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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4543/the-bureaucrat-in-your-shower/

The Bureaucrat in Your Shower

January 10, 2006 by

As with all regulations, the restriction on how much water can pour over your person while standing in a shower is ultimately enforced at the point of a gun. Manufacturers must adhere to these regulations under penalty of law, and to be on the safe side, and adjust for high-water pressure systems, they typically undershoot. But: some companies have found a way around it. Also: this article includes information on how you can hack your shower. But I am not advocating that you do anything that would violate federal law or otherwise endanger your status as a law-abiding citizen who takes wimpy showers. FULL ARTICLE


Yancey Ward January 13, 2006 at 9:42 am

Jeffrey Tucker,

I only comment and get a few death threats from time to time on my e-mail account, so I don’t even want to imagine what sort of dreck you have to put up with.

Yancey Ward January 13, 2006 at 9:51 am


I think it a combination of things. Most Americans are mostly unaware of how the growth of the state has harmed them since their taxes are withheld before they see the money. They have the vague sense that something is wrong, but they can’t put their finger on what it is exactly. I find it interesting that property taxes, of all the taxes paid, is the one that, by far, draws the most vehemence from the population, even though it is exactly that tax that actually provides them the most “services”, and is actually smaller than taxes like income and payroll. No doubt, this is due to the fact that a check has to be written to the government or the mortgage company. With regulations, most of these fall on businesses, so the population is again unaware of how they are affected, but the shower head and toilet regulations are directly affecting people, and when that happens, people actually notice and oppose it actively.

Dennis Sperduto January 13, 2006 at 2:48 pm

The comment to Jeff Tucker to “die and get off the planet” by the individual apparently from the Left illustrates to me that, as a group, the Left has little regard for human life. This country’s biggest murderers, i.e. FDR, Wilson, Truman, and Lincoln, remain icons of the Left. As is the case with the Right, the Left is fundamentally concerned with controlling the lives and property of others and with political power.

Dennis Sperduto January 13, 2006 at 3:06 pm


Regarding property taxes, I live in New Jersey and most people here are definitely more concerned about high property taxes than high income or other taxes. In addition to your explanation, this may also be due to the fact that property tax rates generally are not progressive; thus, the “rich” pay the same rate as the “middle class” and “poor”. Yes, if you own property that has a higher rated tax base, you will pay more property taxes, but the rate will generally be the same as that applied to property that has a lower rated base.

Curt Howland January 13, 2006 at 4:30 pm

The actual argument here isn’t about a lack of water. 3/4 of the planets surface is liquid water, so the scare-mongers are blowing smoke out of their preconceptions.

The issue is fresh, drinkable water. Yes, North America has huge quantities of it, so do other countries. The problem is that humans have located themselves where they can use up the available fresh water. Punishing other people for the bad decision to live in the desert is irrational.

Here’s an idea for the “parched” areas of the world, or at least the ones which also happen to be close to the ocean.

Set up an atomic reactor, or even oil fired since there seems to be a lot of oil in some of those parched areas, and desalinate while generating electricity. Woopie, two problems solved at the same time.

Getting government the heck out of the way and having prices change will also spur other innovation, such as reverse-ozmosis, to create large-scale purification of otherwise nasty water. With price controlls, there just isn’t any incentive to really do something about the problem where there is a problem.

Eric T. January 13, 2006 at 9:48 pm

Wow, my dboule headed showerhead order arrived today. I took my first REAL shower in 40 years. I forgot what it was like. My sore right arm feels a lot better too.

Reading this blog is like reading a religious debate thread. So much of what Americans know (i.e. believe) about economics is pure faith. Faith in government. It’s like religion, without the commandments to not steal or murder.

Andrius Mažeika January 14, 2006 at 4:22 am

I wish our (lithuanian) government was so environmetally savvy. We should stop wasting energy recources. Totally agree with USA governemnt’s decision to do this ;)

Eric T. January 14, 2006 at 12:53 pm


wish our (lithuanian) government was so environmetally savvy. We should stop wasting energy recources. Totally agree with USA governemnt’s decision to do this ;)

What makes you think this has anything to do with the environment? This is government. Wake up. They don’t care about anything except their own power.

