Feds in Toyland

It is a stone heart indeed that fails to warm to the sight of a wooden choo choo train. But federal regulators have remained unmoved by the pleas of choo choo train makers and distributors across the country, who woke up yesterday morning to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Yesterday, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was signed last August, went into effect. It requires extensive testing of any toy, book, or item of clothing intended for kids under the age of 12. The law was passed in response to the recent scare over leadalicious Chinese toys for tots. 

But makers of small batch or handmade toys and goods—who have long seen themselves as providing a homegrown solution to the Chinese toys trouble—can't afford the kind of testing mandated by the new law. The law requires each model to be tested in its final form. Nevermind if all the components have already been tested, or if the toy consists only of wood and ink, or organic cotton. Testing must be redone for each batch of each model. For makers of one-of-a-kind items, that's a lot of testing.

Ironically, while the U.S. has nothing near the third party testing capacity required to keep all toy manufacturers in compliance, testing can be obtained cheaply and quickly in China. A law passed as an anti-Chinese manufacturing measure may wind up requiring homegrown super-crunchy crafters and sewers to send their good halfway around the world to get someone to certify that they're not like those awful, dirty Chinese toys.

Rep. Jim DeMint has a bill to tweak the law, and I bet there's a bunch of hipster crafters out there right now freaking out a little the idea that they live in a world where they must make common cause with a Club for Growth-endorsed Republican.

Toy makers and distributors have been give a one year grace period to sort out testing, but they must technically conform to the lead standards now. Essentially, they have the good word of the feds that no one will come after them at the moment. Probably. That's cold comfort for crafters whose livelihood depends on untested (but obviously safe) toys.

Reason will be covering this issue in depth in an upcoming article by yours truly for print magazine, so keep an eye out!

Via Virginia Postrel, who documents the perils of regulatory glamour.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Other Matt||

    Essentially, they have the good word of the feds that no one will come after them at the moment.

    Send in SWAT immediately!! Them toy rubber band gun manufacturers are especially bad.

  • HammeredHead||

    Can our government get anything right. As a young child, I had lead toy soldiers, played with mercury, lighters, fireworks. Now we live in an era where playgrounds are rubber matted and monkey bars a thing of the past.

  • kinnath||

    Clearly this is the result of a conspricay of major toy manufacturors and distributors (Big Toy) to drive humble American craftsman out of business.

    I mean it couldn't be rank incompetence in the legislative branch that is dooming an American industry.

  • Orange Line Special||

    As a young child, I had lead toy soldiers, played with mercury

    I think we've finally found an explanation for libertarianism.

    From a libertarian perspective, why have regulations at all? If, twenty or thirty years later, a toy containing lead is found to have caused permanent damage, why not simply go sue the maker in court in China? Isn't that the dynamism we can all get behind?

    [This comment was sponsored in part by the Chinese Army Rehabilitative Labor Center Happy Fun Toy Making Camp/Lead Smelting People's Cooperative]

  • kinnath||

    The local newspaper has been covering fact that thrift shops may have to close down, because they too are responsible for showing that used toys and clothing for children do not include lead components.

  • Taktix®||

    Reason was so much better when...

    Oh nevermind.

  • matt2||

    Shut the fuck up, Lonewacko.

  • HammeredHead||

    I think we've finally found an explanation for libertarianism. I never said that I actually ate the stuff. As a responsible child, I was afforded and demanded the liberty to do whatever I wanted. Also, both parents were doctors, often at work, and what they didn't know didn't hurt them.

  • Warty||

    Shut the fuck up, Lonewacko.

    Now we live in an era where playgrounds are rubber matted

    Those rubber-floored playgrounds are fucking creepy....a playground should not feel like a running track. And besides that, how are children going to grow up to be normal people if they don't get gravel lodged in open wounds every now and then? We're doomed.

  • Warty||

    Fact for the day: Isaac Newton was fond of drinking mercury.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Chris!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    *shakes fist in air*

  • Naga Sadow||

    Warty,

    I'm gonna need a link or somethin'.

  • ||

    I just know that it's going to turn out that modern medicine + a return to kids eating dirt = total health.

