Dim Idea
From the Oct. 18, 2010, issue of NR.


Rob Long

The Department of Energy regulates showerheads. Some of them, apparently, are too wasteful. My sunflower-sized rainmaker is on the list to be banned, as are the kinds that squirt water in all directions (those seem nice) and the kind that emit a steamy fog. In other words, if it somehow leavens the act of bathing, raising it up from dull routine to a tiny glimpse of the spa lifestyle, well, the DoE is against it.

Manufacturers of such showerheads are being fined — this spring, the federal government fined four such companies a total of about $150,000, just for making a showerhead that people want — and stern warnings are being sent out on Department of Energy letterhead.

To an environmental bureaucrat, the world looks better when it’s dingier. Bright lights are too festive. Powerful showerheads are too luxurious. To maintain the proper downcast attitude, they want to make sure we’re all a little less comfortable.

It’s all about less with them. As far as the environmental movement is concerned, we’re running out of everything — polar icecaps, sea turtles, crude oil — and the trick is to cut our appetites down to size, to stop wanting to stand under a gushing showerhead in a bright morning bathroom and think, I can handle what’s coming at me today.

It’s not about showerheads and wattage. It’s about optimism. Either you think a more prosperous world is a good thing — that prosperity and ingenuity can solve most of our pressing problems — or you don’t. Either you think that being able to afford an expensive showerhead is a component of a complicated web of incentives designed to inspire the next Thomas Edison to invent something useful — like, say, a battery-powered car or a brighter energy-saving light bulb — or you think that we’re done, we’ve invented everything already and we need to divvy up a shrinking pie. For the Left, there are no light-bulb moments in the future.

In the Battle of the Bathroom, the environmental bureaucrats have the optimistic hedonists on the run. They’ve taken our bulbs and our rain-showers, so it’s just a matter of time before they focus their regulatory powers on my toilet, with its delightfully surprising — but water-wasteful — nozzles and jets. This, perhaps, is where we need to take our (seated) stand. This is the line they must not cross. When they come to me with their regulations and federal guidelines, I will take a page from the National Rifle Association and say, “From my cold, dead . . .”

Well, you get the idea.

Rob Long is a contributing editor of National Review and a contributor to Ricochet. This article originally appeared in the October 18, 2010, issue of National Review.