There’s an ever more Soviet flavor to the impending U.S. ban on incandescent lightbulbs, which congress just failed to repeal. Given the multi-trillion dollar U.S. government spending and debt blowout, with its ugly implications for the value of the U.S. dollar itself, it’s not merely a joke these days to wonder whether investing in a hoard of lightbulbs — while it’s still legal to do so — might prove a better store of value than, say, a dollar savings account. This would be a sort of poor man’s version of hoarding gold against the battered greenback, with the proviso that the stash could not legally be sold — the future value would come in the form of leaving the hoarder free to choose how to light his or her own home.
All of which can become oddly interesting in calculating the tradeoffs among money spent upfront, the falling dollar, the value of the storage space occupied, the freedom retained, and the overall potential benefits of a lightbulb hedge against the dollar. At least, it’s an amusing mental exercise until you step back and ask what on earth kind of crazy scene is this? — In which ordinary Americans, like retread Soviet subjects treasuring private stockpiles of black-market soap and toilet paper, are now squirreling away incandescent bulbs.
A big part of Washington’s rationale is that forcing American individual consumers to forego incandescents will help them save money — though even that argument grows ever more dim. What really seems to be at work here is not thrift, but crony capitalism. There have been a lot of good articles on this — Jeff Jacoby has one of the latest. In a free-market society, lightbulb policing is just plain wrong to begin with. The great virtue of free markets is that they yield wealthy societies by allowing individuals to choose their own tradeoffs. What America has right now is a government that’s over-spending by trillions and coddling its chosen pals, while ordaining how ordinary Americans should handle their household budgets and bulbs. Government of, by and for… the government.