  • Jeff P||

    Anyone remeber Irving Mainway on SNL?

    "The Johnny Human Torch costume, it's a bag of oily rags and a lighter..."

  • Jeff P||

    http://snltranscripts.jt.org/76/76jconsumerprobe.phtml

  • ||

    Who was it recently gibbering about how close-minded we were, assuming as we do that government action isn't all for the best, denying as we do that our legislators are, verily, gods among men, and skeptical as we are that laws only rarely have Unintended Consequences?

  • ||

    "For display purposes only. Not a Toy! Do not give to children under 12."

    IANAL, but that would seem to shift the burden to the parents (I know, LOL), and to any retailers who carry these products.

  • Other Matt||

    I mean it couldn't be rank incompetence in the legislative branch that is dooming an American industry.

    Must be. Otherwise, we're really fucked, since government is the sole hope for getting us out of the financial mess that government put us into.

  • Nurse Ratchet||

    So Chris, if you can't afford Prozac, St John's Wort is available over the counter and has been shown to be about as effective as most prescription SSRI's.

    Just Sayin.

  • Other Matt||

    Who was it recently gibbering...

    Obviously not me. If it were jabbering, well, then I would understand, but definitely no gibbering here.

  • kinnath||

    Otherwise, we're really fucked, since government is the sole hope for getting us out of the financial mess that government put us into.

    Thanks for picking that one up ;-)

  • HammeredHead||

    Forgot to mention that this topic is being extensively covered at www.overlawyered.com .

  • Warty||

    Naga:

    http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/158/5/821-a

    He handled many heavy metals, including mercury, meticulously recording their properties and, in particular, their taste. Of the 108 entries on taste, a typical one (3) reads, "strong, sourish, ungrateful," referring to mercury.

  • ||

    Deregulation and capitalism must be stopped!

  • HammeredHead||

    Perhaps someone should write a Rachel Carsonesque book titled "Silent Nursery".

    This is truely pathetic. I guess the People get the government they deserve.

  • ||

    Well, then, PL, I think its time for a big ol' "Mission Accomplished" banner.

  • ||

    R C Dean,

    Thank God. I was really getting worried than more deregulation might totally destroy America. Soon, total regulation will free me from all consequences and all independent thought.

  • ||

    . . .including the need to correctly type my own cognomen.

  • ||

    Hey Hammerhead:

    Did you ever do nitrogen triiodide?

  • The Medic||

    I love it, in a time where we need growth, the Govt as usual stiffles the community with Bullshit regulations.

    Its OBVIOUS whats going on here.

    its the same thing with the Natural Med/ Herbal supp. Big Companies tring to shut down alternative better options.

    Kill them with legislation.

    I'll make my own toys from now on.
    They could always sell them for " decor" only.

    Just like sex toys are for "entertainment purposes only"

    :)

  • ||

    "strong, sourish, ungrateful," referring to mercury

    I am going to add "ungrateful" to my culinary lexicon. Things I think taste ungrateful? Cucumbers, raw green peppers, and charcoal lighter fluid.

  • HammeredHead||

    Did you ever do nitrogen triiodide

    Triiodide, nope; Oxide, yes. Why do you ask?

  • ||

    The local newspaper has been covering fact that thrift shops may have to close down, because they too are responsible for showing that used toys and clothing for children do not include lead components.

    As has frequent Reason commenter, Jennifer.

  • Naga Sadow||

    The Medic,

    Errrrr . . . technically they could say that is illegal. Refer to Reich(1943) ruling. If enough people did what you did, it would impact interstate commerce. Hence, they are in charge of it. Hence, they can make it illegal.

  • HammeredHead||

    Malto,

    Thanks for the info. Triiodide looks cool and simple to make.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrogen_triiodide

    I hereby propose that all childrens toys should also be tested for nitrogen triiodide. You just can't be too safe when children are concerned.

  • Naga Sadow||

    I had better clarify that I do not recall the ruling name. I'm pretty sure it was Reich 1943. If it is not, I will apologize now.

  • Naga Sadow||

    (sigh) I miss Jennifer.

  • ¢||

    "Hipster crafters" call themselves "makers."

