Command and control in California. Shocking.

Cite this Article
Geoffrey A. Manne, Command and control in California. Shocking., Truth on the Market (October 21, 2009),

In a move stupider even than Chicago’s foie gras and trans fat bans (on which see Thom here), California appears to be set to ban . . . wait for it . . . big TVs.  Environmentalists, those growing enemies of freedom and common sense everywhere, are pushing the ban because large-screen TVs use a lot of power.  And by large screen we’re talking 40 inches–not just the giant honkers bigger than most Multiplex screens.  And former-libertarian-leaning Arnold is on board.

Here’s a taste:

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state’s governor, has supported controversial proposals by the California’s energy commission to impose strict energy consumption limits on TVs with screens that are more than 40 inches wide.

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The commission argues that television owners would save around $30 (£18) a year per set in reduced energy consumption. The state itself could benefit by as much as $8.1 billion and could drop plans to a new natural gas-fired power station.

“We would not propose TV efficiency standards if we thought there was any evidence in the record that they will hurt the economy,” Julia Levin, an energy commissioner, told the Los Angeles Times.

“This will actually save consumers money and help the California economy grow and create new clean, sustainable jobs.”

I never fail to be impressed by the temerity and economic illiteracy of public officials.  Certainly there can be no benefit to anyone in California from watching a large screen TV, so $30 dollars a year in savings is all gain!  And why try to align incentives and let people decide for themselves where they might best cut energy use by raising the price of electricity or–better yet–by using dynamic pricing and smart grid technology, when we can just micromanage their choices for them?  And, gosh, nothing says “economic growth” like beating up on an existing (mostly foreign–hmmmm, I wonder . . . nah!) industry.   Finally–bonus!–by making TV less attractive, we’ll make Californians more productive!

I sure do hope our inevitable health insurance overlords commissioners are as sensible as the California Energy Commissioners.

For a great review of smart grid and its prospects, see this article by Lynne Kiesling in Reason.

(HT:  Seth Weinberger)