Monday, October 25, 2010

CPSIA - Governmental Biases On Display at CPSC

802 days have passed since ANY Democrat in Congress did ANYTHING to help us on the CPSIA. There are only 8 days left until Election Day.

The WSJ published a short article about the psychology of governments called Studying the Biases of Bureaucrats (subtitled "Five Ways Regulators Think Wrong"). The application of psychology to economic decisions has produced a few Nobel Prizes - the implications of psychology on decision-making is well-known and generally accepted.

See if you recognize the Democrats who run the CPSC in some of these bureaucratic decision-making foibles:

". . . [P]sychologists have shown that we systematically overestimate how much we understand about the causes and mechanisms of things we half understand. The Swedish health economist Hans Rosling once gave students a list of five pairs of countries and asked which nation in each pair had the higher infant-mortality rate. The students got 1.8 right out of 5. Mr. Rosling noted that if he gave the test to chimpanzees they would get 2.5 right. So his students' problem was not ignorance, but that they knew with confidence things that were false." [Emphasis added]

My comment: Is the author suggesting the election of chimpanzees to the CPSC Commission? Hmmm, you must admit it's a creative suggestion. . . .

"The issue of action bias is better known in England as the "dangerous dogs act," after a previous government, confronted with a couple of cases in which dogs injured or killed people, felt the need to bring in a major piece of clumsy and bureaucratic legislation that worked poorly. . . . It takes unusual courage for a regulator to stand up and say 'something must not be done,' lest 'something' makes the problem worse." [Emphasis added]

My comment: This hypothetical regulator does not work at the CPSC. The aversion of the current Democratic CPSC leadership to not regulating is continually reinforced. Consider for instance, the CPSC's willingness to make a mockery of protecting the public against harm in the definition of "Children's Products". In that recent master stroke, the Commission approved a rule that says that the musical instruments marketed to schools (even exclusively) will be unregulated (even if made entirely of "dangerous" brass) if the instruments are full-sized (a so-called general use item) BUT will fully regulate kid-sized instruments. Big instruments made of brass apparently do not deserve their regulatory attention but little ones do, even if BOTH are used exclusively by kids. Big instruments won't poison kids but little ones will, apparently.

Spineless or just plain stupid - you make the call!

"Motivated reasoning means that we tend to believe what it is convenient for us to believe. If you run an organization called, say, the Asteroid Retargeting Group for Humanity (ARGH) and you are worried about potential cuts to your budget, we should not be surprised to find you overreacting to every space rock that passes by. Regulators rarely argue for deregulation."

My comment: Ho-hum, has anyone EVER seen this at the CPSC? Since the WSJ metaphor relates to rocks, I would note that we must warn consumers that the rocks in our rock kits may contain lead which might be harmful if swallowed. We do NOT have to warn people that our rocks ALSO contain rocks - yet another reason to not to eat them. We also don't warn consumers to not eat our fossils because it destroys the fossil record - but we do warn them about lead in fossils. Nice!

It's so fun to contribute to making a mockery of safety! I find it gratifying (not).

"The focusing illusion partly stems from the fact that people tend to see the benefits of a policy but not the hidden costs. As French theorist Frédéric Bastiat argued, it's a fallacy to think that breaking a window creates work, because while the glazier's gain of work is visible, the tailor's loss of work caused by the window-owner's loss of money—and consequent decision to delay purchase of a coat—is not. Recent history is full of government interventions with this characteristic."

My comment: Invisible costs are the true cancer of the CPSIA. I recently voted NO on a market expansion of our company into a product class that I felt would attract WAY too much regulatory attention at the maniacal CPSC these days. Why take a chance? With the government almost promoting the destruction of our industry and its supply chain (see today's WSJ for yet another scare tactic by Inez Tenenbaum), there is just no reward for moving into certain markets. And how will the regulators measure this effect? There is no evidence of our choice to NOT enter a market. That must mean it never happened . . . right??? Perhaps that's what they think. They only believe bodies (that are still warm and only if they are stacked high - and even then, we know that "anecdotes are not evidence"). No bodies are evident when you opt out.

Case closed?

"'Affect heuristic' is a fancy name for a pretty obvious concept, namely that we discount the drawbacks of things we are emotionally in favor of. For example, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill certainly killed about 1,300 birds, maybe a few more. Wind turbines in America kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds every year, generally of rarer species, such as eagles. Yet wind companies receive neither the enforcement, nor the opprobrium, that oil companies do."

My comment: Or here's an example from the CPSIA world: deaths from lead number just one, and injuries number just three (all alleged, none verified) over ll years (CPSC data) but deaths and injuries from swimming pools are greater on an average DAY. So what's our national obsession, at least of the Democrats? Lead. Makes a lot of sense. Not.

The CPSC - it's a psychologist's dream . . . but it's our nightmare.

1 comment:

halojones-fan said...

"I recently voted NO on a market expansion of our company into a product class that I felt would attract WAY too much regulatory attention at the maniacal CPSC these days."

Well, there it is; it's a success story for the CPSC. They made it too expensive for a greedy toy manufacturer to push dangerous products on our vulnerable children. I'm damn sure they'd look at this as a clear winner.