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Consumer Choice Is Not Elitist

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Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, thinks it’s fine that your new dishwasher takes more than 2 hours to complete a cycle — we think consumers should decide.

Thanks to federal efficiency regulations from the Department of Energy, dishwasher cycle times more than doubled, so the Competitive Enterprise Institute leaped into action in response to consumer complaints. We asked the Department of Energy to improve consumer choice by allowing manufacturers to sell dishwashers that clean and dry dishes in under an hour.

Last week, the DOE granted CEI’s petition and began the process of drafting a new, more consumer-friendly rule. But Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, apparently doesn’t like the idea of consumer choice and he called DOE’s decision outrageous. He called CEI “elitist” for our focus on consumer choice, and he claimed the decision would hurt innovators and consumers. These claims by Pallone are absurd, and the thousands of American citizens who supported more effective dishwashers know it.

The changes to regulations CEI proposed would not remove a single dishwasher from the marketplace. Nothing would change for existing dishwashers, and consumers who prefer to wait hours on end and run dishes for multiple cycles can continue to buy those models. Not all consumers are going to want faster dishwashers, but they should have a choice.

Nor is supporting this change “elitist.” CEI does not believe we are smarter than the American consumer. We believe the American people are better able to evaluate tradeoffs and make choices as to what products they want to buy. Those who think they know better than the American consumer are the real elitists.

Pallone claims that DOE’s new rule would hurt innovators, but it’s the current regulations that artificially limits the types of dishwashers innovators can sell to consumers. In fact, if Congress is concerned about innovation, it should seriously examine whether changes to the current statutory framework for appliance efficiency mandates would better enable companies to provide what consumers want.

After we submitted our petition to the DOE, the agency responded by accepting comments on it from the American people. While some establishment organizations opposed our request, we are grateful that thousands of American citizens supported our efforts to improve dishwashers. The request for comments inspired such an avalanche of support from American citizens in favor of our proposal that the Wall Street Journal called it “The Dishwasher Rebellion.”

It is precisely these kinds of citizens, those fed up with the harm that D.C.-based politicians and bureaucrats are doing to their lives, which Pallone doesn’t understand.

Our country was founded on the notion of liberty and freedom. As James Wilson declared, “Without liberty, law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression.”

While the Founders understood this, sadly it seems to have been lost among many in government today. Today too often politicians want to control the choices that are properly left to individual citizens. Our government should reject the nanny state tendencies it has fallen into and rely again on the American people’s wisdom regarding their own affairs.

Consumers have said they want products that will consume less water and energy. But that is only one of the things that consumers value in a dishwasher. They also want dishwashers that clean well, clean quickly and are affordable. The current statute doesn’t try to balance these other consumer desires properly. We should put our trust in the American people to make the right decision and balance these competing concerns.

Supporting consumer choice isn’t elitist. These changes will help everyone, including innovators. We should all be asking, why doesn’t Chairman Pallone trust the American people?

Originally published at Inside Sources.