Don’t Regulate Toy Safety
Sept. 18, 2007
As toy companies recall numerous toys based on safety concerns about lead paint, many are using the events to call for a dramatic increase in regulation. “To guarantee the safety of the nation’s children,” says the New York Times, “American toy makers must be truly regulated by a well-financed, powerful government agency.” Toy makers themselves have expressed similar sentiments; the Toy Industry Association, according to the Times, “called on the government to require mandatory safety testing with uniform standards.”
Alex Epstein, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute, blasted the proposals. “To establish a new toy agency is exactly the wrong response to concerns about lead paint. Establishing testing procedures and safety standards is the right and responsibility of toy manufacturers, parents, and any private safety organizations they choose to employ. Such organizations exist in many other fields, from bicycle helmets to rock climbing gear, and have exemplary records. And no wonder; they live and die based on their reputation.
“By contrast, if the government gets to dictate what companies must do to make their toys safe, the judgment of toy companies about toy safety will be superseded by the whims of bureaucrats. Already, protectionists are using the occasion to try to restrict imports from countries like China as uniformly ‘dangerous.’ And this is in response to a ‘crisis’ that has not injured one single child!
“The government’s only role in toy safety should be to prosecute those who, through malice or negligence, sell toys that provably harm children in the course of normal use. Such a role is consistent with the government’s proper function of protecting individuals against force and fraud; being a toy safety czar is not.
“The toy recall should remind American parents to take greater responsibility for the safety of their children, and should remind toy companies to improve their testing procedures. It should not be used to justify taking away the rights and responsibility of both.”
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Alex Epstein was a writer and a fellow on staff
at ARI between 2004 and 2011.