Myriad Vague and Selectively Enforced Laws Are Not Ideal for Economic Growth


Yesterday evening I appeared on The Blaze's RealNews discussing how government's expansive scope leads to arbitrary and selective enforcement of myriad vague laws. We discussed the example of Gibson Guitars, previously reported by ReasonTV's Anthony Fisher. Dressed in swat team gear with automatic weapons, federal agents twice raided Gibson Guitar's Nashville and Memphis factories, seized half a million dollars worth of property, shut down the factory, and charged the company with violating the Lacey Act, a law that bans the importation of rare and endangered plants and wildlife.

Naturally some concluded Gibson Guitars had imported endangered wood from India to be used for electric guitar's fret boards. However, CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, argued that the real issue was whether the wood, when exported from India, was the correct level of thickness and finish to ensure the exported wood included some labor content from India.

If Juszkiewicz, is correct, then the law enforced is not one protecting endangered wood, but trade protectionism and labor law, enforced via the Lacey Act. Although Thomas Stackpole at The New Republic did not intend to pillory the Lacey Act, he clearly explains support from domestic special interests for a law that ostensibly enforces some foreign laws:

"a number of American industries are in favor of ongoing Lacey Act enforcement. The health of the American timber industry, for example, is highly dependent on the Lacey Act Enforcement…the illegally harvested lumber that has flooded the global market as a result has driven down the price of timber, making American lumber less competitive both at home and abroad."

The point I make on the panel is that when there are many vague and potentially far-reaching laws on the books it leads to selective and arbitrary enforcement of laws. Uncertainty with what laws are on the books, how those laws are interpreted, and how they will be enforced is not the ideal recipe for a thriving economic climate.

Follow Emily Ekins on Twitter @emilyekins