Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cavalcade of Capitalists: Toy Makers Don't Need Regulation in Order to Poison Our Kids

This Johnny Space Commander mask here is a pure fantasy toy. I mean, you know, kids can have a lot of fun with a toy like this, you know? Let me show you.. [puts the plastic bag over his head, then wraps the rubber band around it] "Hello, hello, this is Johnny Space Commander. I'm in deep space, I'm gonna land the rocket now!" You see what I mean? [takes off the plastic bag] You see what I mean? It's a pure fantasy toy!

One wonders in the recent Mattel meltdown whether the idea of free trade is returning us to the pre-consumer-protection days when toy companies could trot out any old dangerous play thing that would sell free from government regulation. Mattel did not regulate itself on the front end; it took a "British authority" and/or a "European retailer" discovering lead paint on a toy for the maker to start a recall. Yet, the free traders would have us believe that the free market will work the kinks out and that quite naturally, almost metaphysically, dangerous toys won't sell because they are dangerous.

It's called "self-correction," which is the Shining-like twin of "self-regulation." The problem in waiting for self-correction from the parental side is this: how many of our children equal the exchange price paid to allow random and unregulated free trade to work? To paraphrase Fyodor Dostoyevsky: should the sum of sufferings of these children go to pay for the arbitrary freedom of morally relative toy corporations to do whatever they will until the fickle winds of demand force them to change course? And should the foundation of an irresponsible market be built on the slightest suffering of even one innocent child, Alyosha?

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