Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Safety Fascists and the New Book Burning

Last week I brought to your attention the concerns of Senator Jim DeMint about the unreasonable nature of legislation intended to reduce the risk of importing and selling goods meant for children with high lead content. Today I bring to your attention a report from Walter Olson in The City Journal wherein he discusses the impact of this law on second-hand bookshops, libraries, and thrift stores. It turns out that books printed before 1985 very often used a lead-based ink. So you can imagine what is happening and, of course, what is being lost as a result. Isn’t it comforting to know that the same geniuses who designed Fannie and Freddie, brought us TARP and now offer us this miraculous stimulus package also have the time to exercise so much concern for our safety and welfare as to ban books that they think will make us sick? I wonder if I’ll be liable for second-hand lead poisoning if I read an old book in the car when my kids are present . . .

Discussions - 18 Comments

Lucianne's boy was surely right - if entirely unoriginal - when he said that the word "fascist" was one of the most misused in contemporary political dialogue. Still, I think everyone's getting sick of Big Government Fascists out to "protect" us from this or that (except from Evil-Doers). At this point any good conservative worth their weight in lead ought to be giving banned Chinese toys to their kids IN BULK - take THAT Ralph Nader and you hand-wringing government scientists! Back in the good old days, kids would snack on lead paint chips and broken glass (or at least that's what Rush's caller said yesterday). One thing to consider, though - what if the lead was put in the books by some Islamo-fascists? Should we then give the case to the CIA or to Blackwater? But really, who ever heard of a kid chewing on a book or paper? Where's the threat here?

Did you hear about those jack-booted government thugs cracking down on that poor little peanut company? "Federal law forbids producing or shipping foods under conditions that could make it harmful to consumers' health." Wow, talk about a nanny state!

Craig, I like your article on the peanut company. Obviously, federal regulations did not keep that company from shipping a tainted product. "No, no," said the nanny state, "you are forbidden to do what anybody ought to know not to do." Yet, people did stupid things, despite the FDA regulations. If the FDA had not been out there regulating the peanut business, people might have died.

People did die. The point in the peanut company case is that government can't do everything, can't be everywhere, and the threat of lawsuit by private individuals is just as big a threat as federal regulation, where common sense and common humanity do not do the trick. The extent of government is a waste of time, money and effort. There are more employees of the Agriculture Department than there are farmers and farm-workers. in America. Do they do us that much good?

Anyway, that new law explains to me why I have been having such a hard time buying old books for my grandchildren. I can't find the old Babar books, for example. I have looked everywhere and found one.

Small children do chew on books, actually, if you leave those pretty things laying around. Mine did. None ate whole pages or anything and I can imagine a child would have to eat all of the pages of a whole set of Babar books before the lead content could possibly do him any harm.

It is a pretty outrageous thing to say, safety fascists. No doubt Mrs. Ponzi will either say that the German Nazi's had some safety features in their government, therefore indicating (to her) that any such features must be wrong (which is just sloppy thinking); or she will say she was 'just kidding' and scold the Scanlons out there for their lack of imagination or manliness. This from the conservatives who for years propped up the color-coded alerts from the terrorists hiding behind every tree in Ottumwa, Iowa.

How about this definition of fascism, or this.

Yes, the word, fascist, is over-used, but in this case it seems apropos, and what other word ought Mrs. Ponzi have used to make her point? Do you guys have a better word, speaking of imagination? I can't think of a better one, which might just show my lack of i..

How much do you want to bet that we'll soon be hearing about the high lead content in books by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. This is the reality of life in Obamerica. True Americans need to keep their powder dry and be prepared to resist when the time comes.

My problem in argueing with Craig is that I don't disagree with him. If scientists who know claim that lead is a poison that weakens bones, causes birth defects and exasperates and encourages all forms of cancer then I am not doubting them. On the other hand some lead in ink may be homeopathic...or so small of an amount that little harm results. Of course I think lead has a nasty way of accumulating...so you get some from eating fish...and if you fish like I do with split lead sinkers and bite them unto the line...then that is considerable contact. Not only did kids previously chew on lead paint chips, but leaded gasoline used to put considerable lead into the atmosphere. Ridiculous as it may seem the point of the caller is simply questioning how much of life should be about fearing this or that, a sort of nostalgia for times when folks had less knowledge of what all could kill them and thus lived more carefree.

