A New York Times editorial published this week has been excoriated by Walter Olson, proprietor of the popular "Overlawyered" blog and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and justly so. The subject is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), a law that went into effect earlier this month and which even now is causing libraries, thrift shops and used book stores to throw away large volumes of used children's clothes, toys and any children's books published before 1985. Don't take it from me:
If you browse through the racks of children's clothing at area Goodwill stores, you'll notice half the supply is gone - all because of a new law being implemented by the federal government Tuesday morning. -KPTM FOX 42 News, Omaha, 2/9/09 (Hat tip for the link: Ace of Spades.) ...our realistic choices are: 1. Shut down our children's section, or 2. Ban kids 12 and younger from the library. -Librarian, Idaho (Hat tip for the link: Ace of Spades.) Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children's Books... 'This is a potential calamity like nothing I've ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable,' he said, noting that children's books could be removed from schools, libraries and stores; nonprofit groups like First Book would lose donations; and retailers, printers, and publishers could ultimately go out of business. 'Books are safe. This is like testing milk for lead. It has to be stopped.' -Talkback on Publishers Weekly, 1/12/09 (Hat tip for the link: Overlawyered.com.) 'The economy is tough enough right now, and now I'm not allowed to sell dirt bikes?' -Hitching Post Motorsports (MN) sales manager Andy Buddensiek, as quoted by KARE 11 News, Twin Cities. The Motorcycle Industry Council estimates that $100 million dollars worth of motorbike inventory may have been frozen nationwide. As sales of adult ATVs are unaffected, some worry that children will ride adult ATVs that are too difficult for them to properly handle. (Hat tip for the link: Overlawyered.com.) ...unless the law is modified... handmade children's products will no longer be legal in the U.S. -Handmade Toy Alliance (Hat tip for the link: Overlawyered.com.)
There are many, many more specific examples of damage this law is doing on Overlawyered.com, some of which are heart-rending. Here's what the New York Times published:
Unfortunately, the commission has yet to implement important aspects of the new law. The delay has caused confusion and allowed opponents to foment needless fears that the law could injure smaller enterprises like libraries, resale shops and handmade toy businesses. (Emphasis added)
Needless??? Walter Olson at Overlawyered put it this way, in part:
...The Times editorialists warn against "needless fears" that the law "could injure" smaller enterprises. Got that? Not only will they not be driven out of business, they won't even be "injured". So small enterprises from coast to coast are just imagining things if they plead desperately for places like the Times to notice that they have already closed down, or will have to do so in the foreseeable future, or have lost thousands of dollars in unsalable inventories. Motorbike dealerships around the country are just imagining things if they think they're staring at massive losses from the inability to sell their products, even though news-side talent at the New York Times has in fact covered their story well - coverage which the editorial studiously ignores. For as long as anyone can remember, the New York Times has unthinkingly taken its line on supposed consumer-safety issues from organized groups like Public Citizen and Consumers Union. In this case, the result of such reliance has been to render the nation's leading newspaper a laughingstock.
It appears the New York Times' belief that regulations have no harmful economic or social benefits is so calcified, it didn't even examine the question of whether anyone was being harmed by CPSIA before declaring news of such harm as being the product of mere "needless fears." Meanwhile, a significant part of our nation's cultural heritage (children's books published before 1985) is literally been thrown in the dumpster, and many small businesses and charities and the people they serve are being hurt. Some are being hurt quite a lot. Shame on the New York Times for putting its passion for regulation ahead of the truth. Cross-posted on Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog