Light Bulbs and Abortion: A Grand Inconsistency

Source:  Light Bulbs and Abortion: A Grand Inconsistency    Tag:  alpha radiation in smoke alarms

It may seem strange to think of light bulbs and abortion as being related, but I assure you they are.  In 2007, under the Bush Administration, several new energy efficiency standards were instituted as pertains to light bulbs under the Energy Independence and Security Act.  The new standards were designed to drive down energy waste by increasing efficiency requirements to such an extent that older incandescent bulbs will fall out of marketplace favor. 

Despite the fact that compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) actually save consumers money over time and greatly reduce energy waste, some Republican's have recently turned to the standard as a de facto example of big government run amok.  So much so that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a Tea Party Darling, introduced a bill March 1, 2011 designed to repeal the 2007 standards.  The bill was elegantly named the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.  By the sound of it, one might think no greater travesty had ever befallen the American populace than to have their freedom of choice as pertains to light bulb consumption violated.  Bachmann favored repealing the 2007 law unless:
(1) there is proof that alternate bulbs save consumers money, (2) there is proof that alternate bulbs significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and (3) that it's shown that alternate bulbs 'would not lead to a health risk for consumers, particularly those in hospitals, schools, day care centers and nursing homes.' (Montopoli, 2011).
I love the last sentence, and do here propose to add the removal of smoke alarms from homes.  Smoke detectors utilize alpha decay as part of their operation, and no amount of radiation is safe for human beings.  I especially encourage their removal from hospitals, schools, day care centers and nursing homes.  Unless, of course, it can be demonstrated they are safe.

At any rate . . . Despite the fact that all of this has been proved, and despite her apparent ability to realize it, her bill failed to garner the 2/3 majority required earlier today with a vote of 233-193 (Abrams, 2011).

Now what interests me here is not the fact that Bachmann and other conservatives believe this matter is, at base, an issue of freedom of choice.  I am actually inclined to agree with them.  If you want to continue smoking cigarettes, by all means do so.  What interests me here is the inherently contradictory nature of Bachmann's stance on freedom.

The essence of her position is quite straightforward: deliberately reducing choice is a violation of personal liberty.  Any such violation is by nature immoral.  Nonetheless, Bachmann is quite comfortable in violating personal liberty (despite its immoral nature). 

Where is the moral transgression you wonder?  In her stance on the choice of a woman to have an abortion (courtesy of On The Issues):

It does not take a rocket surgeon to see that she is thoroughly pro-life.  For some selected quotes, go here.

Now, let us address her contradiction.  In terms of the light bulb issue, Bachmann does not support the 2007 standards because they remove choice from the consumer.  As a woman who is seeking an abortion can reasonably been seen as a consumer (of abortion), Bachmann should also submit, for the sake of consistency, a bill to the house which expands abortion opportunities (choice) for women.  Obviously, she would do no such thing, and this is the contradiction - she does not live fully by her respect for individual liberty as stated in the matter of the light bulbs.

Of course, it will be objected that an abortion is not an economic matter, it is a moral one.  I would agree - abortion is not an economic matter, it is an individual matter.  So, let us investigate Bachmann's contradiction a little further by appealing to the core principle of her behavior.  As stated above it is: deliberately reducing choice is a violation of personal liberty.  Any such violation is by nature immoral.

At the most fundamental level, Bachmann's stance of the importance of individual liberty - freedom of choice - still necessarily includes allowing others their freedom of choice.  In not doing so, in supporting anti-abortion legislation, she violates her own principle as laid out in the rhetoric of her battle against light bulbs.  Do not let the narrative confuse you - the frame is the same and the moral principle is the same.  The contradiction is blatant: it is not appropriate to violate personal liberty, but it is appropriate to violate personal liberty.  Any appeal to a higher-power is nothing more than an attempt to disguise the contradiction.  Any appeal to save the latter necessarily requires allowing interference in the realm of light bulbs.

Michele Bachmann, and conservatives like her, are walking moral and political contradictions - she is exactly what is meant by the term biconceptual.  It does not matter one way or the other to me what moral position she takes - what matters is whether or not she applies that position uniformly.  She does not. 


Abrams, J. (2011, July 12). GOP fails to turn off light bulb standards. MSNBC.  Retrieved July 12, 2011.

Montopoli, B. 92011, March 2). Bachmann to Democrats: Don't tell Americans what light bulbs to buy. CBSNews.  Retrieved July 12, 2011.