Still bothered by the imminent end of our dear old Edison-born incandescent light bulb?
Dean Urdahl, a Minnesota House Republican from Grove City, has suggested we can get around the 2014 federal ban on incandescent, or "original flavor," light bulbs. We'll make our own bulbs and limit sale to in-state. This would bypass the Interstate Commerce Clause. I'm for the idea, but not just because we could stand on the Iowa border, wave our bulbs in a taunting fashion, and say look what weee have.
Some background first. Of my own free will I'd probably choose CFLs, even if I have to herd the family into an airtight panic room if one breaks and exhales toxic mercury. The quality of light no longer resembles candlelight filtered through sheer drapes in a chain smoker's house. I realize this is faint praise. No bulb company would advertise that its products no longer remind you of a sunset seen through a glass jar of cloudy boar urine, but let's admit it: the quality of light is much improved. The better bulbs -- those costing as much as a good steak -- are perfectly fine. Except for the ones that supposedly "dim" -- I bought two, and both went pop! on day one. Whenever I feel like trying that experiment again I feed a ten-dollar bill into the paper shredder. Same effect.
Who cares if they're just as good, you say. Dadgummit, I want to choose for myself. I'm with you, dadblast it. But I also like the idea of having a native Minnesota light bulb company. Bunyan Bulbs! Gopher Orbs! Sometimes it seems as if the only Minnesota products you can buy are Post-it Notes and things that keep your heart beating steadily.
This is good, and if you've ever suffered an irregular heartbeat while trying to peel off something with strong glue you know how important these contributions are. But we feel these aren't enough. Once you measured a city's industrial might by the number of enormous brick smokestacks heaving clouds of soot and cadmium into the sky, by the number of men in overalls with lunch buckets who streamed from factories at the five o'clock whistle and took the trolley home, talking about DiMaggio. We should have loud clanking factories turning out big metal objects that go VROOM, right?
Now strange, mysterious things are built in quiet suburban facilities, and when you pass a bland box occupied by IntraDuPlexDyneTech Strategies, you've no idea what they make in there. Computer parts? Automatic toad stranglers? Pop-up ads for websites that sell you software designed to block pop-up ads? Casket handles? Why, once upon a time a fella could drive past the Minneapolis-Moline factory and puff up his chest with local pride: that's where they make the Molines, and there's nothing like a Minneapolis-Moline.
Actually, it was a tractor company, and you can still find the logo plastered on toothpick dispensers and shot glasses at a Mall of America store that sells farming memorabilia. The brand is long dead but it still has fans, because it's part of our history, our local pride.
That's why a Minnesota bulb company might work: we like things that tell us we're special. The fact that we couldn't sell them across state lines would lend additional cachet -- they'd be like Coors Beer in the '70s, highly prized for their limited availability, smuggled across the land in the trunks of travelers' cars. Folks in other states would show off their Minnesota bulbs: see that pure, clean light? That's those Minnesota bulbs they talked about in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I hear the governor has a giant one that he uses to project a signal on the clouds to summon Garrison Keillor in case there's a foible that needs to be gently poked in his trademark fashion.
Whether you could put the bulbs in your RV and drive them across state lines, well, I think that's a matter for the courts. Normally, I wouldn't want to involve the judiciary in these matters, but we are talking light bulbs. Serious business.
And then there's this: We couldn't lose our Minnesota bulb company to cheap Chinese competition. Right now the only thing we can't lose to China is agriculture, because you can't ship a cornfield overseas. It just falls apart before you get it on the truck.