Mises said it, there’s only 2 ways to organise society, either let people freely choose through the market, or use force.

Ok, you think this is good, for you. Ok, let’s say, I’m the dictator (like the one who said he would use torture even though it’s illegal) and I decide we need to save water. Well, how’s this:

1. Restrict the number of children, those dirty rascals use a lot of water especially behind their ears. They like to play in the bathtub too. – this has been done in China.

2. No plants, no lawns, only cactus.

3. No swimming pools, natch.


why should some jerk in a government I never voted for choose? Why should YOU choose. Just because you have the most guns and corrupt politicians?

While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the fat people who sweat too much and consume too much water. You are a believer in government. The u.s. was built on small govt. but has lost it’s way. If I could, I’d move to a freer country.

Once you start using force for all decisions you get the Soviet Union taking over your country. My history is a bit weak, but was your country one of those ruled by the Soviets? As Mises said, there is no third way, govt grows forever, until the people finally rebel. I’m rebelling, in my own tiny way. Maybe my children will live free if enough of us rebel.

gene berman January 14, 2006 at 3:19 pm

That attempted “smiley” ain’t Lithuanian, bud. Pay enough attention to realize the guy’s on YOUR side. Matter of fact, it seems he understands AS English better than you (AS=American Satirical, a reasonably widespread dialect common enough on this blog and even used, on occasion, by Von Mises himself.). Don’t know what else to tell you–”lighten up,” “get a grip,”–just don’t quite do the job.

gene berman January 14, 2006 at 4:40 pm

Bill Nash:

From your longer post above, I see that you really do try to put some thought on some of these problems. And I do not, in any way, disparage the quality of that thought, even though I am certain that you’ve reached entirely erroneous conclusions. Can I convince you of the fact that that’s entirely possible? I think so.

Think about the matter of “breaking water down
into hydrogen and oxygen.” By now, you’ve realized you msde a mistake on that score. Why?
The simple answer is that, for one reason or
another, you weren’t in possession of certain specific information and had gathered, somewhere, an erroneous impression. That’s really no biggie, either; nobody knows anything until they learn it one way or another–and we all learn more or less of different matters.

It’s somewhat the same with regard to economic knowledge. But worse–much, much worse. Why? It’s not exactly a conspiracy but the fact is that most connected with what is called “the educational process” are, in fact, employees of one government agency or another. Most are not trying to miseducate (though some are)–they’ve simply been educated to believe the mush they peddle. In my own case, I was 35 years old before I ever had even the faintest clue that I didn’t know anything worth knowing about a large area of
human behavior except various ideas I’d picked up one place or another and could now see were quite wrong.

You’ve raised the point that people don’t think about how the little actions they take “all add up.” What I’d like to explain is that they most certainly DO. To a great extent, we could liken all people–literally everyone on earth–to a giant computer network in which each individual was “plugged in” and sharing data across the entirety. That’s what “the market” is, Bill: it enables everyone, to a degree (and with lags in time), to know nearly everything he needs to know about how all other value what he, himself is in the process of valuing. It is not only unlikely but virtually impossible for a bureaucrat or even a team of them, with the greatest intellectual resources available to their command, to make decisions for the future more “intelligently” and prudentially than that amorphous mass, the market.
Think about it: the market and its prices are characterized by almost constant changes in either direction, “fine adjustments” to the best valuational efforts of everyone on the planet.
But “stability” (lack of change) is something the government is wont to brag about, even when they haven’t really achieved it. No matter how smart they may seem on some matters, they’re “dumb as
a box of rocks” on this stuff. But even further–they’ve got their “thumb on the scale” like a crooked butcher: they’d have no job if you could figure out for yourself how much you’d be willing to pay for water or tons of other things people think they’re regulating or conserving for them.

Do yourself a favor. Read Henry Hazlitt, ECONOMICS IN ONE LESSON. It’s right on this site for free and it won’t even take long. Then, come back and tell us if you think a little differently.

