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Let Them Borrow Cake

Let's stop assuming Congress's war on small business has "good intentions."

by James Leroy Wilson
March 19, 2009

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Let Them Borrow Cake

Last year, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Because foreign-made painted toys were found to have excessive lead content, Congress proceeded to ban youth dirt bikes and pens decorated with cartoon characters. The law requires handcrafted toys and homemade dresses to be tested for lead, costing thousands of dollars per product run. It compelled Goodwill and other thrift stores to pull most of their children's products this winter, including desperately-needed coats for poor children. 

And lead in children's products is perhaps the least of health concerns for children these days - even when tainted products hit the market. The main lead risk for children is older homes, not their dolls.

Many small businesses and side-businesses will be wiped out.

Large companies like Mattel, with large product lines and sales, will be able to afford the testing for lead content. But wasn't it Mattel's subcontractors in China who caused the lead scare in the first place?

And it's not as if lead was completely banned, only the limit was lowered. The result will be craftspeople, whose goods have no lead content, will lose out in favor of large companies whose products have some lead content.

If the lead scare really was serious, Congress could have increased funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the expressed purpose of increasing inspections and testing of imported goods. It went far above and beyond that, so as to help worsen an already-bad economy.


Even many small businesses assume that the law was "well-intentioned," but poorly written. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to believe it. If members of Congress don't know the contents of the bills they pass, they do not have good intentions. (At best, they intend to get good publicity for passing a nice-sounding bill, but that's different.)

Indeed, Congress seems determined to destroy the life of anyone who aims to make an independent living producing and selling a tangible good.

H.R. 875, for instance, would impose a food tracing system, from the small farmer to the small restaurant owner, and all points in between. Backyard gardening could be regulated. Raising free-range chickens could be prohibited.

And don't object that these are exaggerations, that such things surely won't happen in practice. If a bill legalized spousal abuse, the outrage is in the fact of the legislation, not whether or not incidents of spousal abuse actually increase. Similarly, the outrage of warrantless surveillance is that the government can do it, not whether it actually does it to you. This is the same principle. Granting the government the power to harass and abuse those who refuse to use chemical pesticides is an outrage.

But Congress isn't done yet. There's even a bill to effectively wipe out all small-scale mining in the United States.

And some in Congress want to force small businesses such as coffee shops to keep records for up to two years of anyone who uses their Internet services, a tremendous disincentive to offer the service at all.

And what is President Obama's reaction? Instead of removing the shackles on small business, he seeks to "help" them by encouraging them to borrow more money - that is, by shackling them with even more debt.

"Mr. President, the peasants have no bread!"

"Well, let them borrow cake."

What is really needed during a recession, is what justice demands at all times. A man out of a job should be free to work for himself without permission, license, or regulation. This could mean cutting hair from his house. Or using his van as a bus service. He will be liable for any fraud or injury he causes, but should be free to under-price the competition. He should also be free to accept a wage lower than what others are willing to be paid. If more unemployed people are free to
behave this way, the price of goods and services will fall, leading to a better life for low-income people, and greater savings for all.

Likewise, if a farmer wants to sell unpasteurized milk, or unsprayed vegetables, it isn't anybody's business but himself and his customers. And if a mom wants to sell homemade baby clothes in her neighborhood, she shouldn't have to worry about what a federal inspector might do.

But the morality of free initiative and uncoerced choice is lost on Congress and the Ruling Class. The more people are wiped out and forced to depend on the federal government for loans and welfare, the more power the Ruling Class acquires. This is why industrial hemp and so-called recreational drugs have been banned for so long: Congress can't figure out a way to regulate them, or monopolize their production, so that the profits flow up to their Fortune 500 friends.

Congress can't control a nation of entrepreneurs. It can control Big Business, and Big Business is happy with the arrangement if Congress eliminates their competition. That's what we're seeing today.

So when someone in Congress proposes a measure that would limit individual freedom and clamp the market down with more regulations, don't assume good intentions. It makes far more sense to assume the worst.

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