Candles are next to be banned

In his Examiner column today, Tim Carney — with a nod to Bastiat — takes the company founded by Thomas Edison to task for eschewing innovation in favor of political rent seeking:

Had Thomas Edison employed the same business strategy as his 21st-Century heirs at General Electric, he would have lobbied Congress to outlaw the candle in 1879 when he perfected and patented the light bulb.

He surely could have masked his self-interested lobbying in some public interest claim, such as fire prevention or the need for wax conservation. Today, the mask is environmentalism.

Earlier this month, Thomas Edison’s GE, together with Sylvania and Philips won a legislative victory when Congress passed an energy bill that would outlaw sale of the standard light bulb by 2012.

Sylvania is the leading light bulb maker worldwide, and GE is tops in America. These two companies, together with Dutch-based Royal Phillips Electronics, concede they basically wrote the new light bulb law. It goes without saying that they stand to profit from it — at consumer expense.

That is because the energy bill raises energy efficiency requirements to a level that most incandescent light bulbs in use today cannot meet, which would force most people to switch to the more expensive compact fluorescent bulbs.

Of course, this isn’t the only special interest pork barrel project in the energy bill, but in this specific instance, it’s worth asking — If fluorescent bulbs are so great, why does Congress need to essentially mandate their use?