We have all heard the statement “we are from the government and are here to help you.” On February 10, 2009, a new law called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act became effective. This is a perfect example of the federal government fixing something that was not broken and costing billions of dollars and the loss of many jobs.
Walter Olson has a column about this new and awful law in today’s Wall St. Journal. Mr. Olson says “A dubious safety law is hammering small business, but Congress refuses to fix the mess it created in 2008.” Mr. Olson has written about the CPSIA controversy extensively on his blog called Overlawyered.com.
This law has saddled businesses with billions of dollars in losses on T-shirts, bath toys and other items that were lawful to sell one day and unlawful the next. It has induced thrift and secondhand stores to trash mountains of outgrown blue jeans, bicycles and board games for fear there might be trivial, harmless—but suddenly illegal—quantities of lead in their zippers and valves or phthalates in their plastic spinners. (Phthalates are substances that add flexibility to plastic.) Even classic children’s books are at risk: Because lead was not definitively removed from printing inks until 1985, the CPSC has advised that only kids’ books printed after that date should be considered safe to resell.