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How the Federal Government Killed a Perfectly Good Washing Machine

I’m for the environment and all, but why are front-loading washing machines so dang expensive? Sam Kazman of The Wall Street Journal investigated and came up with the (usual) culprit: the government!

It might not have been the most stylish, but for decades the top-loading laundry machine was the most affordable and dependable. Now it’s ruined—and Americans have politics to thank.

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.

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Date
March 17th, 2011

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Stranger to the World

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