Dirty Deeds Are No Longer Dirt Cheap

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Recently, Christopher
M. Montalbano presented an article entitled Flakey
Fluorescents
. In that piece, Mr. Montalbano reports that
Washington may be preparing to pass legislation which will ban normal,
everyday light bulbs. That act will, of course, force us all to
instead buy fluorescent bulbs. Furthermore, we are informed that
this forthcoming legislation is a result of large donations to politicians
in return for those politicians making the competition (regular
bulbs) illegal.

Politicians
are passing blatantly uncompetitive laws in return for filthy lucre?
I am shocked. Shocked!

Okay, not really.

Passing anticompetitive
laws in return for payoffs from the winners is not a new concept.
The mercantilists were doing it hundreds of years ago. However,
most Americans are ignorant of these laws until
they are harmed by them
. For example, how many of you remember
the now unlamented Freon?

DuPont and
the Hole in the Ozone

DuPont was
the patent holder on the greatest invention in human history: Freon.
If you have ever visited the Deep South during summer, you will
quickly realize why Southerners consider Freon to be man's greatest
accomplishment.

During the
80s, it was discovered that the stratospheric ozone layer over Antarctica
was not as thick as the stratospheric ozone layer over the remainder
of the earth. Actually, that should not be a surprise. The key catalyst
in the formation of stratospheric ozone is sunlight. It is dark
six months out of the year in the Antarctic. Furthermore, it is
known that ice crystals help to break down ozone. Again, we're talking
about Antarctica.

About this
same time, it was found that, in a vacuum, chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) break down ozone. Again,
this only occurs in a scientifically controlled vacuum. Why? Because
CFCs and HCFCs are heavier than air. I have found no scientific
evidence explaining how CFCs and HCFCs could possibly rise to the
level of the stratosphere.

Those facts
didn't stop environmentalists from campaigning against cooking sprays,
hair sprays, deodorants and all other uses of CFCs and HCFCs including
and especially Freon. Throughout the attacks, DuPont stoically defended
their product and pointed out, correctly, that science does not
support the alarmists' fears. However, in 1992 DuPont changed their
tune and admitted that they too believed that Freon was harming
the ozone layer.

DuPont backed
the Montreal Protocol which called for the gradual phase out of
chlorofluorocarbon-based refrigerants and encouraged the first Bush
administration to adopt an accelerated phase out. Why did DuPont
suddenly come to accept the claims of the environmental lobby when
so many scientists believed that the "hole in the ozone"
was not an anthropogenic event?

According to
Eric Peters (1996. "Who's Behind the Freon Ban?" The
Free Market 14, December: 6–7), DuPont changed their stance
due to the fact that the company's patent on Freon terminated in
1992. This opened the door to not only domestic competition, but
cheaper Freon from South American producers. Seeing that Freon was,
"the only refrigerant used by the auto industry since the first
AC [Air Conditioning] systems were installed in the 1950s"
(ibid., p 6), DuPont stood to lose millions. However, by encouraging
regulators to make Freon illegal, DuPont closed the door to competition.
Simultaneously, DuPont introduced a patented substitute (HFC-134a).
DuPont "owns exclusive rights to HFC-134a — the only refrigerant
authorized for use in new car air-conditioning systems" (ibid.,
p 7).

On April 27,
1992, DuPont placed a full page add in the New York Times
(p. A7) which stated, "In the US alone, more than $135 billion
worth of equipment — used in about 3,500 different applications
— depend on CFCs…. All of this equipment must use recycled refrigerants,
or be retrofitted or replaced before it can use any of the substitutes
for CFCs." DuPont’s Freon Division Director, Joseph
Glass
summed it up nicely; "When you have $3 billion of
CFCs sold worldwide and 70 percent of that is about to be regulated
out of existence, there is a tremendous market potential."

Baptists
and Bootleggers

Bruce Yandle
authored the Baptists and Bootleggers Theory of Regulation,
which said that two groups often work together to have regulations
passed, but for two very different reasons. For example, both Baptists
and Bootleggers might pressure government to outlaw alcohol; Baptists
due to religious beliefs and bootleggers because of the potential
for profit.

The DuPont
story is a perfect example of Yandle's theory in which environmentalists
were the religious sect and DuPont was the bootlegger. The environmentalists
wanted to stop CFCs and HCFCs because they were harming Mother Earth
(sic). DuPont wanted to stop CFCs and HCFCs because by doing so,
they are using the coercive power of government to make the competition
illegal.

Happy day.

By hiding behind
environmental rhetoric, DuPont can use the power of the government
(read: armed, jack-booted thugs) to wipe out the competition, put
thousands of people out of work and increase DuPont's profits and
make it look like DuPont is the good guy. The hypocrisy amazes even
me (and that, my friends, is saying something).

The Mighty
Ron Paul

Congressman
Ron Paul has said on numerous occasions that he will vote no on
any bill which surpasses the Federal Government's explicit duties;
namely funding the police, funding the courts and protecting our
borders. Any acts beyond those mentioned would be violations of
our liberties. After seeing how Congress can be manipulated by lobbyists
for the specific purposes of increasing certain parties' profits
at the expense of those not politically connected, I think we can
all agree:

We need more
Ron Pauls.

April
3, 2007

Rob
Blackstock [send him mail]
teaches economics at Louisiana Tech University and is the Senior
Economist for American Economic Services.

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