At the Mercy of Regulators

After a seven-year policy battle, Europe’s new chemical law takes effect today. The law is known as REACH—the acronym for the bureaucratic name Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals.

The Hayek Institute in Brussels and CEI warned that this law will not only be an expensive drain on Europe and the world economy, it means empowering bureaucrats to deprive consumers and businesses the right to engage in free commerce.

Still, as European bureaucrats set up the REACH regulatory agency this week in Helsinki, they are assuring consumers not to panic because we won’t feel the effects of this law in the near term. One told the EU observer: “It is a rough guess and it could happen sooner on a voluntary basis, but the earliest that a chemical could be forced off the market if it is unsafe is about three or four years from now.”

Whew, I guess we can all sleep easy now! We still have a few years before regulators usurp our freedom to use all those “unsafe” products!

Surely, if these products were really unsafe, firms would not be marketing them—lest they face product liability lawsuits. In reality, we will be losing products that have benefits—benefits that make them desirable to consumers today. The fact that regulators won’t deprive us of these for a couple years offers little comfort!

After all, officials assure us that eventually we will see changes. Expect higher prices, reduced choice, and inferior products. People may soon discover that their perfume smells differently, their computer fails more often, and even worse medical equipment or devices fail more frequently or simply don’t work as well.

Unfortunately, there are no product liability laws to cover the acts of regulators. We are—quite simply—at their mercy.