My response to Jamelle from the blog “The United States of Jamerica” (which, btw, I enjoy) regarding my own “cavalier” attitude toward government regulation:
First, let’s not pretend that the government doesn’t already regulate much of what goes into our bodies – they do regulate things such as the consumption of water (bottled water products, tap water) and the consumption of hamburger (ground beef) – in fact, they regulate almost everything that is sold on our shelves in one form or another. Some may find these regulations make them feel safer, but I don’t think most actually protect us from anything. In fact, I would argue that all they do is coax us into a false sense of security (as we can see by the mass panic that is induced everytime another “lead in toys” case is discovered).
I stand by my statement that every consumable good is potentially dangerous – anything ingested in a large enough dose is toxic, whether food or medicine. I don’t say this to downplay the dangers and rally for some regulatory “free-for-all”, but to point out that a universally “safe” level of regulation can never be achieved. It’s impossible – you cannot protect people from themselves in every possible situation. Sure, you can protect some, but every time our government expands in the name of “protection,” it always seems to restrict our personal liberty at the same time. That, is what I am opposed to.
Just because people aren’t capable of assessing the risk for themselves doesn’t mean the government has to be the one to step up and take care of it. I’m certainly not for keeping people in the dark, I just think that independent agencies tend to do a better job than government agencies. The government only has one guy looking at these toys coming into the US – hardly enough manpower to certify everything as “safe.” Instead of putting pressure on the government to fix our problems, we should put pressure on the companies that sell these products – they should be the ones making sure their products are safe, and if they aren’t you vote with your pocketbook (or sue if your child got really sick or died).
I would hazard to guess that the reason these companies aren’t more careful is because they don’t have to be – every time a kid gets sick we don’t point the finger at the company, but instead at our federal government who once again failed to save us. Obviously these companies are responding by pulling the toys off the shelves (or recalling Salmonella-tainted food, for example…contrary to popular belief they don’t actually enjoy injuring their customers) – if you want them to do more, then you need to put the pressure on them (and be willing to pay a little extra for a product). Or, you can continue to believe that our government is capable of providing a cost-effective means of analyzing and certifying everything that crosses our borders…a dangerous delusion far too many already accept.
Also, not to downplay the drug-laced “bindeez” aka “aqua dots,” but only a few kids have died, and only a handful more have gotten sick. Far more kids get sick every year from the lead paint in their homes, and far more kids around the world get sick and die from unsafe drinking water…but instead our country panics about this (it seems nothing more than a distraction from that which poses much greater risks).