2009-02-19 The New Book Banning
- when: 2009-02-19
- author: Walter Olson
- source: City Journal
- topics: bad laws Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act overcaution child safety
- link: http://www.city-journal.org/2009/eon0212wo.html
- title: The New Book Banning
- summary: “under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children's products, the federal government has now advised that children's books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute.”
Since the law became effective the very next day, there was no time to waste in putting this advice into practice. A commenter at Etsy, the large handicrafts and vintage-goods site, observed how things worked at one store:
I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children's books were thrown into the garbage! Today was the deadline and I just can't believe it! Every book they had on the shelves prior to 1985 was destroyed! I managed to grab a 1967 edition of "The Outsiders" from the top of the box, but so many!
People who deal in children's books for a livelihood now face unpleasant choices. Valerie Jacobsen of Clinton, Wisconsin, who owns a small used-book store and has sold over the Internet since 1995, commented at my blog, Overlawyered: "Our bookstore is the sole means of income for our family, and we currently have over 7,000 books catalogued. In our children's department, 35 percent of our picture books and 65 percent of our chapter books were printed before 1985." Jacobsen has contacted the CPSC and her congressional representatives for guidance, but to no avail. "We cannot simply discard a wealth of our culture's nineteenth and twentieth children's literature over this," she writes. She remains defiant, if wary: "I was willing to resist the censorship of 1984 and the Fire Department of Fahrenheit 451 long before I became a bookseller, so I'd love to run a black market in quality children's books – but at the same time it's not like the CPSC has never destroyed a small, harmless company before."
Isn't there some provision for dealing with unexpectedly bad consequences of legislation? If not, there should be.