December 9, 2019 Reading Time: 4 minutes

I know a man – a proxy for tens of millions – who came from a foreign country, threw down $500 per night at a New York hotel, and was astonished to find himself plunging the toilet within the hour of checking in. Not surprising. Not unusual. American toilets don’t work right. This is why there are plungers next to every toilet. 

This didn’t use to be the case. In the day’s past, plungers were for technicians in the emergency. Now they are part of everyday life. It’s nuts. 

The showers in the U.S. are no better. It’s the worst shower experience in the world. You want to scream at the showerhead: CAN YOU PUT SOME WATER ON ME? 

The sink faucet provides more alarm. It looks like water is coming out, but then you notice something remarkable. It takes 45 seconds to fill up a cup to pour into the coffee maker. Then you realize that there seems to be some kind of rationing going on. 

It’s water rationing, not time rationing. You have to flush and flush and plunge and plunge and stand by the sink and wait. You stand in the shower 20 minutes and step out with a sense of frustration that you didn’t actually shower. It’s absolutely maddening. 

In the domestic environment, this affects clothes washing and dishwashing. The glassware is spotted. The dishes are dirty. Nothing really works well. You go to a foreign country and marvel at how plentiful water is, and how luxurious it is. 

What’s wrong are the regulations. Over the last several decades, through hundreds and thousands of tiny edicts, Americans have had terrible experiences in the bathroom and with water use generally imposed on them by bureaucrats who think they know things like:

  • A toilet tank should only hold 1.6 gallons
  • A showerhead flow can’t exceed more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) at a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (psi)
  • Bathroom sink faucets and accessories should use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute

The above are all real mandates. They reach into every home and every business in America. 

The bureaucrats love this nonsense because making you miserable is their job. On the other hand, the net result is absolutely indisputable: our lives in our bathrooms, and with our dishes and with our clothing, have been forcibly degraded, even as the good life of the past has been composted. 

And thus does a president of the United States finally state the truth (more or less):

“People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water,” Trump said.  “We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms, where you turn the faucet on in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where it rushes out to sea because you could never handle it. And you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet and you don’t get any water… you can’t wash your hands practically, there’s so little water comes out of the faucet;” you “end up using the same amount of water.”

Okay, there is a hint of hyperbole here of which Trump is the master. But the point is right. What regulations are supposed to achieve on paper have little to do with reality. 

For god’s sake, we are supposed to live in a civilized world. Indoor plumbing is part of that. Showers should get you clean. Faucets should wash your hands. Toilets should flush. Washing machines should wash clothes. Dishwashers should end with washed and sparkling dishes. None of this is the case in America today. (Consider too the amount of discipline it took me not to type the eff word in this paragraph multiple times.) 

Just look at the preposterous “fixes” that have been applied to deal with these regulations. Some commercial toilets are so explosive and loud that you feel like they are sucking out your insides. Domestic toilets have been “fixed” by making the bowls so shallow that you actually get toilet water splashed on your person, which is stunningly gross. The washing machines have been “fixed” by making them front loading so you can’t even get your own clothes out before the cycle has ended (and even then they are not clean because the detergent is wrecked, which is another subject entirely.). 

It’s true that old toilets used 4 gallons of water; if you flush a modern toilet 3 times, you have already exceeded that. What’s more, these regulations have forestalled the deployment of other innovations that you commonly see in other countries, such a toilets that have variable settings for water use. 

Here is the god’s honest truth: we need flowing water to live a good life. You can’t have this good life with lifetime bureaucrats hectoring you and telling you to use less and then less and then less until we are living like it is the Middle Ages. But not even that’s fair: the Romans figured out the uses of water. Only in America did we somehow decide that we can do without a well functioning system of domestic plumbing. 

And don’t tell me about conservation: domestic water use is between 1% and 3% of all water use in the country, according to the Bureau of Land Management. That you can’t take a decent shower, wash your hands or clothes, or fill up a bucket without waiting hours, makes no substantial difference in water use as a percentage at all. The real reason for the regulations is to make you suffer. 

Lord knows I’ve had massive differences with Trump but he is absolutely correct here. Elite intellectuals wonder why he is popular, why the masses cheer him, why – despite all the egregious everything – he continues to rule and dominate and is likely to win re-election. It’s because he seizes on these extremely obvious issues that cause the clerisy to pearl clutch in horror. He knows exactly what he is doing: no one is more vulnerable than a member of the elite classes of rulers who believes that he knows better than the common person how a toilet or a faucet or a shower should work. 

What the clerisy doesn’t understand is that politics for the common person is all about the quality of life. These regulations have wrecked the functioning of every home in America, by penalty of law. We are long past due for a blowback, even a revolution against this nonsense. Give me a toilet that flushes, a shower that is satisfying, a washing machine that washes clothes, and you can take your civic piety and flush it. 

Trump is angry. And so should everyone. 

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker served as Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research from 2017 to 2021.

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