Toys, Lead and Economics: What Hillary Doesn’t Get

Surprising absolutely nobody, Hillary Clinton has come up with a bigger government solution for the import-toys-lead-poisoning “Crisis.”  According to her website, Mrs. Clinton has created herself a “Toy Safety Agenda.”  Thank God.  Maybe she can also create a government agenda to deal with the Miley Cyrus Concert Ticket Crisis.  She can call it her federal “Hannah Montana Agenda.”

Don’t get me wrong… as the father of two toddlers, I take this lead poisoning issue very seriously.  Seriously enough that, for now, I’m watching what I buy my children, and am considering a full boycott of toy products from China.  However, I do not believe more government is the solution here. 

This is a problem that the market ought to take care of — and would, if people would educate themselves about these things, and stop lazily demanding that the government do their thinking for them.  By practicing a little forethought in our purchasing decisions, we can make the difference in this, and many other, trade matters.  That’s how the free market works.  At least, that’s how the market works when the government butts out, and when consumers make intelligent decisions. 

Let’s take a look at Mrs. Clinton’s comprehensive “Toy Agenda.”  Were she president, Clinton promises she would:

“-Immediately require independent third-party testing for at-risk imported toys to ensure they are safe before they can be put on our shelves and sold.
-Dramatically increase the number of product inspectors and deploy them as part of a strategy to meet the threat posed by imported toys.
-Establish a complete ban on lead in children’s products.
-Increase and enforce both civil and criminal penalties for violators.
-Require selected companies to pay a bond pending completion of third party testing to protect consumers and taxpayers from fly-by-night foreign importers.
-Improve our system of toy recalls so that parents get swift notification and companies face swift sanctions if they don’t remove recalled products from their shelves.”

On the surface, perhaps, this doesn’t seem so bad.  Unless you happen to have an understanding of how the American federal government was intended to work.  But, sure, the idea is to keep the children safe.  Unfortunately, it does so at the expense of our free market system — not to mention the cost involved in maintaining yet another bureaucracy to oversee this process.  That’s right, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s another potential (and probable) tax increase.

I have long been a proponant of what I call intelligent consumerism.  This is the process whereby ordinary citizens make real changes in the way companies do business by basing purchasing decisions, not simply on convenience and price, but on ethical and business standards we expect in companies with which we do commerce.  When a company fails to meet that standard, the intelligent consumer walks away.  Toyota is a great example of this.  If all the people complaining about how cars are no longer built here in the US were to really take proactive measures on this, they’d all be driving Toyota.  Why?  Simply put, Toyotas are built here in the US, while much of GM labor is shipped overseas or to Mexico.  In making the decision to drive based on this, then, there would be a real potential to convince GM to bring jobs back to the US.  However, the American consumer has gotten lazy.  He wants to have his cake, and eat it.  He wants to make his decisions based on selfish reasons (like personal finances, preference or convenience), but at the same time use government to coerce “responsibility” on the part of the corporation.

Back to this whole China fiasco.  The biggest tragedy, in my mind, about Hillary’s agenda for this industry is that it misses a valuable opportunity.  Mrs. Clinton, in demanding government imposition of standards and practices, leaves the competitive advantage with China.  Sure, they have to comply, but according to government regs, so does everyone else.  China keeps its labor advantage.  On the other hand, by leaving it to the market (I note, by the way, that Mrs. Clinton let this go for a full month, with no real opportunity for the market to work this out itself, before demanding government interference), the US manufacturing market gains advantage.  Suddenly, concerned consumers are looking for toys made right here in the good ol’ U.S of A.  China, in producing shoddy work, has lost some of its competitive advantage, providing American industry a real opportunity for growth.  This could be a win for American manufacturing.  If we let intelligent people make intelligent decisions and allow the market to work itself out.

Instead, by demanding “intervention” from the federal government, China keeps its advantage, and American manufacturing misses out on an opportunity to catch up.  Now, that’s economic leadership.

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2 Responses to “Toys, Lead and Economics: What Hillary Doesn’t Get”

  1. Amazing how many lead-painted toys my generation played with, benzene-laden products we worked with, sacchrin-containg drinks we consumed,asbestos-containing buildings we all lived in and are living regularly into our 90s with full mental faculties. And we drank all of our water out of the tap! (I still do; landfills contain enough plastic, thank you.)

    Mind you, I’m not a fan of Chinese policies and not using lead-based paint only makes sense. But our self-centered synthesized terror of any risk at all will frankly produce a generation of out and out wusses except for those rebelliousness to ignore much of our silliness.

    We see the same thing in parents trying to talk their kids out of joining the military, while the grandparents shake their heads and remember the risks they took willingly.

  2. RIght on the money!

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