Towards a Brighter, Cleaner Community

The above thought-provoking headline leapt at me from a Washington trash can shortly after the thrilling election of President Clinton. Apparently it was the text from a scheduled speech to the Association of Objectivist Social Workers, unfortunately cancelled due to a mistake in the premises.

As I read it, I could not help but be caught up in its vision. I felt their pain. Read on…

“Good evening Chaircreature, members of the AOSW, and gender-unspecified persons. Tonight I will bring to your attention a major social problem, and the radical solution proposed by the new Administration.

The Present Situation

The importance of clean clothes cannot be underestimated. They are a vital part of personal hygiene, self esteem and non-exploitative interpersonal relationships. Yet very little government attention has been paid to this area of need, which is characterised by poor servicing and an appalling gulf between rich and poor.

The economic elite have a wide choice of washing machines, driers and other such equipment available to them. But the high capital outlay required (some machines cost over $1000!) puts them out of the reach of many deserving members of the community. When they can afford washing at all, these people are forced to use dingy laundromats. These places are characterised by high charges, long delays, unreliable equipment and poor supervision.

The Costs to Society

  1. Money wasted on private cleaning equipment runs to millions of dollars per annum.
  2. A bewildering array of washing powders and related products is presented by numerous manufacturers. As a result of cut-throat competition these are sold in expensive, wasteful packaging with both direct costs to the public (higher prices to the consumer), and much greater indirect costs to the environment (pollution and destruction of natural resources). The total cost borne by the community must run to billions of dollars.
  3. EPA studies have found 96% mortality among laboratory rats dropped into buckets of the dyes used in these colourful packages. Death was usually due to severe respiratory dysfunction.* Extrapolations from these figures based on estimated dye exposure levels in the community indicate that 50,000 deaths and 1,000,000 hospitalisations result every year from these poisons, in America alone!
  4. Exploitation of the disadvantaged is rife. Statistical analysis of inter-laundromat price variations show a highly non-random uniformity in charges. So much for the industry’s much-vaunted claims of “competition”!

Our Proposal

Each person will be issued with a whiter-than-white LaundriCard which will allow use of efficient, Government-run laundry facilities, free of charge (subject to necessary quotas and restrictions) for all citizens. No one need ever wear dirty clothes again.


LaundriCare’s running costs will be funded by voluntary contributions of 2% of taxable income. A levy of 2% (plus 0.5% to cover administrative costs) will be imposed on those taxpayers who choose not to contribute their fair share.

Set-up costs will be financed by a levy on the owners of private washing equipment. This will be an annual levy equal to 20% of the cost of the machine(s). This is a fair levy based on the “user pays” principle: machine owners must pay for the special privilege of having their own machine in their own home. No reasonable person could expect society to continue bearing the cost of such privileges, and fairness is built into the system because at any time owners can be absolved of the extra levy by donating their machine to a State Laundromat.

The LaundriCard will cover only normal laundry. Special laundry treatment (e.g., for formal wear and special clothing) will be available on payment of a fee assessed relative to the client’s ability to pay. Naturally, employers will bear the costs associated with cleaning of work clothes.

The Benefits

The enormous cost to the community of multiple manufacturers of washing machines (many imported, damaging our trade balance) will be abolished: one manufacturer, selected by tender, can provide all of LaundriCare’s needs. Similarly, the appallingly wasteful and damaging detergent industry will be streamlined to provide a single, low-cost bulk product made to Government specifications.

But most important of all, access to Laundry facilities will be free to everyone, furthering the ideal of a just and compassionate society.

Future Trends

The pace of reform must take into account resistance by vested interests. Thus, LaundriCare cannot address all the problems. For example, it does not eliminate the inconvenience of waiting for your washing. However, I foresee a day of true equality, when everyone happily wears the same clothes. A day when one simply takes one’s dirty laundry to a LaundriCare facility and exchanges it for the same number of items of the same size. No delay, no fuss, no confusion, no need for stress-inducing clothing-choice type situations. The very thought brings a tear to my eye, and I imagine to yours too.

Thank you all, and good night.

* In accordance with Government Regulation 54319:A127 (xxiv) Para 187.34 on the humane treatment of laboratory animals, all rats were fully anaesthetised before testing.

If you think socialised laundry is bad, imagine what socialised medicine would be like! If you are interested in opposing the increasing trend toward socialised medicine, or just finding out more about free-market alternatives to government control of medicine, check out Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

© 1993, 1996 Robin Craig: first published in Reality magazine (July 1993).