I had a run in with Dr. Weidenhamer whose work at Ashland was used by Senator Brown mentioned by Julie...most of it stemmed from his considerable irritation at me and the Ashland Collegian for glamorising the fact that I grew Tobbacco in my dorm room. I see and still saw no reason to deny the fact that both lead and nicotine are serious poisons, but we consume poisons all the time I figured that by growing my own tobbacco I could control what was in the product(I grew a variation called Indian Arrowhead, that had such a high concentration of nicotine that it was used for arrowhead poison, and in modern times for extracts added too "all natural" insect repellent.) I also did an unofficial audit of his Chemistry/Philosophy class with Dr. Vaughn(the Continental philosophy specialist.)

All in all the questions addressed probably could have used more chemistry and more philosophy. In many ways the makeup of the class and general professorial bias tended strongly towards condemnation of the tobacco industry, arguments were too often settled simply by determining that the chemical components were known poisons...but this is not 1916 no one is denying that these things are poisonous. I don't see why one could not maintain a libertarian outlook while in complete agreement with HAZMAT classifications. The problem of course comes when economists and lawyers are brought into the picture to solve questions of externalities... Strangely enough Nuclear Power is considered cheaper and more environmentally sound in part because Nuclear Power is the only power that has for the most part internalized these externalities. Of course this puts it at a competitive disadvantage with Coal which for the most part has not been forced to cover these costs.

To add some humor to this train of thought John Stuart suggested that the New York Times recapture non-paying blog content, by mixing an addictive substance into the ink used to print the New York Times...I instantly figured that something like Indian Arrow Tobbaco might be the ticket, Get some biologists and chemists together...this could be grown relatively cheaply nicotine/buck and mixed into the ink...then conservatives who rant about the Times being a cancer on society would be right...

The tobacco industry is so corrupt that any reasonable professor would have to itemize all their crimes. Then right-wing students accuse them of ‘bias’ for what is in fact their responsibility. It is like the Nazi’s – itemizing their crimes and evils would take all quarter, and only at the end does the dimwit skinhead in the course accuse the faculty of ‘bias’ for so consistently mentioning only the things that are wrong with Nazism! So this post sounds like skinhead thinking. If you grow your own poisons, you probably have a nice supply of ricin and homemade pipebombs under your bed too. Just your little way of celebrating your libertarian freedoms, no doubt.

I think the Nazis were the first anti-smokers. Is tobacco any more corrupt than the modern foods we eat that are GMO and laced with additives. The rise of this simply goes hand in hand with the increased health problems. Tobacco has arsenic, water has sodium flouride, and everything else has high fructose corn syrup. Thing thing about the scientist is that they tend to say something is good then they do a 180. This leaves some feeling that their conclusions are often in favor of the side doing the funding. I will never understand the desire to get people to stop smoking. Is it all about forcing you will on someone? I guess if that keeps you from doing more rash things then good for you. Believe it or not tobacco or other soft drugs can be enjoyable. If I'm aware of the risks then what is the problem, I promise I won't ask for the state to give me a cure. On a side note I now realize that the John Lewis is not Dr. Lewis of denied tenure for being an athiest fame. Sorry for some comments I made that may have addressed you as such.

Kate, you said:

"Obviously, federal regulations did not keep that company from shipping a tainted product. "No, no," said the nanny state, "you are forbidden to do what anybody ought to know not to do." Yet, people did stupid things, despite the FDA regulations. If the FDA had not been out there regulating the peanut business, people might have died.

People did die. The point in the peanut company case is that government can't do everything, can't be everywhere, and the threat of lawsuit by private individuals is just as big a threat as federal regulation, where common sense and common humanity do not do the trick."

I question how much you really buy your own rhetoric here, despite how noble it might make you feel to utter it. As you can see from the example of the peanut company, the people (as in the decision-makers at the company) didn't sense any barriers to shipping out contaminated peanuts. The "nanny-state" that you loathe actually failed to do its job, thus 600-and-some people have become sick from it and possibly up to nine have died from the peanut-linked salmonella. If someone loses their kid from this, wielding the "threat" of a lawsuit after the funeral isn't terribly comforting to the family, is it? If you look into it, Kate, you'll see that, in fact, the federal government has increasingly taken a lax approach to inspections and penalties, leaving much of the "inspecting" to the companies themselves. Self-policing, as it were. So, as long as the companies are helmed by people with "common sense and common humanity" we've got no problem. What other areas could this anti-nanny-state approach work in? Purity standards in medications? Speed limits? Bars serving alcohol? Electrical standards in buildings? We can all just police ourselves! I'm sure the profit motivation would never infringe upon common sense and common humanity. Again, like Hayward's earlier post about how FEMA just CAN'T work, this is the Norquist approach to governance. Rail against big government as a big, gross "waste of time, money, and effort" and then, when conservatives have the reins of power, do all that can be done to prove just that. The point, Kate, is that the FDA was NOT doing their job, not that they were doing it appropriately and it failed to work. It's called regulatory "rollback". That does not mean it is actually impossible for the job to be done.