    Because they're assholes.

  • ||

    It's way cool, especially the purple cloud of iodine vapor you get when it goes off.

    And it is easy to make, but hard to handle. Once you make a batch and let it dry out, you can't even breathe on it without it exploding.

    I never did nitrous. The next time I get a chance I think I will.

  • kablammo||

    "I had better clarify that I do not recall the ruling name. I'm pretty sure it was Reich 1943. If it is not, I will apologize now."

    Naga - I think you mean wickard v. Filburn. That was the case involving the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the (so-called) interstate effect of gowing wheat, within one state, for your own personal use that was nonetheless declared to have an effect on interstate commerce by the idiots on the Supreme Court at the time. Raich v. Gonzalez was the more recent case involving the same principal in the context of medical MJ in California.

  • ||

    I get quotes for safety testing on a regular basis (electrical/mechanical, not toys). Fortunately for these wood toy makers, lab time is usually only about $200 per hour with a half day minimum. So, if it takes only one day to analyze a simple product and write up a report, the maker is only looking at around $1,600 before they can sell one item. Isn't it wonderful that somebody has finally stood up to the wood toy lobby?

    Meanwhile, you can still go to flea markets, computer shows, or the internets to order electrical equipment that may not meet the safety requirements for the country you live in. For example, I'll pick on the "Logisys 550 watt clear" computer power supply that is not NRTL Listed for the US or Canada. There's nothing wrong with that, and I am sure it is a fine product, but there is also no way of knowing if it meets the requirements of the bi-national standard for this type of equipment. You can google that product description and find all sorts of vendors that will be happy to sell it for installation in your home pc, where you may be violating the terms of your homeowner's insurance policy, and your office PCs, where you are creating an OSHA violation. I'm not complaining that it's available, just using it as an example of the sort of product that should have significant safety testing done on it, but may not. As a consumer, you cannot tell in this particular case.

    But we have those wood toys makers under control now.

  • Xeones||

    Man, i haven't done nitrous since second grade.

  • Reinmoose||

    This sucks balls, dude.

    Can't you just claim that your item is not intended for children under 12?

  • Ska||

    Linked from the Act's website:



    Table B - These materials or components can be used (separately or
    in combination) and sold (provided they have not been treated or altered
    or undergone any processing that could result in the addition of lead):



    Precious gemstones: diamond, ruby, sapphire or emeralds
    Semiprecious stones provided that the mineral or material is not based on lead and is not associated with any mineral based on lead
    Natural or cultured pearls
    Wood
    Other natural materials including coral, amber, feathers, fur, and untreated leather
    Surgical steel
    Gold, of at least 10 karats
    Silver, at least 925/1000 pure
    Platinum, palladium, rhodium, osmium, iridium, and ruthenium
    Yarn, dyed or undyed
    Dyed or undyed textiles (cotton, wool, hemp, nylon, etc.), including children's fabric products, such as baby blankets, and non-metallic thread and trim. This does not include products that have rhinestones or other ornaments that may contain lead or that have fasteners with possible lead content (such as buttons, metal snaps, zippers or grommets).
    Children's books printed after 1985 that are conventionally printed and intended to be read, as opposed to used for play
    Certain educational materials, such as chemistry sets


    Not that this is a great idea or will do anything other than make shit more expensive, but wood trains are still safe (for now).

  • Syd||

    Osmium emits a toxic gas, osmium tetroxide, though I expect there's not going to be enough in a toy to matter.

  • ||

    And then, of course, there's always molten hydrogen hydroxide...

  • Jennifer||

    Hey, thanks for the bloglink, J-sub! I'd link to the actual professional column I wrote about this odious law, too, if not for my undying hatred of the godawful headshot photo the newspaper prints with it.

    Hopefully I'll have a new and better photo taken next week, and can put a stop to this uncharacteristic "Hide my light under a bushel" bullshit.

  • ||

    Perfect example of a point libertarians have been making for years.

    Regulations work IN FAVOR of large corporations who have the economies of scale necessary to do such testing efficiently. They work against small-business and self-employed people. A single individual is unlikely to be able to have the expertise to do this testing, and hence will have to pay someone else, and the testing companies aren't going to want to do small batches of a few toys for a low price, if at all.

