Innovation Nation


      From toilets to shower heads to light bulbs.. does it seem like some things don’t work as well as they used to? Jeffrey Tucker of the American Institute for Economic Research says you’re not imagining it. He tells us the reason why— starting with today’s gas cans with a design mandated by the federal government.

      (The story begins with Tucker demonstrating use of today’s gas cans.)

      Sharyl: This is the offending gas can?

      Jeffrey Tucker: (laughs and demonstrates new, difficult to use, gas can)

      Now you go to the store, this is what you're going to get. The thing is that I think this has to rest up against the spout you’re pointing it into. So I don't even know if we're going to be able to pour anything like out of here. So, there we go.

      Sharyl: It’s leaking on your shoe.

      Tucker: Oh. Oh it is. Oh Wow. Oh there we go. Let’s try this. We’re already in trouble with the EPA. We'll see here. All right now. Now, here's the idea. Now you can see that we’re not actually getting

      So you stand here for like three minutes and then, and then, well, surely that's enough so you began to pour it out. But then you’re like, wait, no, stop. And then wait, it's not quite full. So you have to start again.

      Sharyl: So let's see if I can do this.

      You got to push this thing. Hold on. Hold on.

      Tucker: Well maybe you should pretend like --

      Sharyl: There, I’m doing it.

      Tucker: Well that's fine, but you know what, that's not where your gas is.

      Sharyl: OK.

      Tucker: So, so it's really got to be to the side like this. That's the only way you can do it.

      And then when it starts getting towards the bottom, you're going to have to maybe put it upside down.

      Sharyl: Yeah.

      Tucker: Now you've got a real problem. So maybe you should go like this.

      Sharyl: OK.

      Tucker: I don’t know. I wish we could just go back to the old gas cans. If you have one in your garage, hold onto it.

      Tucker: The background is that I have a long history of realizing if something is irrationally wrong with a product, like it's just not working right and you can't figure out why this probably has something to do with government regulation. So that's the background. But I've never found an exception to this. Right? But one day I was driving around and I ran out of gas because my gas gauge broke. So I had to call the local gas station and I asked the guy if he could bring me some gas. And so he did. And so he gave me a gas can and I began to try to use it. And next thing he knows the gas is spilling all over the place. And I was looking at this, I said, "Sir, this is the worst gas can I've ever seen." He goes, something along the lines of, “I know it doesn't work. It's the worst gas container ever. I have no idea why they changed it." I thought, "hmm.” So as soon as I got my gas, I got my car and I drove, drove back to where I needed to be. And looked up on, on the Internet: "What happened to gas cans?" The government regulations had been changed in 2009, the EPA had redesigned our gas cans and eliminated the old normal gas can and replaced it with this crazy contraption.

      Tucker says government bureaucracy and regulations are behind toilets that don’t flush well, shower heads that trickle, light bulbs that don’t light right, laundry detergent that doesn’t clean well, dishwashers that leave spots, and water heaters that don’t make water hot enough.

      Tucker: But these are the sorts of things that affect the quality of our life on a daily basis. Does your ice maker actually make ice? Does your iron work? And this is all because of these regulations, isn't it strange how much regulations sort of secretly control all the things we use in our life? We don't even know it. And they'll never roll it back so they never face any real pressure. So there's no way to revert it. Whereas normally, in private enterprise, if you design something that doesn't quite work right, people stop buying it and that's the end, so there’s a mechanism that corrects for errors. But when government's doing it, they don't seem to have any way to fix it.

      Sharyl: What would you say to people who say this is all a well-meaning effort to protect us from dangers and to protect our environment? And this is all for our own good?

      Tucker: I think they believe this. These are well-intended. The problem is that the bureaucrats have inordinate power and if they make a mistake, there's really nothing that can be done about it. We ended up having to spend the rest of our lives working around them and I don't, I don't think that's a good way to live. We used to have gasoline cans that worked well. And then we created this innovation that just didn't work nearly as well. Isn't that so strange? It's man's inhumanity to man. I tell you, it really is so.

      Tucker says in the same way you can count on government bureaucrats messing things up, you can also count on free enterprise to correct things. There’s apparently quite a market for adapters and contraptions to make the government gas cans work better.