The Consumer Products Safety Commission: Winning Battles in the War on Books

As I've said before, I'm a librophile-misanthropist. On average I like books more than I like people. Sure, there are exceptions. I rather like my wife and kids, and my dad. And I like my co-bloggers more than I like, say, the NetForce series, which is branded with Tom Clancy's name but isn't actually written by him, and since it isn't 1988, probably wouldn't be much good even if it were. But in general, despite my newfound love for e-books on the Kindle, I love real, physical, dusty books. We've got a huge number of kids' books from my youth, and even some from my parents' youth. It's a joyful thing when my kids ask me to read one of them to them, a connection between my childhood and theirs.

That's why the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act continues to enrage me and harden my abiding contempt for and mistrust of our government. As Patrick has documented before, independently and with reference to Walter Olson's spectacular coverage, the CPSIA is a won't-SOMEBODY-think-of-the-children clumsy overreaction to the lead-in-the-toys scare of a few years ago. The results? Well, small manufacturers and business that sell items for children are being crushed by the law's ridiculous requirements. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that thrift, consignment, and resale stores throw out old books in order to comply with the law.

The government doesn't think old books are great and an opportunity to forge a connection with kids. The government thinks — without anything adults and free people would accept as a scientific basis — that old books are obsolete and even dangerous to our children. The government thinks:

Children’s books have limited useful life (approx 20 years)

You know, I worked for the government, and I know it's not staffed by aliens, but by fallible human beings like me. But I can barely acknowledge that someone who would say that shares a species with me.

Think that I'm exaggerating? I wish. Read this New Atlantis article about the impact of the CPSIA on books. If you are even slightly fond of the printed word, you will be enraged by Elizabeth Mullaney Nicol's story of how junk science, oh-please-think-of-the-children posturing, and willful political ignorance led to mass destruction of books and businesses.


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