    Rep. Jim DeMint has a bill to tweak the law, and I bet there's a bunch of hipster crafters out there right now freaking out a little the idea that they live in a world where they must make common cause with a Club for Growth-endorsed Republican.

    Well, it's an opportunity for them to learn that in order ot be free they need free markets.

    One of the most frustrating things in my life is the fact that so many counter-cultural hipsters live lives that fit perfectly with free-market capitalism, but yet they espouse such ridiculous anti-capitalist beliefs. If their beliefs were actually enacted, they would hate the results.

    Then again, their ideal society seems to resemble what Burning Man is becoming - a place where you can have as much sex and drugs as you like, but everything else is strictly regulated.

  • intelekshual||

    Basic inaccuracy here: This wasn't just passed in August. It's actually existed in some form or another since 1978. No one paid it any mind, and it didn't require any certification. What was passed in August was a rewrite of the existing rules.

  • MNG||

    "Regulations work IN FAVOR of large corporations who have the economies of scale necessary to do such testing efficiently. They work against small-business and self-employed people."

    Well, they might work for...consumers. Remember those guys?

    The reply I often see around here is that we rugged individualists should be responsible for keeping up with what is in every product we think about buying, or we need to keep up with the record of the seller (whether they have all kinds of history in mis-representing what is in their products). That is some of the biggest twiddle-twaddle I've heard.

    Right now in everyone's medecine cabinet and refigerator are literally dozens of products that folks on this thread know jack-diddly about what is in them and the history of the companies that made them. It would literally take up all your waking hours to do such a thing, and you still would have barely a clue. Here is a perfect example of how many libertarians rely daily, shit hourly on the government and then sit around bitching about how great it would be if there were none.

    It's a shame this law will hurt small manufacturing concerns, but what can you do? Buyer beware for their sake?

  • MNG||

    And let me pre-empt another common nonsense idea: that we would all join these private for profit Consumer Reports type agencies which would take care of all of this for us.

    And these agencies would do a better job than the government, because by golly their bottom line rests in their reputation. And a rational organization would never jeopardize that bottom line for short term gain.

    Just like, according to that kind of hard core libertarian thinking, I'm often told that we can totally trust a business, say a peanut butter manufacturer, to never ever make a product that would harm its own consumers. Why, that would be irrational, right? I mean, thats EKON 101!

  • MNG||

    I see this kind of stuff as just preventative fraud. Even the most anarchist of libertarians seem to think fraud is wrong and could be dealt with after the fact through some kind of coercion, that it is wrong to misrepresent what's in your products or what it will do (and I, like the law, consider some material ommissions to be of the same nature). This kind of stuff just makes sure that everyone does that BEFORE people, you know, die, not after.

    My "freedom" to buy toxic toys for my kid is one I'd gladly give away for a mess of porridge...Defending freedoms that no sane man would want anyway (the freedom to work for paltry wages, the freedom to work in a harmful work environment, the freedom to enter into a lease where you can be kicked out on the landlords whim, etc.) is one of the sillier aspects of some hard core libertarians. There are some important freedoms out there that many people would actually like to exercise but they cannot, let's work on those...

  • Paul||

    Hipster crafters wanted more government. They got it.

  • Paul||

    Well, they might work for...consumers. Remember those guys?

    The answer is to have one corporation make toys. That way we have one point of testing, and an easy source to discover and correct (if necessary) failure. And this corporation will be a public/private partnership.

  • Jennifer||

    Well, they might work for...consumers. Remember those guys?

    Yeah, I'm one of them. Fortunately, I have no children. If I did, I can see how adding a one- or two-hundred-dollar testing cost to every goddamned article of clothing I ever bought them just might hurt my finances a tad.

    On a similar note, I accept the risk of death every time I get in my car and drive somewhere, because I can't afford the $250,000 or so it would cost to make my car absolutely safe from every highway-death possibility. I also like my steaks medium-rare and gladly accept the small risk of food poisoning in exchange for the ability to eat meat that hasn't had all the flavor cooked out of it.

