – a much higher standard than the EPA requirement.

    The real question is how much lower does California have to sink before the rest of the USA steps up and says we are no longer going to allow the left coast to drag the rest of us down with them.

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