Devolution: Government Mandates "Dirty" Washing Machines

The Wall Street Journal had this essay about how government regulations have degraded the quality of washing machines in the United States. Read it and weep:

In 1996, top-loaders were pretty much the only type of washer around, and they were uniformly high quality. When Consumer Reports tested 18 models, 13 were "excellent" and five were "very good." By 2007, though, not one was excellent and seven out of 21 were "fair" or "poor." This month came the death knell: Consumer Reports simply dismissed all conventional top-loaders as "often mediocre or worse."

How's that for progress?

The culprit is the federal government's obsession with energy efficiency. Efficiency standards for washing machines aren't as well-known as those for light bulbs, which will effectively prohibit 100-watt incandescent bulbs next year. Nor are they the butt of jokes as low-flow toilets are. But in their quiet destruction of a highly affordable, perfectly satisfactory appliance, washer standards demonstrate the harmfulness of the ever-growing body of efficiency mandates.

The federal government first issued energy standards for washers in the early 1990s. When the Department of Energy ratcheted them up a decade later, it was the beginning of the end for top-loaders. Their costlier and harder-to-use rivals—front-loading washing machines—were poised to dominate.

Front-loaders meet federal standards more easily than top-loaders. Because they don't fully immerse their laundry loads, they use less hot water and therefore less energy. But, as Americans are increasingly learning, front-loaders are expensive, often have mold problems, and don't let you toss in a wayward sock after they've started.

I swear, sometimes I think "American Exceptionalism" refers to how Americans, or at least those in government, are exceptionally stupid. In the name of Saving The Planet we have switched to lightbulbs that don't cast light, toilets that don't flush, and now washing machines that don't wash. GM is starting to sell an electric car that lacks any kind of adequate heating system because it's the only way to preserve the MPG numbers that justify its existence. It's a joke, but not a particularly funny one.

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