  • Paul||

    Is it irony that China operates as an unregulated, crazy capitalist state?

  • MNG||

    Jennifer
    That sound is my point roaring over your head.

    Yes, you like your steaks rare. But you have the luxury of having a regulatory system working 24/7 to monitor the beef that is sold to you. You really want to go to a system where the onus is on you to, what, ask the waiter "uh, can you tell me the company from which you purchased the meat so I can use my I-Phone to look up their history of selling tainted meat or misrepresenting their products, oh, and the company that owns this place so I can look it up too? Oh, and the company that made the salt, and the pepper, and the A-1..."

    That's "freedom?" Sorry, that's not only the kind of "freedom" I would gladly trade for my and my kids safety, it's the kind of freedom you would never actually want to have if you indeed did ever have it.

  • MNG||

    A standard libertarian reply to this sort of thing is "consumers would find out who was willing to sell tainted meat or such and the market would punish them."

    But in a worldwide market like we have now there is simply no way that any person could keep up with that. Companies buy and sell each other, they merge, they change their names, they set up subsidiaries, and any given product may have products from dozens of other companies in it, and many of those would be ever changing foriegn ones.

    And to ask people to trust that Chinese toothpaste factory to "do the right thing" and not sell me tainted toothpaste at Food Lion tomorrow (multiplied by the thousands of products that every person on this site has probably indulged in this month alone), is wacky I submit.

    If I asked you to look up how many times the maker of the medecines in your medecine cabinet have poisoned the crap out of someone, you'd have no idea. Be honest. But that's OK, because there are people working 24/7 to do that for you, and they are better trained, equipped, etc., so you're safe for the most part fo sit around and bitch about them impinging on your freedom...

  • Invisible Finger||

    "Buy American" should apply to testing labs, too, if we're gonna endorse the stupid idea into legislation.

  • ||

    Well, they might work for...consumers. Remember those guys?

    I really doubt that making it illegal for Society of St. Vincent de Paul to sell used childrens clothing is going to benefit the downtrodden poor that you are so fucking concerned about.

  • ||

    I got 20 years in the can for pot possession, and another 20 for not buying American weed.

  • ||

    Wow, MNG. The regulatory state has done such a good goddam job protecting us from falling cranes and tainted peanut butter.

    I know, I know. We just needs more inspectors with the right people in charge. Than we all live forever.

  • Jennifer||

    Yes, you like your steaks rare. But you have the luxury of having a regulatory system working 24/7 to monitor the beef that is sold to you.

    The same regulatory system that keeps salmonella out of peanuts? And don;t forget what J-sub pointed out; this bill will effectively ban charity thrift stores, used book stores, and all the other after-market shops that make it much easier for poor people to buy things they need.

    As I mentioned in my previously linked post, with the exception of socks, shoes and undergarments, almost every item of clothing I own -- and the overwhelming majority of my books and home furnishings, too -- were bought at secondhand shops, which are the only way I can afford a halfway-decent existence on a journalist's salary.

    If you want to raise my cost of living approximately 1,000 percent, don't have the gall to tell me it's for my own good.

  • MNG||

    J sub D
    You know the fact that some program or agency fails to stop some bad thing from happening some times does not warrant concluding that it did not operate to do so on many other occasions, right?

    I mean, that's like saying "well, murder laws and police forces failed to stop the Manson slayings so that shows how worthless those laws are."

  • Jennifer||

    Something worth clarifying: I knew I'd make low wages when I went into writing. I'm not asking for government handouts; I just wish they'd stop passing more laws and more regulations that make me even poorer than I already am.

  • MNG||

    Jennifer
    That's simply not going to happen.

    Look, let's make a bet and get it into the archives. This time next year I bet most thrift stores you know of and go will not be put out of business by the effects of this law.

  • Jennifer||

    MNG, seriously: please explain why making it impossible for poor parents to buy their kids low-cost clothing and toys in charity thrift stores will improve their lives. Please explain also why every children's book printed before 1985 needs to be either individually tested or tossed into a landfill. That's what the CPSIA calls for.

