Big Oil, Big Tobacco... Meet Big Toys

Remember the hysteria a couple years ago about the safety of Chinese imports? Every day, it seemed, another product from China was found to have been laced with some deadly chemical. Well, like shark attacks on surfers and pirates in Somalia, the media eventually moved on to whatever the next story was. But the issue lingered and manifested itself in a bill, the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) which mandates strict testing for lead and other substances. Sounds good, right? Safe toys for children!

So do you think the big toymakers resisted the kicking screaming? No, of course not! They love the bill Both Hasbro and Mattell actually accelerated their lobbying effort in favour it.

Tim Carney* at the DC Examiner explains:

Thousands of self-employed businessmen, artists, and boutique owners who make or deal in hand-crafted children’s toys, clothes, or furniture could be out of work next month. A 2008 federal law, with the salutary-sounding name “Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act,” could drive these craftsmen out of business.

Big toymakers, who helped write the bill, are ready for the regulations that will go into effect Feb. 10, while smaller toymakers look likely to suffer. It’s another example of how Washington, when it regulates an industry, often helps the biggest businesses in that industry while crushing the smaller guys.

This third-party testing portion of the bill goes into effect Feb. 10, which has small toymakers up in arms. The Handmade Toy Alliance is one of many groups mobilizing to keep the CPSC from destroying artisan toymaking.

It’s not just toymakers that will suffer. Small clothiers will be faced with onerous requirements that could put them out of business, while large firms, like The GAP (GPS) simply add it as another cost of business to pass on.

What’s particularly egregious is that you hear so much about small businesses, and how they’re the engine of the economy and how we need to bolster small business, rather than simply favour large corporations. All that’s fine, but then you get garbage laws that undermine that — all in the name of consumer safety, of course.

We wonder, if Mattell and Hasbro were so concerned about consumer safety before, why weren’t they doing all these things without a law asking them to?

*Yes, Tim Carney is the brother of our John Carney, and yes John has too many brothers.

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