"When all think alike, no one is thinking very much." ~ Walter Lippmann
Federal Register Watch
What freedoms have you lost this week?
The Federal Register is the official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential Documents. This column attempts to summarize the highlights (or lowlights) of the Federal Register during the preceding week.
Instructions for subscribing to the Federal Register can be found at the end of the column.
AUGUST 25, 2003 :
OFFICE OF THE WHITE HOUSE ' RESUMPTION OF DRUG INTERDICTION FUNDS TO THE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT
The U.S. government is going to resume giving funds to the Colombian government so that it can interdict any flights it considers to be engaged in drug trafficking. If Colombian drug war forces are anything like their U.S. counterparts (and, by all accounts, they're worse), this power will be horrendously abused.
Worse yet is the absurdity of the whole situation. The government outlaws drugs, raising the price and encouraging unsavory characters into the industry. Having indirectly produced these vicious drug cartels (as well as raising the price for honest, stable drug users, arresting millions at the taxpayers' expense, etc.), the state then shovels money into the quagmire of Colombia 's drug war. It's a vicious circle, with no end in sight.
AUGUST 27, 2003 :
CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION (CPSC) ' PUBLIC MEETING REGARDING FURNITURE FLAMMABILITY
The CPSC is holding a public meeting on September 24 to discuss the agency's proposed rules on creating a government standard for furniture flammability resulting from cigarette or lighter burns.
Without even going into the absurdity of the nanny state's continued efforts to protect each citizen from him- or herself, there are some interesting points to make here. First of all, the CPSC admits that voluntary industry guidelines 'are widely followed among manufacturers today.' This means that the free market is already working!
The CPSC, like any other government agency, pursues expansionary policies, and can't help but worry about the 'societal costs' related to the minority of furniture pieces that don't meet these qualifications. (Never mind the idiot who puts out his cigarette on the armrest of his couch.) To justify its position, the CPSC notes that, at a public meeting last year, as well as in a recent letter, the American Furniture Manufacturers' Association (AFMA, an industry trade group) 'recommended that a standard include requirements for upholstered furniture cigarette ignitability.'
Why, we're all in agreement, then, right? Of course not. In an August 22 letter to the Secretary of Commerce, the AFMA CEO expressed concern about such regulatory meddling, noting that '[e]fforts . . . by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to address upholstered furniture flammability could result in higher costs to both producers and consumers, with little or no benefit to safety.' The letter then notes that 'AFMA has proposed a federal framework to resolve concerns about the risk of flammability associated with upholstered furniture that would pre-empt conflicting state standards and provide complying manufacturers with protection against lawsuits.'
Simply put, AFMA only suggested a set of standards to mitigate the crippling effects of government meddling and absurd litigation encouraged by the state's witless judicial system. The industry regulates itself just fine, but the state forces it to play along. How sad.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE ' REGISTRATION FOR THE DIVERSITY IMMIGRANT VISA PROGRAM
The Department of State is announcing a special lottery to admit immigrants from countries that currently don't send a lot of immigrants here. This new class of 'diversity immigrants' is good for . . . what? Diversity for the sake of diversity?
I invite people onto my property because they're useful in some manner, not just because they're different. 'Skilled immigrants,' 'smart immigrants,' '7'5' immigrants with great rebounding skills that will fill up my arena' . . . bring 'em on! But pushing multiculturalism over voluntary association is a recipe for mediocrity.
AUGUST 28, 2003 :
INTERNATIONAL TRADE ADMINISTRATION (ITA) ' ANTI-DUMPING DUTIES ON POTASSIUM PERMANGANATE
The ITA is instituting duties on potassium permanganate, a poison used to kill off parasites that attack fish, imported from China . The absurdity of tariffs, their assault on prosperity, and their place in opposition to basic principles of freedom have frequently been discussed in this column. Instead, I'd like to address a couple of the most commonly cited utilitarian defenses of duties.
First, 'unfair' prices supposedly hurt American business. If cheaper products from abroad are destroying the American economy, then why is this agency wasting its time on the potassium permanganate industry? This rarely-used chemical clearly isn't a mainstay of the American manufacturing industry. Not only is Washington bureaucracy making everyday products that affect all consumers more expensive, they're now expanding into niche meddling.
For certain industries, such as steel or rubber, 'national security' has been cited as a reason to institute tariffs. Aside from the fact that the state endangers its citizens far more than any of the state's enemies, fluke parasites represent no danger to your or my life and liberty.
Sometimes, the state isn't just mean, it's petty.
AUGUST 29, 2003 :
CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION BUREAU ' IMPORTATION RESTRICTION ON BYZANTINE CULTURAL ARTIFACTS
This agency (part of the Department of Homeland Security ' what exactly are they protecting us from?) is placing 'emergency' import restrictions on Byzantine-era cultural relics from Cyprus . It's unclear what the emergency is; the Byzantine Empire fell 550 years ago. Cyprus has gone through so many changes and upheavals since it was taken from the Byzantines by Richard the Lionhearted in 1191 that its government has no just claim to any of these artifacts. (Not that it would have any such just claim anyway; the artifacts would belong to the person on whose property they were found.)
The U.S. government's list of preferred and protected minority groups apparently now extends to ancient civilizations.
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