  • MNG||

    "I just wish they'd stop passing more laws and more regulations that make me even poorer than I already am."

    Jen, you'll be happy to know that they are passing laws to make you better off every day. I imagine you went to a public school at some time in your life and that you use the knowledge from that to do some of your writing. That came from an evil coercive law. I imagine you drive around on roads to get to that thrift store and to meet with folks for jobs. That came from an evil coercive law. It'd be hard to do your job if people were hitting you over the head with a pipe everyday, but the police work to keep that lower than it would be. That came from an evil...well, you get the picture!

  • MNG||

    Jennifer
    Is that true? As far as I can tell it only makes such operations liable if they knowingly sell items which they know violate the law.

  • Other Matt||

    Jennifer
    Is that true? As far as I can tell it only makes such operations liable if they knowingly sell items which they know violate the law.


    Negative. If they sell it, and don't know that it's clear (meaning, they have to test, even if they don't have to test), they're liable.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Oh MNG, is there nothing on economics that you understand?

  • ||

    MNG, as a recovering liberal, I hear and appreciate everything you say. I wonder how I'd choose a cough syrup if there was no such thing as the FDA. There was a time when potions for alleviating what ails us contained things that harmed us. And you are right to question the validity of so-called independent organizations tasked by (often self-serving) constituents of the free market with weeding out avarice and fraud.

    If you are attempting to sway what you call hardcore libertarians, than you're on a fool's errand. You may as well cajole Ted Haggard into stating categorically that queers are his equals.

    The rest of us -- those who believe that a better (a modern) definition of "general Welfare" is what's at stake here -- are happy to have a constructive conversation about the difference between burdensome regulation and regulation that nets an overall, long-term benefit to society.

    You will get no agreement from me that the unbridled (let's just admit it) power of government to decide what is safe and appropriate for me and my hypothetical kids outweighs the benefits of choice offered by a less regulatory environment.

    While I enjoy your example of someone using their cell phone to track the pedigree of a piece of rare steak, this can be done without the use of an Apple product. It's called being an educated consumer. It's the sort of personal responsibility that libertarians implicitly espouse, but rarely drive home. If you go to a new restaurant and aren't convinced that they can account for their ingredients -- don't eat there. There are a lot of people who don't care -- free markets create all kinds of places for them.

    And nobody with a libertarian streak is ever going to cover your back when you, with a straight face, say, "regulatory system working 24/7 to monitor..."

    Everyone here is jarringly conversant in the oxymoron of government's competence.

  • ||

    as a young child interested in chemistry, i received a cool gift from a grandparent one christmas, it was a bottle the size of a bottle of nosedrops, full of...mercury! i enjoyed playing with the mercury and marveled how it would stick to silver coins and you couldn't get it off.

    one time for science class, i built a mercury barometer. daddy helped me. he was wearing an 18 karat gold wristwatch when we had a little accident and an entire column of mercury poured down over his watch. oh noes! that's how i learned that mercury sticks to gold too and you can't get it off.

  • ||

    MNG:

    You're forgetting that in a free market, business would be allowed to fail, and would still be subject to liability for damages caused by their products.

    Liability currently is actually doing a better job than the government is at regulating product safety right now. With the added bonus that it's up to the producer - who has the most intimate knowledge of his product - to decide what is the best method for ensuring his product is safe.

    Moreover, not every consumer has to pay constant attention to the products he buys. It only requires a critical mass to establish sufficient word of mouth to drive a company out of business if their products are tainted.

    It's also likely that in an unregulated market people would be inclined to pay more attention to what they are eating and buying, instead of relying on a (often) false sense of security provided by government regulation.

    That said, I do think there are certain situations where regulations are appropriate. I just think they should be derived from case law established by liability suits. That way there's a mechanism for ensuring that there's a connection between actual risk levels and the rules.

    The way it is now, you can pass a regulation for some absurdly hyped up danger that costs far more than could ever be justified by the dangers. All it takes is one highly sensationalized media scare, and you end up with all sorts of onerous restrictions that make no sense. Like the current article - people making wooden trains having to test their products for lead paint.

