Earlier, we wrote about a bill (S. 2045), the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act, that would impose criminal penalties on company executives, and fines of up to $100 million on businesses that sell products deemed unsafe. Since trial lawyers could receive millions of dollars under the bill, the New York Post calls it “a bonanza to trial lawyers.” Disgruntled employees could also receive money by claiming to be “whistleblowers.” Any of 50 different state attorneys general (AGs) could sue a manufacturer. (There are many examples of AGs behaving badly and abusing their power even under current state law).
The primary effect of the bill’s draconian penalties will be fewer and more expensive consumer products — and especially toys for small children — not safer products. There are already big penalties for unsafe products, and people injured by them can already sue. And a lack of interesting and affordable toys to play with can make a bored baby or small child do other things that are unsafe to fill the time, like picking at or gnawing on the peeling lead paint on the walls of her play room or sticking her finger in an electrical outlet.
Draconian penalties result in fear, not perfection. When Saddam Hussein’s son Uday took over the Iraqi National Soccer Team, he attempted to improve performance by torturing team members he perceived as responsible for causing the team to lose games. The team’s win-loss record deteriorated to the point that it lost the vast majority of its games. After Uday was shot by American troops, and the team came under new management that did not resort to such draconian punishments, the Iraqi Soccer Team started winning most of its games, culminating in a victory in the prestigious Asia Cup.