Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Caution: Uncle Sam Is In Your Shower

Children, leave the room. Women, cover your eyes. Men, don't stare. That's the Nautilus II from Zoe Industries, and it's a bad, bad thing. Uncle Sam himself says so.

Its manufacturer, Zoe Industries should win a Freedom Medal for the Nautilus II, but instead, they're only winning the wrath of a pea-brained bureaucrat, Al Dietemann, head of conservation for the Seattle Water Board.

Al does not want you to long for that long-ago day when a shower meant something ... a flood of water washing over you, enough pressure to pound that knotted spot out of your back, a great big American indulgence of feel-good excess.

Like 3 or 4 gallons per minute. That kind of sensual yumminess.

Yumminess? Hah! Al whips out his Federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 guidebook, and jabs his finger at the mandate that "all faucet fixtures manufactured in the United States restrict maximum water flow at or below 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) at 80 pounds per square inch (psi) of water pressure or 2.2 gpm at 60 psi."

Then he swivels in his ergonomically correct desk chair and pulls out the Department of Energy bible that lays down the law for consumers and manufacturers alike: "Federal regulations mandate that new showerhead flow rates can't exceed more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) at a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (psi)."

Sure, you might have missed it, but Uncle Sam has micromanaged exactly how much water should come out of shower heads from sea to shining sea. He knows what you want more than you do: Washers that don't clean, cars that crumble, toilets that don't down brown in a single flush, and showers that just don't feel good.

Enter Zoe. In a white-hot flash of entrepreneurial brilliance, the good, capitalistic, free market folks at Zoe realized that the rules applied to a shower head, but did not say how many shower heads one could put on a single fixture. Check out their Shower Buddies site: dual heads, triple heads, a water glutton's delight!

Jeffery Tucker of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank in Auburn, Alabama of all places, lets us know in his article, The Bureaucrat in Your Shower what Al did when confronted with a Nautilus II in all its glory:
Al ordered some products and sent them to BR Laboratories in Hungtington, California, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. And sure enough, Bureaucrat Al gained enough data to report Zoe to the feds, accusing Zoe of "blatant violations of environmental protection laws." Now the heat is on.
BR came back with some rather interesting results: The Nautilus II was cranking out an unbelievable -- as in I really don't believe this -- 12.7 gallons a minute! (Remember, the feds don't want you to experience anything beyond 2.5.)

Tucker takes us to the frightful conclusion of this episode:

But then what can the government do about the length of showers? After all, there is no real way to regulate how much water we use (and pay for). Maybe the shower heads have to have timers on them. And maybe the feds need to put up little monitors in our showers to make sure that we have stopped and started them.

And what happens to shower offenders? One can see federal S.W.A.T. Teams screeching up to your house, black-clad men pouring out, securing the perimeter, and shouting through a bull horn: "Drop the soap and come out of the shower with your hands up!"

There is a better way, and regular C-SM readers know what it is: Let the market decide. If the combination of high water bills and massive public disdain causes someone to re-think the watery bacchanals they're enjoying in the shower, then they will go out and buy the Holier Than Thou Industries Ultra-Saver Tricklehead II.

But if the combined pressure of market pricing and social pressure doesn't quite equal the intense jollies of showering in a simulated monsoon, then the Nautilus II stays.

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