Book-Banning, 21st Century Style

by Iain Murray on February 10, 2009 · 6 comments

in Nanny State, Personal Liberty, Precaution & Risk, Regulation

Remember the fuss when it was revealed that Sarah Palin had enquired about removing books from her town library? It would have been so much simpler if she’d just regulated them away on health and safety grounds. Because that’s the effect of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act, possibly the most ridiculous example of regulatory overreach this side of the EPA.

As the Headmistress explains over at The Common Room blog, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has explicitly rejected the arguments of libraries and booksellers that common sense should apply, because:

…we know that the ink used in children’s books prior to the 1980′s did contain lead. We have not gotten the kind of information we need about all the components of children’s books to be able to issue them a blanket exemption. The industry has made assertions and done very limited testing, but the Act requires more, as it should, before we can exempt a children’s product from the lead content requirements of the law. We cannot act on the “everyone knows children’s books don’t contain lead” and “historically there has never been a problem with lead in children’s books” assertions, particularly when we now know that children’s books have indeed contained lead in the past. Our staff has asked the book industry to provide us with additional information. They need to provide all of the information that our staff believes is necessary in order for the Commission to act based on sound science and comprehensive market coverage.

Note the point about Congress passing a law encompassing “all products” for children under twelve, “and they are surprised to discover it included books.” No better example could there be of Congress abusing its powers of regulation, and no better example should there be for real regulatory reform in this country. We have, after all, ten thousand such commandments.

KipEsquire February 10, 2009 at 10:07 am

I am in the process of relocating, and have been donating lots of used stuff to charity over the past few weeks.

One thrift shop has a huge warning on their donation website: "We can no longer accept ANY children's items due to the new law that was passed." I believe this is the law they are referring to.

Unintended consequences FTW.

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