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OK, now it's time to upset some conservatives



November 04, 2010 – Comments (16) | RELATED TICKERS: AM.DL2 , CRIS

Ok, given the influx of new conservatives that will be in office in January, I have to prime up for ranting against the conservatives a little more equally. 

I'm going to start gently. I'm not really going to rant this time. I'm just going to ask a question.

Do you have anything against consumerism?

Now I need to define consumerism from my perspective a little...

I don't mean trying to increase domestic consumption. In fact, I believe that too much domestic consumption hurts any economy. What I'm talking about is consumer protection. 

Now, I'm not talking about the liberal version of consumer protection. I don't want some huge government organization to police businesses. I don't want to create huge amounts of unnecessary paperwork. I'm just looking for the legal system to pass a laws to protect consumers from the evils of products that they buy and allowing those consumers to sue the heck out of companies that ignore the law. I'll state ahead of time, that those same laws have to apply to imported products at the same level. (No more, no less) No extra tariffs or laws should apply to foreign products. It is a reasonable expectation for government to pass a law to make sure that a foreign company will pay if it loses a consumer lawsuit however. Whether that means that they have to post a bond or have the obligation guaranteed by their own country is fine by me.

There really should be a lot more of a definition of my thoughts in this post, but since I'm not in attack mode and I am suddenly needed to evaluate the quality of cookies that just came out of the oven, I'll stop here. You see, I'm sacrificing for consumerism already! ;)

16 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On November 04, 2010 at 9:28 PM, sawchain (< 20) wrote:

"I'm just looking for the legal system to pass a laws to protect consumers from the evils of products that they buy and allowing those consumers to sue the heck out of companies that ignore the law."


Who decides which products are evil? 

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#2) On November 04, 2010 at 9:56 PM, ChrisGraley (28.58) wrote:

Well sawchain, I'm not saying that the laws should say any products are evil. I'm just saying the government can post a law like "If you are going to sell a toy that a 2 year old will put in his mouth, it can't have any lead based paint."  The government shouldn't police it or make you fill out lead affidavits, but I should be able to sue the company for a kajillion dollars when my kid dies of lead poisoning and I can prove it came from your product.

I had to get that out there first, but that is not a direct answer to your question. The key word was "who?" and I didn't answer that. As much as it kills me to say it, the answer is the government, but keep in mind that the government in my mind in this scenario is highly diluted and more answerable to the people. 

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#3) On November 04, 2010 at 10:43 PM, NOTvuffett (< 20) wrote:

Chris, there is a proper and necessary function of govt. to regulate products for safety.  Remember the scare with melamine content in pet food from China?  It was the same in the USA about a century ago.

The only problem is when govt. gets involved they write truly asinine regulations to 'fix' the problem.

For example, the govt. put in regulations to control the lead content of products marketed to children.  Sounds good, right? Here is a real world example of how things can go wrong:


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#4) On November 04, 2010 at 10:46 PM, dbjella (< 20) wrote:

Hi Chris, big fan.  Thanks for turning me on to the Art of Manliness website.  Very cool.

I am trying to understand what you are asking for that we don't have already.  Are you saying that currently it is too difficult to assign culpability and the legal system is stacked against the consumer?

I just need more examples. 

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#5) On November 04, 2010 at 11:05 PM, devoish (82.57) wrote:


How is that different than what we have now with AG's taking up the lawsuits?

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#6) On November 05, 2010 at 12:30 AM, ChrisGraley (28.58) wrote:


I totally agree and that is a great example. I don't want the government to get involved too much. I'm hoping for government conceding to popular complaints about flaws in products. I don't expect a ton of laws. In fact I'm really hoping for very general laws promoting the fact that if the product you produce causes me harm, I can sue you for the fillings in your teeth. I'm very much into balancing power and I feel that my views on economics require a lot of consumer protection in response.

dbjella, No, I think we can readily assign culpability. I think that we are apathetic to companies ignoring that culpability and doing a cost benefit analysis of selling you a defective product. I'd like to be responsible for the free market economics that I want to happen. Part of that responsibility, is to make sure that what I want to happen doesn't cause more problems. The liberals paint a picture of an evil free market system, but I haven't seen any of them focus on product liability and to me that is the weakness of free market economics. In the world for less government that I'm hoping for, I don't want us to be China. I don't want to buy food and find out that I just ate industrial waste. I want to at least trust that my government values me enough to establish rights as a consumer.

