Scott Johnson of Powerline recently reminded us that "Bill Buckley used to characterize a liberal as someone who wanted to reach into your shower and adjust the temperature of the water."
Today's Wall Street Journal reminds us that they also want to adjust the water. Since the 1990s, the federal government, under what provision of the constitution I'm not sure, has claimed the right to regulate our showers. "Tthe 2.5-gallon-per-minute shower head remains the legal standard." Having lived in Southern California, I can understand the need to manage the water supply. The question is how. Should it be a one-size-fits-all regulation like this? How about (in those communities where there's a shortage) charging a fixed price for the first x gallons, and then y for every gallon above that. That way each of us can decide for himself. Those who want large lawns can pay for watering them. Those who wish to take longer, stronger showers may do so. Those who wish to save money by doing one, but not the other, may do so. Etc.
What happened was, in 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which declared that, to save water, all U.S. consumer toilets would henceforth use 1.6 gallons of water per flush. That is WAY less water than was used by the older 3.5-gallon models -- the toilets that made this nation great; the toilets that our Founding Fathers fought and died for -- which are now prohibited for new installations.
As Mr. Barry notes, the result has not been pretty:
Unfortunately, the new toilets have a problem. They work fine for one type of bodily function, which, in the interest of decency, I will refer to here only by the euphemistic term "No. 1." But many of the new toilets do a very poor job of handling "acts of Congress," if you get my drift.
All kidding aside, there's a political cost to such regulations teach us to have contempt for the law. "I checked this out with my local plumber, who told me that people are always asking him for 3.5-gallon toilets, but he refuses to provide them, because of the law." I know many people who quite willingly pay cleaning people cash and don't report social security. I know others who have simply ignored building codes, or, worse, filed false renovation plans for their homes when they deemed the regulations to be unreasonable. When regulations get out of hand, more and more of us become criminals because they start to force us to choose between cowing before petty authority and living comfortably. The more regulations we have, the more citizens will ignore them. (Part of the reason why President Clinton got sympathy during the impeachment trial, I suspect, is that many Americans thought he was being pursued under an unreasonable law. That he signed the very sexual harassment law that made the case possible into effect only compounds the irony).
Finally, as Philip Howard notes in his latest work, the excess of law keeps us from being free, responsible adults.
P.S. Would it be fun to create a list of things the government won't let us do in our own homes?