The Five Dumbest Product Bans, 2009

An Annual Review of Regulatory Absurdity


It is often said that yesterday’s luxury goods become today’s necessities. Nearly all American adults can remember a time when mobile telephones, the Internet, side effect-free mental health drugs, GPS devices, digital cameras, and DVD players seemed like exotic high-tech inventions. Members of an older generation can remember the once-extraordinary attention that greeted automatic transmissions, jet planes, and home thermostats.

All of the above inventions required arduous efforts from scientists and engineers, but many great inventions come from simple insights. Over the last two decades, clever inventors have placed flip-top caps on toothpaste tubes (eliminating the problem of losing the cap), added built-in handles to trash bags (eliminating easy-to-lose twist ties), and replaced bulky bottles of home cleaners with easy-to-use pre-moistened wipes. None of these things required enormous research but all make people’s lives easier. What they did require was an entrepreneur to put these new ideas into use.

However, what the free market gives, government often takes away. Myriad government regulations restrict the types of cars that Americans can buy, the foods they eat, and the life-saving drugs they can use. And sometimes, product bans can reach ridiculous lengths. This paper focuses on just such ridiculous bans.