There is a fairy tale that the GOP likes to peddle to the gullible: “The Free Market can regulate itself.” What this means in practice is that the government is not needed to police corporations. In this children’s story, corporations will always work in the best interest of the public because the “Invisible Hand Of The Free Market” will swoop in and punish corporations that do bad things. The reality is that the “invisible hand” is not invisible at all, it simply doesn’t exist and corporations will do whatever they think they can get away with as long as its profitable.
California sued 16 jewelry retailers and suppliers, claiming they sell lead-laden children’s jewelry as lead-free, and that some do so “even when the jewelry contains more than 1,000 times the allowable lead.”
Attorney General Kamala Harris seeks civil penalties and injunctions. She claims the defendants sell their stuff “in pursuit of profit,” without regard to public safety.
“Defendants are entities that manufacture, ship, sell, offer for sale, or offer for promotional purposes jewelry for retail sale or promotional purposes in California,” the Superior Court complaint states. “Often the jewelry contains lead that far exceeds the legal limits placed on lead in jewelry sold or offered for sale or promotional purposes in the state. Despite widespread publicity and concern about this problem, and in some cases repeated warnings from the Department [of Toxic Substances Control], during the last three years the Department has traced hundreds of styles of jewelry that violate the lead standards to defendants. Some of the jewelry is intended for young children, and almost all of it is falsely labeled as being lead-free or in compliance with lead standards, even when the jewelry contains more than 1,000 times the allowable lead.“
Some of the items labeled “lead free” had clasps made almost entirely of lead. Lead is highly toxic, particularly to children whose developing brains are highly susceptible to damage from even moderate amounts of lead and have a tendency to chew or suck on toys. This is not the “junk science” the right likes to muddy debates with, this is long-established knowledge.
The most important part here is that the corporations being sued were undeniably aware of problem and some had been warned to cease and desist. This was not an accidental oversight, it was absolutely intentional and if it wasn’t for the California Attorney General (aka “The Government”) and the laws put into place to prohibit it, not only would the public not be aware of these abuses, the few people who did know would have little recourse to stop it. Lawsuits cost money and corporations have armies of lawyers at their disposal because it’s cheaper to drag litigation out for years than to pay fines or damages.
Someday, someone will adequately explain why corporations would stop their illegal and immoral behavior if we made it legal. We probably shouldn’t hold our breath waiting, though.
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