The New York Times reports that new Incandescent Bulbs will meet new US government standards for efficiency, and thus not everyone will be forced to switch to Compact Florescent bulbs.
It seems to me that this validates big-government skeptics, who tend to believe that Government shouldn’t mandate specific technological solutions. Clearly, the government shouldn’t be in the business of mandating, say, CF bulbs for everyone.
However, it also validates Government intervention in markets to meet improved standards of safety and efficiency. One researcher quoted in the article said “There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades.” Clearly, the government’s market intervention two years ago has helped to spur this innovation in efficiency — an innovation that industry did not see fit to pursue independently.
It’s true that cars today are safer and more efficient than those thirty years ago, and it seems safe to believe that government intervention helped bring that about. Certainly, there have been complications in car servicing and the cost of new vehicles, but the disaster foreseen by Libertarians has failed to emerge.
In short, I suppose, this is a plea for the middle road: modest Government intervention to apply some standards to improve safety and efficiency in accord with national strategic interests. But at the same time, the Government need not dictate the solution details: had the Government mandated CF technology, we wouldn’t see improvements to incandescent bulbs, which have some significant advantages over CF in at least some applications.