By Scott Tibbs, August 9, 2012
Barack Obama's Consumer Product Safety Commission is doing its best to destroy another American business with burdensome overregulation. This time, it is the makers of BuckyBalls who have been targeted by Obama.
BuckyBalls makes powerful magnets that can be put together in various formations as an adult desk toy. Sadly, some children have swallowed the magnets. If the magnets attract each other inside the child's body, they can cause blood poisoning and pinch intestines. Children have required surgery and swallowing the balls can even be fatal.
Even from a libertarian perspective, government does have a role in ensuring that products on the market are safe. This derives from the basic libertarian principle that we should be able to live our own lives as we wish but should not be permitted to harm others. (Then we get into the most effective way to do that, which is another topic.)
But here is the most important thing: The product itself is not defective. This is not the McDonald's "hot coffee" lawsuit, where it was determined that the coffee was dangerously hot. (Coffee is generally served at about 140 degrees, but McDonald's served their coffee at 180 degrees.) BuckyBalls is a product that, used correctly, is not dangerous. The problem is that there are people who are not using the product correctly.
The CEO of BuckyBalls called into the Rush Limbaugh show to explain his side of the story. He made a very good point about the three groups that are responsible for product safety. The government's regulatory authority helps protect consumers, while businesses are required to follow the regulations. (Not to mention that an intelligent and ethical business would never knowingly harm its customers.) But the third leg of that stool is consumers, who should follow safety warnings and not use products improperly.
It was with the third group where we saw the failure here. While it is not possible to eliminate all danger, parents are responsible for making sure their children are reasonably safe. This includes placing boundaries and teaching the child to be safe. Just as no reasonable person would blame General Electric because a child burned himself by inappropriately touching a pan that just came out of the stove, no one should blame BuckyBalls for a child ingesting the product.
Is it unfair to blame Obama for this? No it is not. Barack Obama is the President, and as President he has the authority to step in and restore sanity. It is time for him to do that. But even if Obama does the right thing, the fact that this happened in the first place demonstrates why we need a more business friendly President.