Infinitely so it seems.

Greg Mankiw is one of my favorite economists and has been personally extremely kind to me. Unfortunately, however, I haven’t been keeping up with his blog recently.

I went to look back through the archives and I found a pointer to this article by Virginia Postrel on lightbulbs.

I know Virginia through facebook and she is intelligent and articulate. She obviously thought writing this article was a good idea and Greg thought it was worth pointing to.

However, it reads to me like 1500 words on why I shouldn’t feed Kitty Litter to my Infant Son.

The punch line is

What matters, from a public policy perspective, isn’t any given choice but the total amount of electricity I use (which is itself only a proxy for the total emissions caused by generating that electricity). If they’re really interested in environmental quality, policy makers shouldn’t care how households get to that total. They should just raise the price of electricity, through taxes or higher rates, to discourage using it.

Instead, the law raises the price of light bulbs, but not the price of using them. In fact, its supporters loudly proclaim that the new bulbs will cost less to use. If true, the savings could encourage people to keep the lights on longer.

Even if you care nothing about individual freedom or aesthetic pleasure, this ham-handed approach wouldn’t pass muster in a classroom at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. As pollution control, it’s horribly inefficient.

The bulb ban makes sense only one of two ways: either as an expression of cultural sanctimony, with a little technophilia thrown in for added glamour, or as a roundabout way to transfer wealth from the general public to the few businesses with the know-how to produce the light bulbs consumers don’t really want to buy.

Or, of course, as both.

Who doesn’t know this?

Obviously this is an expression of cultural sanctimony with a little technophilia thrown in for added glamour. I mean would the supporters of the bill even deny this?

Wouldn’t they say something like smart green-conscious people and companies will find that the bulbs produce good light save money and protect the planet. That’s just shorthand for what Virginia said.

But, of course I am not at all the person to ask on these types of issues.