I'm amazed (and amused) that so often the very same people who scoff at agencies like FDA or EPA and how "government can't do everything, can't be everywhere" are so casual in approving and funding government agencies and programs that claim to battle "evil" and actually do monitor their movements, communications, and yes, even library materials borrowed. We can't prevent companies from selling poison peanuts to people but we can stop evil and terrorism? Look, if you think the latter can be done (and as far as the terrorism goes, I agree we should do our best to combat and prevent it; fighting "evil" is another discussion), then why so hopeless on the former?

If you want to expand your comprehension of "nanny state" give this book a read.

"Small children do chew on books, actually, if you leave those pretty things laying around. Mine did. None ate whole pages or anything and I can imagine a child would have to eat all of the pages of a whole set of Babar books before the lead content could possibly do him any harm."

Kate, I KNOW that kids chew on books. Perhaps I confused by mixing my serious points with my sarcasm - sorry. And do you really want to test the limits of how many old, lead-tainted book pages a kid you love has to chew on before it negatively effects their brain (or whatever else)? I doubt it. [Lead is well-known to cause brain damage] Still, I haven't read or heard anything about regulators "burning" the books at issue, despite Julie's alarmist post title. Actually, burning lead-tainted items would probably defeat the whole purpose of making things safer and healthier. But hey, maybe conservatives just think that things are plenty safe enough - time to roll things back and make our kids appreciate danger a bit more!

The Babar books are not hard to find. Ever visited Ebay??

As for the fascism thing. It's a big debate, but Julie's use is clearly out of line - a casual abuse of the term - just as it would be to describe regulators who put a stop to the importation of some Chinese toys as "fascist". Aside from your definition links to the freedom = capitalism site and the general fascism Wiki entry, I think this one works much better. The helpful intro:

"What constitutes a definition of fascism and fascist governments is a highly disputed subject that has proved complicated and contentious. Historians, political scientists, and other scholars have engaged in long and furious debates concerning the exact nature of fascism and its core tenets.

Most scholars agree that a "fascist regime" is foremost an authoritarian form of government, although not all authoritarian regimes are fascist. Authoritarianism is thus a defining characteristic, but most scholars will say that more distinguishing traits are needed to make an authoritarian regime fascist.

Similarly, fascism as an ideology is also hard to define. Originally, "fascism" referred to a political movement that existed in a single country (Italy) for less than 30 years and ruled the country from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. Clearly, if the definition is restricted to the original Italian Fascism, then "fascism" has little significance outside of Italian politics. Most scholars prefer to use the word "fascism" in a more general sense, to refer to an ideology (or group of ideologies) that was influential in many countries at many different times. For this purpose, they have sought to identify a "fascist minimum" - that is, the minimum conditions that a certain political group must meet in order to be considered fascist. Several scholars have inspected the apocalyptic, millennial and millenarian aspects of fascism. According to most scholars of fascism, there are both left and right influences on fascism as a social movement, and fascism, especially once in power, has historically attacked communism, conservatism and parliamentary liberalism, attracting support primarily from the "far right" or "extreme right.""

I don't like Ebay, but thank you for the link. Actually, the Babar book I bought for $4 is on offer there for $99. Should I make the buck or just read the book to my granddaughters and hope they don't bite it?

Please, my point about children chewing on books was simply that there is not enough lead in the print of any old book to seriously harm a child. Our parents grew up playing with lead toys and so did we, in my generation. I know what lead can do, but as with asbestos and freon, people over-react to such substances. In my area there is arsenic in the ground water. I let my children drink water pumped from our well. We have not died from arsenic poisoning. There is simply not enough arsenic in the water to kill us or even make us ill. I would not let my grandchildren chew on lead fishing weights, like my brothers and I used to do for the pleasure of how lead felt on our teeth. Yet I have not stopped using my grandmother's pewter pitcher to pour water at the table on special occasions. She used it every day and lived to the age of 90. She was a smoker, too, and it was lung cancer that killed her.