Eric T. January 14, 2006 at 7:45 pm

I sort of saw that smiley, but couldn’t tell where his tounge was, but hey, the rest of my response could have gone to all the other statests that have commented on this blog. If Andrius was just joking, then my appologies.

jeffrey January 15, 2006 at 1:19 pm

I just received the following from Beatrice Jones of the City of Hardeevile, South Carolina:

I enjoyed your article, “The Bureaucrat in Your Shower” – but I must take a slight issue with the statement, “But because of municipal water systems have created artificial shortages, other means become necessary.” Six years ago, we sold our Municipal water and sewer system to a semi-private agency. We had to – because government regulations had grown so severe and restricting that it was costing us money to operate the durn thing. To raise the rates to what the State government Health requirements demanded would have severely impacted the constituents.The agency that operates our water and sewer now, has coverage and ability in two counties, and can draw more gallons from the local river than we were allowed by State edict. The town just north of us is struggling to maintain its independence – but will not for very much longer because they are already paying heavy fines and costs to the State Health Department. No serious violations, mind you – they just don’t disseminate their effluent fast enough to suit the Government. Several towns across the State, without these ‘semi-private agencies’ available to them, are going or have already gone bankrupt trying to meet State regulations. Note that the ‘semi-private’ agencies are so called because they are listed as “non-profit” and utilize many financial (i.e., government) resources to which municipalities have little or no access. The independent thing to do would have been to do as we durn well pleased, done exactly what we thought was right, made people pay solely for their own upgrades, etc – but the State and Federal Government was fining and sanctioning us on a monthly basis for not living up to their pre-set standards and pricing.

So please don’t blame the municipal governments in general. The State and Federal governments give them a choice – be independent and be charged fines and sanctions, forced to keep up with government demands or left without the ability to upgrade or supply potable water at a realistic cost, and to even be shut down for trying to be independent – or sell out to a government-funded agency. When it comes to your constituents’ pocketbooks, which would you do?

Shane Morris March 29, 2006 at 7:57 am

“But because municipal water systems have created artificial shortages, other means become necessary. One regulation piles on top of another, and the next thing you know, you have shower commissars telling you what you can or cannot do in the most private spaces.”

Mr. Tucker,

I couldn’t agree more. I live in the Great Lakes region and we’re well into a decade of drought with the Lakes down several feet. My community lies just west of the Lake Michigan watershed which means municipalities here are prohibited by international treaty from pumping water out of Lake Michigan. This county (Waukesha County, Wisconsin) is undergoing a gradual conversion from cropland to residential suburb and I think it’s fair to say the majority of homes are equipped with water-saving devices since they’re newly constructed.

Still we are encouraged to conserve water and it reminds me of Jimmy Carter telling everyone to put on a sweater during the last severe oil crisis.

Most water is supplied by private wells here because we are mostly rural, but as development spreads away from the Lake more communities are being added to the sewer/water “grid” and homeowners are forced by law to pay the assessment.

How can private competition help us? Where is the Home Depot of water supply & distribution? My county executive is telling us to conserve, but if I can afford to pay for a green lawn, take a longer shower, or wash my car every day then I want to be able to do that. Do you know of any companies that bid on municipal water/sewer contracts? I’d like to avert a crisis like the one I see coming if my local government continues to mismanage the water supply. We have no grocery-supply problem in this country because government isn’t involved in that and I wonder how different the Western US water crisis would be if government were out-of the water business.

Thank you for the thoughtful article. It helped to clarify just how close tyranny is on an everyday basis. We must be constantly vigilant of defending individual liberty – even in the shower!

Charles December 23, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Just found this article/blog tonight. Very interestingm even for a very-much-not-a-libertarian-rather-a-progressive-liberal like myself. I successfully hacked one of my showers….purely for experimental purposes, of course. The other one has what looks to be a ‘permanent’ flow reducer, so I’ll have to get a new shower head. Thanks for the info!

David September 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm

This water control started several decades simply because California had a water problem. Since only Californians inside California were restricted to installing low flow toilets then, they went out of state and purchased good functioning plumbing supplies. To prevent them from getting good toilets out of state, the Congress passed legislation that FORCED all states to only sell low flow toilets and shower heads. So we all have to suffer because California has a water problem and we in the East do not.

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