Modern Toilets as Harbingers of Misery

I am reading Jeffrey Tucker’s wonderful Bourbon For Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo at the moment (you can find it in PDF form online). It’s exceptional in many ways, but I do enjoy the parts in which Mr. Tucker provides the reader with a picture of the practical consequences of certain specific government regulations. One in particular I am truly fond of, and that is the chapter called “The Relentless Misery of 1.6 Gallons.”

In this chapter, Mr. Tucker outlines a few of the consequences of the Energy Policy Act, which was passed back in 1994. Allow me to quote the first paragraph from this chapter:

My order at my favorite Chinese restaurant was taking too long. I stopped into the men’s room. There I witnessed a common scene: the modern toilet disaster. An otherwise clean business had a restroom calamity on its hands, one so grim that I hesitate to describe it.

He then goes onto describe how this “calamity” had probably resulted in a series of disgusted customers and loss of business. But it’s not the fault of the business, he says. It’s that the Energy Policy Act mandated that toilets go from 3.5-5 gallons of water per flush to 1.6 gallons. If you didn’t comply, as a toilet manufacturer, you’d be fined and/or sent to jail.

I think upon this, and I picture that grimy, bacteria-laden plunger next to the toilet, or as far back behind the toilet as possible, so as not to gross your guests at too much. I think of the oval brush wand that sits on that odd pedestal- the one that is meant to scrape the “leftovers” off the toilet bowl. Naturally, these items wouldn’t have been needed (or, let’s say, they wouldn’t have been as prominently featured and utilized) if it were not for the Energy act.

As Mr. Tucker puts it,

So let us remember way back when:

  • Toilets did not need plungers next to them, and thank goodness. Used plungers are nasty, disease carrying, and filthy. It doesn’t matter how cute the manufacturer tries to make them or in how many colors you can buy them. In the old days, you would never have one exposed for guests. It was kept out in the garage for the rare occasion when someone threw a ham or something stranger down the toilet.
  • Toilet paper was super thick and getting thicker. None of this one-ply nonsense.
  • You never had any doubt about the capacity of the toilet to flush completely, with only one pull of the handle. The toilet stayed clean thanks to five gallons of rushing water pouring through it after each flush.

He goes on to say that the Energy act was essentially a step backwards “from a central aspiration of mankind to dispose of human waste in the best possible way.” I have to agree. I want my toilet to flush; and I want it to flush the first time I pull the lever. I don’t want to have to pull it twice, or three times. I don’t want to feel it necessary to keep a trusty plunger available at all times. Nor do I want to keep that fecal scrubber nearby.

But of course, as is often the case, government has the power to make these decisions. And society thinks that government is in the business of deciding what is best for us. I will steadfastly disagree. The environmentalists that pushed this decrease in flush per gallons forget about the unintended consequences. Ah, the unintended consequences. They never think of that. For instance, remember that push to get all babies into cloth diapers? But they easily forget that by doing so, there involves more cleaning, and as an unintended” consequence, more water usage. Same is true for the toilets. The unintended consequence is that people are having to flush two, three, four times before they feel comfortable enough to exit the stall, or home bathroom.

And sometimes, “conserving is not a good idea.” Some activities “cry out for the expenditure of resources, even in the most generous possible way. I would count waste disposal as one of these. ”

I wholly agree. I want my 5 gallon per flush toilet back. I want to witness the power of the flush, and see that everything is clean and porcelain white. There are ways humankind can do things better, and sometimes these ways are to be mindful of our environment, and with the intent of conservation. There’s value in some of those things, certainly. But not in this. This is a step back to the primitive.

Read all of Jeffrey Tucker’s excellent book online here. The toilet chapter is on pages 25-28.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

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3 thoughts on “Modern Toilets as Harbingers of Misery

  1. David Rysdam says:

    He then goes onto describe how this “calamity” had probably resulted in a series of disgusted customers and loss of business. But it’s not the fault of the business, he says. It’s that the Energy Policy Act mandated that toilets go from 3.5-5 gallons of water per flush to 1.6 gallons.

    Piffle. This is a failure of private industry to innovate or adopt innovations when faced with an entirely reasonable and necessary regulation.

    In 1995/6 I moved into a new apartment complex that had low-flush toilets. They were the most amazing toilets I’ve ever used. They had some kind of water-pressure-powered jet-assisted takeoff that not once in the 5 years I lived there needed to be either plunged or serviced. Seriously, you’d press the button and WHAM the contents of the bowl disappeared in a force 5 hurricane.

    So let us remember way back when….[t]oilets did not need plungers next to them…

    Double piffle! In 1990 or so, we moved into a house with the single worst toilet I’ve ever used. Probably a 5 gallon tank and needed plunging pretty much every time you used it. And as a note to anyone under the age of 20, yes, plungers were very common before 1994 and were found everywhere.

  2. Hi David,

    Thank you for the response. I appreciate the feedback, but I am going to have to disagree. What you’re describing isn’t my experience in the slightest. It seems we had opposite experiences. Today, with the less volume/low flush toilets, I’ve experienced countless backups and double flushes and plunging opportunities. Growing up, I didn’t see that at all. Actually, I did see it once, when my brother threw his GI Joe down the toilet.

    Also, I am 30. 🙂

    Non

  3. David Rysdam says:

    Today, with the less volume/low flush toilets, I’ve experienced countless backups and double flushes and plunging opportunities.

    No doubt–I wasn’t saying you can’t have backups and clogs with a poorly designed low-flush toilet. My point was that *the existence of regulations* did not cause these clogs. The clogs result from companies attempting to save money by producing/purchasing terrible toilets rather than ones that both work AND save water.

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