Friday, May 10, 2013

How Government Wrecked the Gas Can


I haven't bought a gas can in the last three years, so I was unaware that apparently, you can't, anymore. At least, not one that works...
“Hmmm, I just hate how slow these gas cans are these days,” he grumbled. “There’s no vent on them.”

That sound of frustration in this guy’s voice was strangely familiar, the grumble that comes when something that used to work but doesn’t work anymore, for some odd reason we can’t identify.

I’m pretty alert to such problems these days. Soap doesn’t work. Toilets don’t flush. Clothes washers don’t clean. Light bulbs don’t illuminate. Refrigerators break too soon. Paint discolors. Lawnmowers have to be hacked. It’s all caused by idiotic government regulations that are wrecking our lives one consumer product at a time, all in ways we hardly notice.

It’s like the barbarian invasions that wrecked Rome, taking away the gains we’ve made in bettering our lives. It’s the bureaucrats’ way of reminding market producers and consumers who is in charge.


Surely, the gas can is protected. It’s just a can, for goodness sake. Yet he was right. This one doesn’t have a vent. Who would make a can without a vent unless it was done under duress? After all, everyone knows to vent anything that pours. Otherwise, it doesn’t pour right and is likely to spill.

It took one quick search. The whole trend began in (wait for it) California. Regulations began in 2000, with the idea of preventing spillage. The notion spread and was picked up by the EPA, which is always looking for new and innovative ways to spread as much human misery as possible.

An ominous regulatory announcement from the EPA came in 2007: “Starting with containers manufactured in 2009… it is expected that the new cans will be built with a simple and inexpensive permeation barrier and new spouts that close automatically.”

The government never said “no vents.” It abolished them de facto with new standards that every state had to adopt by 2009. So for the last three years, you have not been able to buy gas cans that work properly. They are not permitted to have a separate vent. The top has to close automatically. There are other silly things now, too, but the biggest problem is that they do not do well what cans are supposed to do.
Of course, this is a logical result of the utopian mindset that believes that we can establish a legislative framework that will bring about heaven on earth. And a statist mindset that believes that people should be protected from themselves by preventing their being allowed to do anything whatsoever that might possibly involve risk, no matter how small.

And I'm sure that no one set out to make gas cans unusable. Just like no one set out to destroy the private health care system. Or the family. Or the educational system. Or the banking system. No, it's just one little tweak at a time, one thing that, in someone's opinion, could be - should be - a little bit better, if only Uncle Sam can step in with his mighty power and stop all of the people doing it wrong from doing it wrong.

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
-- C.S. Lewis


Haven't bought a gas can for three years, and skeptical?  Click over to Home Depot's website and look at the cans.  And the reviews.  Preposterous, of course.  And apparently true...

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