Rep. Ron Paul, M.D., (R-Texas) the former Republican and Libertarian Party candidate for president, cast the only vote against banning lead in toys in the House of Representatives yesterday:
Alarmed by a year of recalls targeting millions of tainted toys, the House voted overwhelming Wednesday to ban lead and other dangerous chemicals from items such as jewelry and rubber ducks that could end up in kids’ mouths.
The legislation also would toughen rules for testing children’s products and take steps to give more muscle to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which was criticized last year for its feeble handling of a flood of goods from China deemed hazardous to children.
Even flat-earthers like Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking member of the committee that first passed the ban, were in favor of it. “[Our] children’s toys will be tested in the laboratory before they are tested by our children on the living room floors of America,” Barton said, in a prepared statement.
Key to the libertarian philosophy is the idea that citizens should take responsibility for themselves — that government’s role should be limited to protecting the country from its enemies but little else. For example, government should not provide pensions like Social Security or medical aid through systems like Medicare.
Libertarians also believe that in situations like this, when toy manufacturers infuse their products with enough lead to cause brain damage in children, it is up to the market to punish them.
But dealing with a sudden rise in the incidence of lead in toys is a glaring example of how the libertarian approach is impracticable. By voting against the ban, Dr. Paul is saying that toy manufacturers should be free to put whatever poisons they like in their products, and then, after enough children become brain-damaged to cause a panic, the market — the toy-buying public — will exact its punishment by taking away the manufacturer’s revenue.
Dr. Paul has five grown children, and it would be interesting to know whether he really believes the laissez-faire interests of Chinese toy manufacturers are more important than the health and safety of his 18 grandchildren.
On the other hand, Paul has never been an ideologically pure libertarian. While he apparently believes the government has no business protecting children from malfeasant toymakers, he is firmly in favor of passing laws to regulate the pregnancies of American women as well as the exclusion of gays from the civil right to marry.