Conversations About Light Bulbs With My Daughter: Wherein I Explain We Are Not Free

So my wife brought home a triumphant find last night.

“Look what I got!” She held up the bag and I saw it contained several boxes of incandescent bulbs. “They are sixty-watt,” she said. “They were out of the forty-watt bulbs. But they only cost a dollar a piece.”

“So I guess they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to sell them all tonight,” I said. “It will be illegal to buy them tomorrow.” (Of course, the seventy-five watt bulbs were criminalized a year ago).

“Wait,” said my daughter, who had been sitting in the room with me reading Percy Jackson fan fiction on the computer. “If they will be illegal tomorrow won’t it be illegal to even have them in the house.”

“No,” said my wife. “The stores just can’t legally re-stock them.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “after today stores are only permitted to stock the dangerous fluorescent kind that can hurt you if you break them and breathe the fumes.”

“Dangerous?” asked my daughter.

“Uh-huh. By the way, I didn’t do my research before I got you those bulbs in your room and for your nightstand. If one breaks, flee the room and come get me. Try not to breathe until you leave.”

“Why did they do that?”

“They think the dangerous bulbs use less energy. They think it is there business whether we would prefer to spend more on the bulb and risk serious harm or to spend less on the bulb and more for the electricity.”

My daughter goes to a Christian school, so while she is taught much that is true about government, her teachers haven’t necessarily been open about what our country is really like. So for the first time I heard my daughter express the tentative conclusion, “Then we aren’t free?”

I replied: “Sweetie, how can we be free? We are ruled by a group of people that justifies their existence as a group by meeting every year to create new laws for us.”

“But would there be chaos without laws?” she asked.

“There is chaos without obedience to God’s law commanding us to love our neighbors. But making up new laws every year is nothing but a recipe for chaos. In fact, these people make laws saying it is all right to kill babies or use robots to kill children overseas. Their laws are opposed to the real law. They create chaos.”

Thinking back on it now, I realize my answer smudged legislators with the executive and with some court cases. I still think the principle was accurate.

“I guess they think we need help,” my daughter guessed.

“That’s probably true,” I conceded. “They don’t trust us to help ourselves.”

My daughter went back to her fan fiction, but I think she learned a valuable lesson. In general, children know what it means to be micro-managed and hope to grow up to an age when they will no longer be subject to such scrutiny.

In America, as in most of the “civilized” world, that means growing up to be disappointed.