  • MNG||

    "It's called being an educated consumer. It's the sort of personal responsibility that libertarians implicitly espouse, but rarely drive home."

    I maintain that this is just not possible for most people, the market is so complex each person just would never have the time or expertise to keep up with it all.

    "in a free market, business would be allowed to fail, and would still be subject to liability for damages caused by their products."

    They can certainly fail in our unfree market. And yes after-the-fact liability has a deterrent effect, but only after someone gets hurt.

    "Liability currently is actually doing a better job than the government is at regulating product safety right now."

    I don't know how that would be proven as they both exist in conjunction right now.

    "It's also likely that in an unregulated market people would be inclined to pay more attention to what they are eating and buying"

    That's my point, and as we consume literally hundreds of products which are themselves composed of many other products and since these products numerous manufacturers and suppliers have complicated and not easy to review histories then the amount of time we would have to put aside for this kind of thing, absent regulators, would be prohibitively high and make our lives miserable things indeed.

  • ||

    And it's not just about government incompetence. The level of corruption involved in the process of health inspections for restaurants is absolutely immense. There are few areas of government which could possibly be more corrupt. Hell, in some of the big cities, the process is more or less directed by organized crime.

    When no restaurant could possibly comply with every regulation on the books and stay in business, it becomes very easy to use selective enforcement as a weapon benefiting particular restaurant owners.

  • ||

    Toys? They stopped selling the small size motorbikes because the parts contain lead.

  • Jennifer||

    MNG, no justification from you for the destruction of all kids' books over 24 years old?

  • anarch||

    I just know that it's going to turn out that modern medicine + a return to kids eating dirt = total health.



    Yes, yes, Pro Libertate, you do know that! :-)

  • ||

    MNG:

    From what I can tell, the gist of your posts in this thread hang on an argument from incredulity. I said, "It's called being an educated consumer. It's the sort of personal responsibility that libertarians implicitly espouse, but rarely drive home."

    To which you replied, "I maintain that this is just not possible for most people, the market is so complex each person just would never have the time or expertise to keep up with it all."

    Simply because you don't believe or can't fathom that individuals would educate themselves about what is best for them and their families in the absence of a federal nanny doesn't mean that they wouldn't. Or couldn't.

    Furthermore, the market complexity you cite has been exponentially complicated by the involvement of government.

    You, sadly, assume that people are not intelligent enough or self-interested enough to make decisions about their welfare in the absence of the government. After more than half a century of nanny statism...duh.

    Perhaps our disconnect here is one of time and scale. I don't suggest radicalism, like turning off the nanny state like a light switch. It will take time to wean lazy, dependent Americans -- the ones you (and the Left) think are incapable of making basic survival decisions -- from decades of hand holding. The weaning process will produce the sort of smarter citizens some of us already are.

    The "most people" you cite are as obliged as I am to take the time. If they can't or won't, the federal government doesn't by default become the messy glue that binds us.

  • ||

    Hazel Meade wrote: "It's also likely that in an unregulated market people would be inclined to pay more attention to what they are eating and buying, instead of relying on a (often) false sense of security provided by government regulation."

    That's the crux of everything I usually try to say around here. Cheers.

  • ||

    They can certainly fail in our unfree market.

    You mean, like Goldman Sachs?

    And yes after-the-fact liability has a deterrent effect, but only after someone gets hurt.

    That's not true at all. All sorts of people worry about liability before anything actually happens. This is why for example an outdoor outfitter often will have a liability waiver. But even that doesn't guarentee protection. However, it does show that lots of people worry about liability before someone gets hurt. There's no reason to assume a business is going to ignore product safety until after they'd had to pay damages.

    I don't know how that would be proven as they both exist in conjunction right now.

    It didn't take the government to get McDonalds to put warning labels on their coffee. Which shows that the market plus liability can actually produce more restrictive results than the state can, in some cases.

    A better comparison might be what are the fines imposed by the state for violating a regulation versis the penalties awarded by juries in civil liability cases.

    Just for example: http://blogs.consumerreports.org/safety/2008/01/cpsc-fines-2007.html

    obviously i disagree with the thrust of their opinion, but it does show that the regulators imposed fines of

  • ||

    Whoops, somehow that got cut off....

