Freedom down the Drain

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Too busy laughing at the hoops some people are having to jump through to notice the real danger an all-intrusive state can be, The Houston Chronicle places an AP story about detergent smuggling in the "News Bizarre" section of its online edition.

The state of Washington has, on environmentalist grounds, banned dish-washing detergents containing phosphates in Spokane County. It will make the ban statewide next year unless a few husbands decide to stand up for their wives and oppose the move.

This not only violates individual rights, it has led to the following predictable result:

Many people were shocked to find that products like Seventh Generation, Ecover and Trader Joe's left their dishes encrusted with food, smeared with grease and too gross to use without rewashing them by hand. The culprit was hard water, which is mineral-rich and resistant to soap.
But strike that last sentence. The hard water problem had been solved -- by phosphates -- until the state invaded the kitchens of private citizens and forced them to stop using detergents that actually worked. The real culprit isn't hard water, but the government.

The government is supposed to prevent us from having our lives hindered by thugs who want to order us around, and force us to act contrary to our own best judgment. Instead, it is arbitrarily and sanctimoniously sentencing citizens to easily-avoidable, time-wasting drudgery.

Washing dishes may seem like a small thing, but it is part of an alarming pattern that has included everything from people being threatened with jail for washing cars and having to screw in inferior light bulbs to taking on enormous amounts of undeserved financial burdens.

When I turn on every light in my house this evening at 8:30 p.m., I'll be sure to run a load of dishes and a load of clothes. And I'll make doubly sure I'm using phosphates when I do.

-- CAV

PS: For a discussion of how a proper government might deal with legitimate issues concerning the disposal of chemicals harmful to humans, please refer to the comment thread here.


Monica said...

There's something fishy about this story.

You'd be hard-pressed to find *any* brand (not just so-called "eco" friendly brands) with phosphates anymore unless you're talking machine dishwasher detergent. Is that the only type of detergent they are talking about? Because the best sink dish detergent on the market (Dawn) doesn't even have phosphates. And there is NO laundry detergent that has contained phosphates for over a decade due to a national ban.

I'm not in favor of banning chemicals, but this story seems fishy. We live in an area with extremely high mineral concentration and the only thing IME that gets rids of mineral residue on dishes is a very strong vinegar solution and a good deal of elbow grease. Not even my phosphate-containing machine dish detergent (Kirkland brand, Costco -- far superior to Electrasol, Cascade, etc.) will cut it.

Gus Van Horn said...

Yes. This is a story about detergent for dishwashing machines.

Regarding hard water, yours sounds worse than any I've encountered. Commuting between Houston and Boston, I suspect that I'm getting to use fairly typical "hard" and "soft" waters (in Houston and Boston, respectively). Cascade does me just fine in Houston, even when I toss filthy dishes into the washer.

Monica said...

Here is an interesting article on this, with a bit more history behind these bans:

I find it interesting that they say that such a ban would reduce by 3% the phosphates in Chesapeake Bay, one area in the US with a huge hypoxic dead zone. 3%. Guess where the rest is coming from?

These bans are moronic. Just privatize the oceans and water supplies.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for digging that up.

I must say that going after the remaining 97% of the phosphates will dovetail nicely with the goal of reducing the surplus human population.

Dismuke said...

The Leftists have now successfully agitated to delete any mention of Human Achievement Hour from Wikipedia. See:

My respect for Wikipedia has just taken a HUGE hit.

The article says it has been restored - but if you follow the link that is not really accurate as the restoration is only temporary and the format makes it almost impossible to actually read the article's content.

z said...

Oh, jeeze! Do you ever read an article about another environmentalis nut and catch yourself going back up to the top of the page to make sure you didn't accidentally surf onto The Onion?

Gus Van Horn said...

That's disappointing news, but thanks for mentioning it.

I guess we'll just have to work to make this event exceeds "notability standards" of even the most obtuse editors next time.

My house was quite cheery with all the extra light this evening!

Mo said...

the HAH has gotten me thinking that next time we need to push much harder for this event.

Galileo Blogs said...


Thank you for posting the story on the detergent ban. Each of these can seem funny in isolation, but as symptoms of ever-expanding no-limits government violations of our rights, they are not funny at all. Such regulations simply demonstrate that there is effectively no area of our lives, no matter how personal or private, that is ours as a matter of right. Any aspect of our lives is subject to interference from force-wielding government intruders.