I simply do not see that government regulation can do what you say it is "supposed" to do. It just does not. Do you envision some perfect day when perfect people regulate perfectly? It is not going to happen. Even totalitarian governments have proved unable to actually be everywhere, watching everything. I do not know what inhuman, superbly regulated, totalitarian Utopia you have in mind, but I would prefer not to live in it and take my chances with messy freedom.

Incidentally, as to the book you offer, I do not like that type of nanny state, either, see it as inevitable. If government will attempt to regulate it, business will get involved in its own regulation to protect itself. That's just what happens. This is just what I do not like and is just a matter of people trying to remain free. If they have to buy off politicians, regulators, agents of out government to do so, that is horrible, but I do not blame them. We do what we can for our liberty. I find that a horrible perversion of our republic, but think our republic has been horribly perverted to force that corruption.

When I was looking out my definitions, I was looking to those focused on economics. Political fascism and economic are different, though they can be connected, they need not be, as your definition says. If government can tell me what to do with what I own, then what I own is not mine, it is the government's. If government has control of all things, then no one really owns anything, because to own a thing without having any control over it is no ownership at all. If any business, like a peanut business, is not responsible for the integrity of its own products, because some government agency is responsible, then government is responsible for production, not the business. It seems to me that this is an aspect of what you are arguing that you are not considering.

I have work to do. How the hell do you have time for responses like that? I apologize for a lack of time to edit.

I have work to do also, Kate - are you implying something? I type fast and manage my time as needed.

Anyway, to use a saying I've seen Julie employ often before you are making the perfect the enemy of the good. I've seen nobody claim that any regulatory agency will reach "some perfect day when perfect people regulate perfectly". Your approach actually reminds me of Homer Simpson and his "don't bother trying" mantra. We won't be able to prevent all foodborne illnesses, but why not inspect companies that produce food and make sure that they're operating CLEAN facilities and that they're testing the products that they're selling to us as wholesome, edible food? Why not do as much as is humanly possible (flaws and all) to keep lead-tainted book pages away from kids who will, fairly predictably, put those pages in their mouths? I don't know what to say to your "people over-react to such substances" - I think the scientists that have researched these substances and warned against our exposure to them are generally pretty blase about it. Brain damage is no small deal. Cancer is no small deal.

Oh, and here is a relevant update on how these regs are going to destroy America's all-American mom-and-pop small businesses, like the used clothing shops that Sarah Palin frequents (teehee).

As for Babar, just because it's priced at $99 doesn't mean it will sell for that price - you sure it's an identical edition?

And I really do recommend the book about the conservative nanny state; it's an enlightening read.

I was not really implying anything about you, but rather was shocked at how time had flown for me while composing my response. I am supposed to be a responsible person. I always think I am managing my time well and then things just happen.

I have been appalled by the conservative nanny state. When GWB signed whatever it was that will ban the incandescent light bulb - as efficient and inexpnsively wonderful a piece of engineering as ever there was - to me that was ultimate in stupidity. I will try to look at that book, but truly am busy reading what I must read this year.

I suppose I could reiterate what I wrote above, but am tired and cranky tonight and don't feel like it. Government bothers too much and bureaucracy grows, departments gathering power, growing, wasting to a shocking extent, sprouting and spouting contradictory regulations and, yes, drawing advice and advisors from those they regulate who moderate the regulations for their own benefit.

I promise I will not let my granddaughters eat my old books. Do not send some government agent to my house to make sure I do not. Please, just trust me. I would not have them poisoned by Babar's bold reds nor by Ernest Shepard's inked drawings, nor nor by what remains of my Childcraft books of my youth that have pages missing because my little brother ate them.

Thank you for the update. I hope it is correct. Of course, if people do not know that they are all right, they will over-comply to remain on the right side of the misread regulation, out of fear.

No, just because the Babar book appears to be selling for some remarkable price on Ebay doesn't mean anything.