    Obviously i disagree with the thrust of their opinion, but it does show that the regulators imposed fines of less than $1,000,000 while the courts imposed damages of $30,000,000.

    That's my point, and as we consume literally hundreds of products which are themselves composed of many other products and since these products numerous manufacturers and suppliers have complicated and not easy to review histories then the amount of time we would have to put aside for this kind of thing, absent regulators, would be prohibitively high and make our lives miserable things indeed.

    Not really. You only need to know if the person one step up in the supply chain can be trusted to know their suppliers in turn.

    it's not just the individual consumers who would pay more attention to what they are buying. It's everyone up and down the supply chain. you're grocery store would have to pay more attention to what it stocks. the food manufacturers would have to look into where they are getting their ingredient.

    You might also get voluntary certification along the lines of the Kosher food system. Anyone that passes the tests and adheres ot the guidelines would have the right to put some kind of symbol on their food indicating that it passed the groups safety criterion. Grocers could then refuse to stock anything that didn't have that, for example.

  • MNG||

    "You, sadly, assume that people are not intelligent enough or self-interested enough to make decisions about their welfare in the absence of the government."

    No, I submit that the complexity is so high that even a very responsible and well educated person could not. I bet right now if you walked to your refrigerator and perused the products therein you would know very little about the history of the companies who made and contributed to making those products. And you certainly would have little to no idea about any history of misrepresentation. And surely you are a responsible and educated person, right? Then what hope for the rest of us?

    "All sorts of people worry about liability before anything actually happens."

    And all sorts of people go ahead and do something that kills somebody (re the peanut butter mess, I mean, there is probably going to be liability there, but it didn't stop them did it?). You realize that pretty much EVERY failure of regulation in these areas is also a failure of your post-damage liability system right, because such a system existed side by side with the regulatory system, and yet it too failed to stop these failures.

  • Bronwyn||

    Count me in as one of those hipster crafters, although I'm not a hipster. I just like to sew.

    Reinmoose, no. We can't claim our baby bibs or small quilts (or whatever) are not for use by children under the age of 12. The law includes squishy language about items that *may* be construed as intended for children.

    The law includes items for feeding and sleeping - so there go bibs, aprons, blankets and quilts. It includes clothing - there was a lot of confusion among costume-makers, I recall - jewelry, bicycles, books, ... anything and everything for kids is included in the CPSIA.

    It is the most badly written piece of legislative shit I've ever seen.

    Feel free to visit me and my endangered colleagues over at Etsy. We've been blogging, bombarding lawmakers, pulling together a class-action suit (see the Kushner Law Firm), and getting local media attention - but still the lack of awareness is pervasive.

    Many people are so blinded by "it's for the children" that they can't see how unreasonable this is. They think crafters like me are just trying to weasel out of compliance with the law... as if we're a bunch of heartless baby killers. It's sad how this law has even diminished the level of trust crafters have traditionally shared with consumers.

    The CPSIA fails our children and our economy in too many ways to count.

  • Murray Rothbard||

    It didn't take the government to get McDonalds to put warning labels on their coffee.

    Yes it did.

    Which doesn't take a way from your point, only it adds to mine, which is that privatized courts would be even better.

  • ||

    I heard about that study, yes, but I was extrapolating total health from it. These scientists are too timid in their conclusions.

  • Jennifer||

    It is technically illegal for me to give my friend's little daughter my old Paddington Bear books, because those books date back from the late 70s. Thanks, government! Everything is so lovely and safe now.

  • ||

    One of the dumbest parts of this laws is that it doesn't allow component testing. As Senator DeMint noted, there's not going to be spontaneous generation of lead.

    If someone handcrafts an item from components that are all tested, the finished item has to be tested as well. There's a possibility of some small marginal benefit from that (it could have been sewn together in a lead mine), but it just doesn't seem to pass any sort of cost-benefit sniff test.

  • ||

    For a ton more info about this law, real info and not mis- or myth-information, see www.fashion-incubator.com, both the blog and click member forum and scroll down till you see the "CPSIA" category.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement