Jeffrey Tucker discusses in loving detail one prominent example of the countless ways in which government regulation has impacted the lives of just about every American.
[Y]esterday, [I ran out of gas and] had to get a can of gas from the local car shop. I started to pour it in. But, hmmm, this is strange. The nozzle doesnâ€™t quite go in. I tilted it up and tried to jam it in.
I waited. Then I noticed gas pouring all down the side of the car. So I pulled it out and experimented by pouring it on the ground. There was some weird contraption on the outside and it wasnâ€™t clear how it worked.
I poured more and more on the ground. Some got on my shoe. Some got on my hands. Some got on my suit.
Gas was everywhere really â€” everywhere but in the tank. It was a gassy mess. If someone had lit a match, I would have been a goner.
Finally I turned out the crazy nozzle thing a few times. It began to drip in a slightly coherent direction so I jammed it in. I ended up putting about one cup of gas in, started my car and made it to the gas station.
Iâ€™m pretty sure gas cans used to work. Yes. It was a can. It had a spout. It had a vent hole on the other side. You stuck in the spout and tipped. You never saw the gas.
Then government â€œfixedâ€ the gas can. Why? Because of the environmental hazards that come with spilled gas. You read that right. In other words, the very opposite resulted. Now you cannot buy a decent can anywhere. You can look forever and not find a new one.
Instead you have to go to garage sales. But actually people hoard old cans. There is a burgeoning market in kits to fix the can.
The whole trend began in (wait for it) California. Regulations began in 2000, with the idea of preventing spillage. The notion spread and was picked up by the EPA, which is always looking for new and innovative ways to spread as much human misery as possible.
An ominous regulatory announcement from the EPA came in 2007: â€œStarting with containers manufactured in 2009â€¦ it is expected that the new cans will be built with a simple and inexpensive permeation barrier and new spouts that close automatically.â€
The government never said â€œno vents.â€ It abolished them de facto with new standards that every state had to adopt by 2009. So for the last five years, you have not been able to buy gas cans that work properly. They are not permitted to have a separate vent. The top has to close automatically. There are other silly things now, too, but the biggest problem is that they do not do well what cans are supposed to do. …
Never heard of this rule? You will know about it if you go to the local store. Most people buy one or two of these items in the course of a lifetime, so you might otherwise have not encountered this outrage.
Yet let enough time go by. A whole generation will come to expect these things to work badly. Then some wise young entrepreneur will have the bright idea, â€œHey, letâ€™s put a hole on the other side so this can work properly.â€ But he will never be able to bring it into production. The government wonâ€™t allow it because it is protecting us! ….
There is no possible rationale for these kinds of regulations. It canâ€™t be about emissions really, since the new cans are more likely to result in spills. Itâ€™s as if some bureaucrat were sitting around thinking of ways to make life worse for everyone, and hit upon this new, cockamamie rule.
These days, government is always open to a misery-making suggestion. The notion that public policy would somehow make life better is a relic of days gone by. Itâ€™s as if government has decided to specialize in what it is best at and adopt a new principle: â€œLetâ€™s leave social progress to the private sector; we in the government will concentrate on causing suffering and regress.â€ …
Ask yourself this: If they can wreck such a normal and traditional item like this, and do it largely under the radar screen, what else have they mandatorily malfunctioned? How many other things in our daily lives have been distorted, deformed and destroyed by government regulations?
If some product annoys you in surprising ways, thereâ€™s a good chance that it is not the invisible hand at work, but rather the regulatory grip that is squeezing the life out of civilization itself.
Read the whole thing.
Air conditioners which don’t cool as well as their predecessors made 60 years ago, toilets that won’t flush, automobiles without spare tires which cost more than the house you grew up in… the list of products of federal regulatory intervention to make the world a better place is long, and it keeps growing.