Andrew Ferguson tells the story of federal regulation of toilets (via overlawyered). The amazing thing about this story is it is just one examples of thousands -- in other words, its not a humorous outlier, it is the rule of how government works today. It is a common story of technocrats distrusting market signals and individual preferences, hoping to impose a better order from above, but merely resulting in reduced consumer choice and crappy low-flow toilets even in areas of the country flush with water (sorry, couldn't resist).
The grassroots revolt winked out too. Today's toilets are better than the
first 1995 models, though not as good or as cheap as the toilets of our youth.
U.S. consumers in 2006 can thus buy a worse product at a higher price than they
could in 1992, thanks to the government's insistence on fixing a problem that
With a chill I remember, from the late 1990s, the look a plumber shot me when
I pleaded with him, quietly, to find me a toilet that worked.
``No way,'' he said. ``I'm not going to jail over a toilet.''
It also is yet another example of regulation primarily being supported by incumbents in an industry trying to limit the number of ways potential new competitors can come at them. The general effect is always to raise prices and reduce consumer choice. Ironically, consumer groups are often the worst about this. In fact, it would be interesting to find even one regulation consumer groups have supported that is not primarily aimed at actually reducing consumer choice - i.e. not of the form "consumers shouldn't buy this because we smarter than they are and we think they should not have it."