I found this post to be a good rundown of why the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad law. As someone who has been madly in love with books in general and old books in particular since as long as I can remember, a law declaring that bookstores and libraries have to get rid of books from earlier than 1985 chills my blood. I guess I can imagine a library with no old books, but I really don’t want to. (The good news is that it appears a stay has been ordered on that specific issue.)
None of this is to say, of course, that we shouldn’t try to keep lead-tainted toys out of the mouths of three year olds, and I don’t think it necessarily follows that you couldn’t write smart, effective regulation that accomplishes that. The CPSIA, though, is most certainly not such regulation. Worse, it makes it that much more unlikely that we will have such regulation in the future. Every piece of stupid, ham-handed, counterproductive regulation makes it harder to pass effective and smart regulation, if for no other reason than that it erodes public trust in regulation as an institution. Regulate where prudent and necessary, but regulate intelligently, for goodness sakes.