The Great Light Bulb War and the Modern GOP

Saving the 100 watt bulb seems to be a high priority for the House GOP.  This issue is revealing about the political dynamics now at work on larger issues like the debt ceiling.  Economically, the light bulb ban is a win for consumers: CFLs have a higher initial cost but more than pay for themselves in reduced power bills.  The economic analysis seems to have little significance for Republicans. Moreover, the American industry is on the other side of this issue.  Having invested heavily in producing CFLs, they are unenthusiastic about legislation that would benefit mostly foreign firms that are still producing a lot of incandescent bulbs.  This illustrates the emerging split between the traditional business supporters of the GOP and the tea party. It’s also notable that the GOP is taking a firm stand for a century-old technology rather than embracing technological progress.

You might wonder why the GOP is devoting so much attention to this issue.  The bill was first brought to the floor using an extraordinary legislative procedure.  After that failed, it was immediately brought back under normal procedures. You’d think it was addressing some urgent crisis. The incandescent bulb has somehow become a symbol of freedom of choice (or at least, freedom of choice over everything except whether to give birth and who to marry).  Thus, the GOP is intent on repealing efficiency standards for bulbs, while ignoring the host of other existing energy efficiency standards for household appliances and fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. It’s just that this particular efficiency measure seems to have gotten the attention of one segment of the public and acquired symbolic significance. So far as I’m aware, there’s no reason to think that the Senate would pass similar legislation, so the bill is also symbolic in the sense that no one really expects it to become law.

Thus, we see two important, related developments in the party’s politics.  The first is a relative lack of interest in normal policy analysis of costs and benefits.  The second is an emphasis on political symbolism as opposed to governance.

It’s probably no surprise that the GOP Representatives who feel most passionately about the God-given right to waste electricity with incandescent bulbs are also the ones who don’t think a U.S. debt default is anything to worry about.

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Reader Comments

One Reply to “The Great Light Bulb War and the Modern GOP”

  1. If you want energy efficiency, a light bulb ban is absolutely the STUPIDEST way to do it. Ditto for mileage standards and emission limits.

    The best mechanism to increase efficiency is a simple, single-rate CARBON TAX. But the climate change crowd has bungled the sales job with all their loose talk about “global governance”, by putting that clown, algore, in charge and by turning government-funded scientists into political hacks .

    Why impose thousands of clumsy and circumlocutory regulations on businesses to control carbon emissions or fuel efficiency when a single, simple-to-calculate, simple-to-administer, revenue-generating carbon tax can get the job done?
    That’s what the LMAD plan does.

    The LMAD plan uses a $600 billion/ year CARBON TAX not to fight global warming BUT to BUY off Liberals. And that’s just the start… LMAD also adds fully-funded Healthcare for every American, a public option health insurance entity, and the implementation of tax schemes frequently advocated by Liberals such as a “sugar” tax and a value-added tax. The LMAD plan even grants overnight amnesty of 10 million illegal aliens.

    THEN LMAD buys off Conservatives with much more than a balanced budget and limited government ; it permanently ends future illegal immigration with zero-tolerance, adds tort reform and completely replaces all taxes on production, labor, saving and investment with the new carbon tax, the value-added tax and the sugar tax. The LMAD plan even removes the burden of healthcare expenses from corporate balance sheets by ending our reliance on employer-provided health insurance.

    Energy efficiency? It’s in there. Healthcare-for-All? It’s in there. Balanced budget? It’s in there. Carbon tax? It’s in there. Rational taxation? Amnesty? Border Security? Limited government? Social Security and Medicare solvency? It’s all in there; it’s all paid for and it’s all optimized for economic growth.

    It’s time for progressives concerned about rising temperatures and conservatives concerned about rising federal debt to realize the obvious: they need to BUY each other off in order to effectively address their pet ideological concerns-there is no other way. This means trading, among other things, a carbon tax for a balanced budget amendment and a more limited government. This plan is outlined at

    Wahla! Energy efficiency WITHOUT a light bulb ban.

    Plan Blog:
    Or just Google “LMADster” for more info.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

READ more