Given that context, bans on phosphate detergents, high-flow shower heads, large capacity toilets, and mandates to separate bottles and newspapers from our trash (which means rinsing out the bottles to prevent bugs, a time-consuming and wasteful task), regulations that specify that a toilet in a home remodeling must be at least 12" from the parallel wall (to facilitate installation of a handicap rail, should a handicapped person buy your house or apartment - this is a New York reg)...

Okay, this list is endless.

This whole class of regulation, where it focuses on personal lifestyle, where each one is just a nuisance, in totality amounts to a web that makes our lives that much less enjoyable and prosperous. Of course, viewed in isolation they are small and almost laughable inconveniences, which is why so few people are willing to oppose them vigorously. They laugh in protest and then comply or evade it in a silly way, such as smuggling in higher-capacity toilets from Canada.

Interestingly, even major financial interventions, such as the trillions in bailouts, tax increases, and new financial regulations, may impact most Americans not much more than the collective effect of these "lifestyle regulations." That is because our economy is so wealthy that it can take sustained blows and our material standard of living is only temporarily affected before it resumes an upward path.

But such upward movement is not inevitable nor automatic. That is the whole point of Atlas Shrugged. Layer on enough of these rules and it will slow down and destroy the engine, as the producers go on strike.

As silly as it seems, a ban on detergents with phosphates and all other "lifestyle regulations" are as deadly a threat to our liberty as a new tax. To all of them, I say, "Don't tread on me."

Monica said...

Ah, but reducing phosphates in water supplies would mean people would have to eat more meat so that we have less soil erosion and fertilizer use. That of course conflicts with their goals to put everyone on a grain-based diet due to meat causing global warming. It creates too much cognitive dissonance for them.

You may be interested to know there was an article in the NY Times recently. The backlash against bush bulbs has started, even among some environmental types. Unfortunately, I'm not hopeful that unless things get much worse people will wake up and repeal these regulations.

Gus Van Horn said...


Just found your comment -- NOT in my GMail, of course (even though Google owns both Blogger and GMail and the login for both is the same). Sorry to post it late.

Anyway, I think the real relevance of The Onion is as a source of future predictions of what the environmentalists will have us doing next. Nothing is too absurd.


Excellent point regarding the "lifestyle tax", the most onerous of which is to get people used to taking orders.


Regarding hippie "backlash" against Bush Bulbs, I wouldn't put much money on it leading to any kind of repeal of the ban on REAL light bulbs. (And I'm sure they'll manufacture a reason to dislike LEDs if they're ever successful in banning Bush Bulbs.

Hell, some of theme are even whining about the candles they had to burn last night emitting even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the fuel used to power a light bulb!


Monica said...

"Hell, some of theme are even whining about the candles they had to burn last night emitting even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the fuel used to power a light bulb!"

LOL. Indeed.

Dismuke said...

Too bad I did not take note of the addresses in my neighborhood of all the low watt bulbs who placed Obama campaign signs in their front yards a few months ago. Had I done so, it sure would have been fun to drive through the neighborhood and see which of them had any lights on and then telephone them up with something along the lines of the following:

Hello - I am with Friends of ACORN.....WHY ARE YOU BURNING YOUR LIGHTS AND USING ELECTRICITY?!?!?! Don't you know it is Earth Hour? Turn off those lights NOW or we will report you. Of course, for now, once we report you, there is nothing that anybody can do to you - but plans are in place to change that and quick. For now, we are just taking names - and once we get the appropriate laws stuck onto a stimulus bill when nobody is paying attention we are going to turn that list of names over so that the new authorities will be able to hit the ground running and make public examples to stress the importance of being sufficiently socially and environmentally conscious. This is your final warning....get those lights off NOW. You voted for "hope" and "change" - well, guess what? You just got it. YOU are the one who is going to have to change and you had darned well better HOPE that the changes you make pass muster."

Gus Van Horn said...

Oh well...

There's always next year -- unless ACORN beats you to it by then!

Mo said...

are high-flow shower heads banned in NY?

Gus Van Horn said...

Based on GB's comment, it would seem so. Worse still, that does not at all strike me as far-fetched.

Mo said...

interesting. we've had similar issued down here in NZ. first it was the light bulbs, then the showes and recently the plastic bags. thankfully the new national government scrubbed these aside- or should I say John Key who is pragmatists as far as I can tell.

Gus Van Horn said...

I'd always thought of NZ as being further down the environmentalist road to perdition than the US. Probably, that's an aberration, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Mo said...

I was actually thinking of alternating between NZ and Hong Kong. NZ for the lifestyle, despite being a nanny state, and Hong Kong for being a business state.

Mo said...

I also considered moving to the USA at some stage.