Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Not Wasting Water

Jeffery Tucker of the Mises Institute has an interesting blog article today about how the gi-normous federal government (protector of freedom everywhere), has seen fit to specify the maximum water flow of shower heads, and toilets. This isn't a new story at all. I was very fortunate to find a house that was built just before the start of the low-flush toilet era (ca. 1990). Dave Berry wrote about this several years ago, with of course, far better skill than me (with any luck, I'll find a link).

Anyhoo, we wind upshooting a couple of ironic points.
  1. Low-flow devices almost certainly cause more water to be used, as showers must be longer to get cleaned and rinsed, and it often takes several "low-flow" flushes to dispose of a man-sized output, if you know what I mean.
  2. MY favorite point, which is that water doesn't really go away. It is not consumed. Whether you want to or not, it's always recycled. Endlessly. Human activity has nearly no effect on the amount of water on the planet.
I'll belabor point number 2 further. There is a process for breaking down water into its components, hydrogen and oxygen (if you didn't know that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, go away). It takes a lot of energy to do this, but hydrogen has its uses. Oxygen is easily available from other sources. Water is created when hydrogen is burned, but all-in-all, we're not talking about anything close to a significant fraction of the earth's water. So, the amount of water we have is fixed.

The only problems are that a lot of the water is dirty, or pretty salty; and some places don't have very much nearby, even though they are otherwise wonderful places to live. Las Vegas, for example. I've never been there, but there must be some attraction to a place that gets untold billions of our discretionary income spent there, 24 by 7 (hate that phrase, I will never say it again).

Anyway, without piping in a bunch of water, everyone there would die an ugly death from thirst. But they can afford it, although the price is likely to keep rising as they expand; that's fairly basic economics. Of course, no one likes to pay more for the same thing, especially something as mundane as water. What to do?

Of course! Force everyone to use no more water than you think is appropriate. That's what government's for, to force everyone to conform to the majority will, right? Actually, no, that's not exactly what's in the constitution, for what it's worth. But of course, it's hardly a majority that gets laws passed, it's more like a certain critical mass of money and leverage. There's a reason 40,000 lobbyists work in Babylon on the Potomac.

So, even though there's plenty of water here where I live, there's little benefit to be foresighted enough to plan for that... I still have to suffer with low-flow shower heads and toilets so as to supposedly subsidize people who think they have a right to live in a desert with no compromise to its arid reality.

And there you have it. A shining example of government at work. Take a non-problem, attempt to solve it with a non-solution, and wind up making things worse, and destroying liberty as well.

In that last sentence, I started with "freedom", and changed it to "liberty". Why is that? I'll need to think about that.


At 11 January, 2006 09:27, Anonymous Fred said...

Nice pic on your profile. Looks like you might be due for a haircut though.


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