Sunday, January 6, 2008

Dim Bulbs in Washington or "How many lobbyists does it take to change a light bulb?"

Tim Carney, writing for the San Francisco Examiner shows us how the rent-seeking game is played at the intersection of Greed and Self-Interest, otherwise known as K street. Listen up kids, this is how the big boys do it:

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.

As reported previously in this column, the energy bill was loaded up with all sorts of favors for energy companies, manufacturers and other corporate bigwigs. The light bulb law follows the same pattern: A regulation touted as an environmental boon that will have dubious benefits to the planet, real costs to consumers and guaranteed profits for a handful of well-connected corporations....MORE