Fedgov "Flushes" Bigger Toilets

by Clifford F. Thies

It seems that another black market is developing: in large-size toilet bowl reservoirs. In the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1994, the federal government banned the 3.5 gallon toilet bowl reservoir and mandated 1.6 gallon toilet bowl reservoirs in all new construction. But, many people don't want the smaller toilet bowl reservoirs, because they don't work so well, and have been illegally installing the old, larger toilet bowl reservoirs in their place. Concern has been growing for enforcement of the law. In other words, for federal inspection of our bathrooms. Is nothing sacred?
First of all, where, in the Constitution, does the federal government get the power to regulate toilet bowl reservoirs? Mind you, they didn't even have indoor plumbing back in 1787. Do you think they passed an amendment covering toilet bowl reservoirs when we weren't looking? Or, do you think the inter-state commerce clause is so elastic, nowadays, that it can be stretched to cover anything?
At the time of the founding, things like building codes were considered to be among the small "p" police powers of the state, which powers resided in local government. This understanding continued into this century. Thus, when the prohibitionists conducted their "noble experiment" to outlaw alcohol nationwide, they needed to pass a Constitutional amendment. (And, thanks to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, we got rid of that amendment.)
But, with the New Deal, and the packing of the Supreme Court, the federal government got the power to do almost anything it wanted, simply by saying it effected inter-state commerce. Therefore, when the feds made marijuana illegal, in 1934, they didn't bother with a Constitutional amendment. Same thing with gold bullion, which was made illegal in 1934, and which was made legal again in 1977. Nowadays, the prohibitionists want to make tobacco illegal.
Maybe I'm a bit unusual, but I figure as long as I can decide if I want to use things like alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco, or how big my toilet bowl reservoir is, or even if it's made out of gold, then it really must be a free country.
And I notice that the same people who want to take away our big toilet bowl reservoirs also want to amend our 1st Amendment in order to regulate political speech, and want to amend our 2nd Amendment in order to take away our guns, and want to amend all the other amendments of the Bill of Rights so social services can take away our children without due process.
This is why, for me, a big toilet bowl reservoir is a symbol of freedom.
It's not that I want to go overboard on this issue. Since my water supply is metered, I know that every time I flush, my water bill goes up. Not that I know why it costs what it does. That's for the City of Winchester to figure out, since it supplies water to me and accepts responsibility for my waste water. All I know is that it costs me a certain amount of money to have my symbol of freedom in the bathroom.
Based just on the economics, I suppose I would be inclined to have an efficient-sized toilet bowl reservoir. How small or big that would be would depend. I'd want it to be big enough to work, but not any bigger. We're Americans after all, we can afford it.
But now that my toilet bowl reservoir has become a symbol of freedom, I want a really big one. It's almost like owning a 1967 Chevy Impala. (But, just so I don't run up the water bill, I'll some plastic soda bottles filled with water into it.)
If a man's home is his castle, keep your hands off my throne.

CLIFFORD F. THIES is the Durell Professor of Money, Banking and Finance at Shenandoah University, in Winchester, VA.

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