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.
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