Your example of Bush banning the light bulb leads me to think that you didn't even skim that introductory page to "Conservative Nanny State". That wouldn't serve as a good example at all. [I did notice that a search for "Bush bans bulbs" brought up about 3 solid pages of right-wing and libertarian websites, many carrying the "Edison weeps in his grave" meme - my stomach couldn't click further, but suffice it to say that Edison's bulb, even in its current incarnation, leaves much to be desired in the efficiency department, by modern standards]. Maaaaybe if you had cited the mandatory switch to digital TVs, that might have made more sense.

The main problem, which you actually identified in euphemistic terms, is "drawing advice and advisors from those they regulate who moderate the regulations for their own benefit". In far too many cases, the regulated industry is actually - often literally - writing their own rules, which, in effect do nothing to protect consumers and do everything to safeguard the companies from those lawsuits that you mentioned as such a threat previously. That situation, which typically flourishes during GOP administrations and retreats to a minor degree during Dem administrations, need not continue. Nor does government waste, nor conflicting regulations. That doesn't mean however that government, in and of itself, must be eliminated. Watch carefully, because you will see, time and time again, that when conservatives run the show, the goal will be to demonstrate, by example, just how bad government can be, and thus creating an argument for whittling it down to little more than a military/"security" budget and perhaps - depending on which sort of conservatives we're dealing with - some corporate subsidies.

No, I said I did not read that book. I will give you the switch to digital TV's as just as silly.

What you say about government under Democrats not being linked to business is just silly and totally untrue. I mean this bit, typically flourishes during GOP administrations and retreats to a minor degree during Dem administrations,... If that is what your book then it is discreetly drawing a curtain over the Clinton and Carter years, like Noah's sons covering their father's nakedness. That it need not continue is to deny humans their capacity for survival under whatever optimum conditions they can contrive. That was what I meant by your Utopianism, in the comment well above.

Tell me, did Obama get no corporate money for his campaign? Tut-tut! Of course not, all business gave money to McCain's campaign, which was why he refused the government campaign finance monies and had an astounding amount of money for his campaign, more than he could spend -- oh wait -- I have that switched, don't I?

Obama might not have won without corporate funds. It is not a matter of Democrats not protecting businesses and industries, but rather a matter of which of those are protected or even advanced.

Kate, I think I was a bit ambiguous in my language earlier, sorry. When I said that the situation of regulated industries dictating and even writing their own regulations "typically flourishes during GOP administrations and retreats to a minor degree during Dem administrations" I DID not mean that it goes from being a serious problem to being a minor one. I mean that the situation (of Friedmanite, next-quarterly-report foxes guarding henhouses, as it were)only improves to a minimal extent. Let that much be clear.

I'm not quite sure what you meant by saying "That it [the situation where regulated industries dictate what their regulations will be, with the primary interest being cost reductions and profit maximization, not the citizenry and/or consumers, as the case may be] need not continue is to deny humans their capacity for survival under whatever optimum conditions they can contrive"

What kind of perverted notion of "survival" are you employing here? Do the "optimum conditions" for a regulated industry create the best conditions for democracy and the health and well-being of the citizenry?

The Conservative Nanny State

How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer

Is Craig Scanlon stupid enough to think that the "wealthy" are the same people as "conservatives"? Or even as Republicans?


The question is a rhetorical one. Of course he is that stupid. And not merely ignorant, because no amount of mere data will ever penetrate his remarkably dense skull. I could spend the rest of the day documenting the fact that "the wealthy" and "the left" are virtually interchangable terms, and it would not have the slightest impact on him.

Watch carefully, because you will see, time and time again, that when conservatives run the show, the goal will be to demonstrate, by example, just how bad government can be...

We are two years into a Democrat Congress and barely one month into President Obama, and the Democrats have already done a vastly better job than the Republicans at demonstrating by example just how bad government can be. You want to see corrupt crony capitalism? Take a long hard look at the so-called "party of the people". It's the party which relies on contributions from the wealthiest Americans.

I'm tempted at ask, "Damn, Craig, did you bother to read the link to DeMints objections to this bill?"

But I know you too well to even bother. Suffice to say that your interpetation of events here is, as usual, completely wrong. The wicked Republicans are not attempting to do that which you so stridently accuse them of.

John, as usual, a most edifying and constructive reply! Thank you for engaging me in such a worthwhile exchange.

I'm also humbled that you would - again! - take the time to point out how you are right and I am wrong. And you gave me an initial correction, and then a follow-up as well! It must be quite trying for you; I wonder why you bother? I'm guessing it's the deep satisfaction you derive from name-calling.

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