Steven, usually when the state AG's take up a lawsuit, it's just a show. They need to be demonstrative to prove that they are doing their job.  What I'm hoping for is allowing the consumer to compensated directly. Even when the state AG's are on the ball, the consumer is usually not compensated for direct infringements, and even when they are it's just scraps from the table. I'm really hoping that you add more to the discussion about the virtues of consumerism Steven. I believe in our new world order, consumers have the right to expect an amount of quality.

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#7) On November 05, 2010 at 1:34 AM, sawchain (< 20) wrote:

When assigning responsibility, how to decide how much responsibility should be assigned to each party?

Certainly, I would agree that negligent producers should be held accountable.  But does that imply negligent consumers should not?  Does the assignment of responsibility default to the producer?

Let's say I'm a producer and I use some fancy new polymer that dramatically reduces material cost of my product.  Because of this, I'm able to reduce retail price by 50%.  As a consumer, you're able to get the same product at half the cost.  BUT!  Let's also say that after a couple years of buying my product, you develop cancer.  In my example, fortunately you're cured, but not before enormous medical bills are racked up.  Some years down the road, you hear about other people who had cancer, and coincidentally, used my products.  Together, you pool your funds and hire a laboratory to analyze the product by performing all manner of exotic tests.  SURPRISE!  The lab finds that the fancy new polymer in my product caused your cancer.

Who should be held responsible and why?  Should I be held responsible because I did not hire a laboratory to perform all manner of exotic tests at great cost before using the fancy new polymer in my product?  If so, am I expected to hire a laboratory at great cost for every raw material that goes into my product?  If so, would you be willing to buy my product at 500% the normal retail cost?  A separate question is should the producer be held responsible if the polymer isn't found to be harmful until long after the product has been available?  Is the producer always consider negligent?  If so, why?  If not, when can you consider a producer negligent?

 On the flip side, why shouldn't the consumer (you) be held responsible?  Perhaps at the time of purchase, two similar products were available: one at 500% normal retail, and the other at 50%.  If you base your purchasing decision merely on the price, haven't you assumed responsibility by not asking "why are these two products priced so differently?"  What if the 50% retail product had a warning label you decided to ignore?  Should you still be able to sue me for the gold fillings in my teeth? 

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#8) On November 05, 2010 at 8:12 AM, ChrisGraley (28.58) wrote:

Great question sawchain!

Although you might not like my answer. You as the producer deserve to pay through the nose. The answer for why is because you chose to sell a product in the biggest market in the world and that product wasn't safe. The government is not requiring you to get any tests done whatsoever. You can take the risk if you want to. Whether or not I'm willing to buy your product at 500% of retail cost is a moot point. It costs whatever it costs and the market will decide if they want to pay for it. If the the product had a warning label and I as a consumer decided to ignore that label and use the product in an unsafe way, then I deserve nothing.



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#9) On November 05, 2010 at 10:04 AM, FreeMarkets (39.27) wrote:

There has to be a "reasonable level of safety".  If the producer is using a NEW polymer, that has to be tested.  Now, what if the producer bought that polymer from DOW Chemical and they said it was tested.  Then DOW should pay damages, but the producer caught in the middle should be safe.

As long as no fraud is involved, consumers need to understand that lawnmower blades are sharp and they can cut off your foot.  They shouldn't be required to put a sticker next to the blade cover explaining how sharp the blade is.  

However, if the lawnmower company uses a plastic bolt to save 10¢ and after a year the blades starting flying around hurting peope, then the company needs to pay big time.

Last - if the lawnmower company KNOWINGLY used a defective piece and a company official still approved the piece, then the company should pay big time AND the official(s) need to go to jail.

Jail is the BIGGEST missing piece in all these consumer protection acts.  CEO's continually get away paying a fine when they should be doing time.

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#10) On November 05, 2010 at 10:51 AM, ChrisGraley (28.58) wrote:

I agree with all of the above FreeMarkets.

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#11) On November 05, 2010 at 11:21 AM, lemoneater (57.13) wrote:

"Jail is the BIGGEST missing piece in all these consumer protection acts.  CEO's continually get away paying a fine when they should be doing time."

