Capitalist companies are, you know, impossibly greedy and quite oblivious to the genuine needs of customers. They are good, very good, at enticing us to buy products which we do not need nor truly want. The system, in itself, is a conundrum of unnecessary duplications: what’s the point of having shoes of different colours, or ties with different patterns? It is thus a relief to know that governments are watching out for consumers’ interests and properly setting standards which may spare us useless duplications and waste.

Take the European Union. In the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, between the adoption of one package of sanctions and the other, while searching for new energy supplies outside Russia, the almighty European authorities also succeeded in harmonising chargers for all portable devices: cellphones and tablets.

Under the new rules, consumers will no longer need a different charging device and cable every time they purchase a new device, and can use one single charger for all of their small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. Mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port, regardless of their manufacturer. Laptops will also have to be adapted to the requirements by 40 months after the entry into force.

The charging speed is also harmonised for devices that support fast charging, allowing users to charge their devices at the same speed with any compatible charger.

Isn’t that wonderful? Producers have converged spontaneously towards chargers equipped with the USB Type-C port. If you try to remember how things were five or ten years ago, quite a different picture comes to mind. But common standards is something consumers tend to want and hence we are basically now in a situation in which either your charger has a USB-C or a Lightning port. The latter is the realm of iPhone and Apple, though a few Apple devices have a USB-C charger.

The European regulator thinks she deserves a round of applause. She nudged (well, she pushed) the private sector to the last step. “One charger to charge them all”.

On the one hand, some customers may appreciate the convenience, though others will need to dispose of lots of connecting cables past their useful life. But on the other hand, the move reduces the scope for innovation: it may be unlikely, but some may develop chargers which do not work well with USB-C and would do better with another system. Now, they can’t and they won’t.

The real question is: why should political authority bother with this kind of thing at all? That’s the question which is seldom asked, and that we should ask more often. There is no shortage of problems in the world we live in: from the pandemic to Ukraine; we were showered with problems over the last couple of years. Aren’t these a big enough deal for our rulers and legislators? Shouldn’t they concentrate on obviously relevant issues? Why do they so eagerly sacrifice time and attention to dictate to private companies, such as Apple, how they should make their products?

The EU decision looks trifling. But it signals an attitude and a habit- that of attaching no value to the basic economic freedom of an individual or a company to engage in the production and exchanges she wants to engage with. There might be legitimate instances in which such freedom is traded off with other values. But do authorities at least make an attempt at a cost-benefit analysis? And do they consider a presumption of sorts in favour of economic liberty?

Euroskeptics used to make fun of Brussels legislating over the calibre of zucchini. Implicitly, they meant that the EU was quite impotent when it comes with significant stuff but took pride in regulating the smallest things. Let’s see if they’ll make fun of the Lady of the Chargers too.