So Long to the Dusty Trail

Why couldn't we have had the EPA in the Great Depression? If they had issued their proposed "no dust" regs in 1930, we would have been spared the decade of human suffering from sustained drought and agricultural devastation in the Dust Bowl. Of course, then John Steinbeck wouldn't have had a reason to write The Grapes of Wrath.

What a wonderful notion: federal regulators, by simple rule-making fiat, saving us from the natural world.

The EPA with unbound hubris has overlooked that our Lord already claimed such miracle-making: "Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm" (Luke 8:24).

Farm and road dust -- largely minerals comprising silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, magnesium and sodium, with a variety of organic compounds thrown in -- has always been with us, especially in the modern era. But now the EPA, living in a dust-free but not idiot-free zone inside the Beltway, insists that the rest of us live in a biosphere bubble, inoculated from anything that might fail the Good Housekeeping test.

Can you imagine a world without dust? How many Western movie trailers would lose their drama and romance without a cloud of dust following a wagon train? How would Stuart Whitman command the saddle in the opening credits to Cimarron Strip without his steed kicking up dust as the U.S. Marshall Jim Crown heads through the canyons of New Mexico?

How would Ohio State's legendary football coach Woody Hayes have been famous without "three yards and a cloud of dust"? Would Peanuts' Charles Schultz have had to create another character without drawing upon Pigpen's ever-present cloud of dust?

And  how would Major League Baseball managers keep their edge if they couldn't kick dust on an umpire's shoes?

Speaking of clouds, I suppose these geniuses at EPA have no meteorologists on staff to remind them that clouds, bringing rainfall that damps down dust, need dust particles to form in the first place.

And without dust to fill a dustbin, Leon Trotsky would have been deprived of his metaphor "to the dustbin of history," where he gleefully consigned the failed opposition to the Bolsheviks. If only federal regulators could be consigned to the same place.

Finally, goodbye to those atmospheric optics so dramatically shown in the landscape paintings of Thomas Cole's "A View of the Catskills" and "Genessee Scenery," or Asher Durand's "Dover Plains, Dutchess County, New York." Such iridescent pastel views are due solely to refracted dust in the atmosphere, soon to be dismissed by the EPA, where neither truth nor beauty has any sway.

These are the same regulatory busybodies, along with their brethren at the Federal Trade Commission, Health and Human Services, Department of Energy, and the Justice Department, who would ban food that tastes good, order us to buy health insurance that we don't want, mandate light bulbs that barely rival the light output of a candle while costing more than a candlestick, and sue three universities for testing an ebook because it can't be read by the blind. Brilliant.

The latest regulatory Nobel Prize submission comes from the FTC in its light bulb label rule-making. Ninety pages instructing lightbulb companies what to put on each package.

It's not enough to suggest commonsense, simple labeling -- using fewer than ten words -- describing brightness, energy consumption, and life expectancy. Rather, the rules prescribe exact wording, font type and size, and testing protocols, along with "lighting facts" -- a compendium of operating statistics only a slide-rule-toting electrical engineer could love. It's only a light bulb. Not an MRI or X-ray machine.

Imagine my horror as I stood paralyzed in the light bulb aisle at Lowe's or Home Depot, unable to remember Ohm's law or anything about the physics of photons. In the meantime, the brainiacs at the Department of Energy have outlawed the 100-watt incandescent bulb, which will start disappearing about a year from now. Without it, no one will be able read any of these regulations anyhow. Maybe that's a blessing, after all.

Ninety pages of rules specifying labels on light bulbs is a perfect example of the creeping tyranny of central planners so clearly forewarned in FA Hayek's The Road to Serfdom.

Federal regulators delight in defying the sensibilities of most Americans. Well, let's be honest -- they believe we're idiots, can't read, and are unable to make informed judgments.

Unburdened by common sense and unrestrained by a Congress passing unread and unfathomable legislative epics, they just keep issuing more nonsense. These regulators might just as well expropriate their anthem from the 1908 U.S. Army Field  Artillery marching song:

Over hill over dale we have hit the antiseptic trail
As our caissons go rolling along.
Up and down, in and out, Countermarch and right about,
And our caissons go rolling along."

If only ridicule could free us from these meddlesome minions.

Geoffrey P. Hunst is a senior executive in a global electronics firm.