I couldn't agree more. I think that sometimes fines are not enough when safety is on the line. Paying a fine without changing unsafe practices or products so that "accidents" happen over and over again is sheer stupidity. 

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#12) On November 05, 2010 at 11:55 AM, zymok (23.53) wrote:

Consider the following:

You make and sell a product.  After some years, you are the defendant in a class action lawsuit claiming that your product causes medical harm.  A jury finds you guilty and makes an award so large that you are forced into bankruptcy.

Several years later,  rigorous review finds that the studies on which the original claims were based were incorrect, and that your product is in fact safe.

Do you have recourse, and if so against whom?

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#13) On November 05, 2010 at 12:14 PM, ChrisGraley (28.58) wrote:

That's a good question as well zymok.

I would think that you would have a claim against the plantiff, the judicial system and possibly the entity that did the initial studies. (In probably that order)

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#14) On November 08, 2010 at 9:11 PM, sawchain (< 20) wrote:

It's time to upset some liberals.  I do not release the consumer/you of his/her/your responsibility of self-preservation.  If you buy a product and hurt yourself, it's on you.

If you buy a gun and shoot yourself, it's on you.

If you buy hot coffee at McDonald's and burn yourself, it's on you.

If you buy a car and die in a single-car accident, it's on you.

If you buy a jar of pickles then choke and die because you tried to swallow the lid, it's on you.


The problem with big government liberals is they think government can override nature.  News flash: it can't.  Nature is law.  It is immutable.  You cannot change it.  The nature of life is that you must preserve it.  If you fail in your responsibility, there is no recourse: you're DEAD!

Let's imagine the government rolls in and starts instituting all kinds of regulations about how products can be made and sold.  You'll feel all nice and comfy in your belief that you've been taken care of.  You'll let your guard down, then BLAMMO, you'll purchase a product and that product will kill you.  Government regulation actually CAUSED you to let your guard down.  It caused your death!  The supposed solution to the problem has a nasty unintended consequence that made the situation worse.

No one is responsible for you, but you. 

Who among you doesn't look both ways when the light says "WALK?" 

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#15) On November 28, 2010 at 10:45 PM, ChrisGraley (28.58) wrote:

Ahh! this could have been fun if I would have caught this in time.

Sawchain, if you've followed up at this point, we share a lot of the same beliefs.

But, we have a right to check to see if the Chinese toys contain lead or our own toys for that matter. We have the right to insure we aren't injesting poisoned milk because the poison that was put in makes the protein level look higher.

I agree in all the scenarios you posted above sawchain, I actually believe like you that big government will make the problem worse and not better. But with all my objections to big government, I'll be the first to admit that we have a closed market that everyone wants to get into. If there is one thing that we actually can dictate in a global market, it's the expectations of our consumers.

I'm not talking about spilling the Mickey D's coffee in your lap to collect a big check from a company. I am talking about your dog dying from the pet food company saving a few pennies to get protein from China

If you want to get to play in the big consumer market, then you should expect big failures for screwing up.

Sawchain, I'm far from liberal. I believe that claims in these situations should be settled in the court system and not by government mandate.

I think that in a court system in my world and probably yours too, your own examples would have been thrown out.
































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#16) On December 07, 2010 at 3:41 PM, rfaramir (28.60) wrote:

Chris (and sawchain), I am with you on this, but you are not agreeing with yourself when you say, "I don't want the government to get involved too much."

Not "too much" means some. It means you are willing to tolerate majoritarian-legitimized deadly force being used against a company using its private property to try to serve customers in innovative ways by regulating how they *must* (or must not) run their business. It means you are advocating deadly force used against consumers and producers voluntarily choosing to do business that *might* be risky. All this *prior* to any harm being done.

Of course, when harm is done, we all agree that damages be paid, and if done on purpose, criminal action be taken. But I'm talking about prior restraint. Regulation. Fascism. State control of private property. Interference with the free market and individuals willing to interact in ways that may be risky but they go into it knowingly.

If I have a child that I want to provide with an inexpensive toy, it is up to me to ensure *either* that it does not have lead paint *or* that the child doesn't eat said paint. I do not see *any* benefit of the state trying to ensure the former. They do not have a profit or loss mechanism to ensure efficient production of any level of safety. If done at all, it will be by political whim.

The free market (and non-corrupt courts) can handle this. We do not need statist overseers. No nannies needed!

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