As someone who loves to be a wonderful person for a brief period of time, I enjoy this season of temporary giving. I am obsessed with helping people, especially children, and the best way to help children is by not giving them Christmas presents.
One of the surest ways to harm a child is to give him a consumer product. This is according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an agency premised on the belief that “consumer goods” is an oxymoron.
Last month, CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum implored consumers “to make safety a priority when making your holiday toy purchases this season.” That’s why I am making no holiday toy purchases this season.
Toys are not something to play around with. Last week, the CPSC announced a recall of 22,000 sets of toy guns and soft rubber darts. According to the CPSC, an 8-year-old boy “reportedly was chewing on the toy dart” and “inadvertently swallowed it,” at which point it unsurprisingly “became lodged in his throat blocking his ability to breathe.” Even make-believe bullets can be fatal.
Accidents happen, especially when products are used in stupid ways. A few years ago, I tried to return a pair of ripped pants to the store to get a refund.
“What were you doing in them?” the clerk asked.
“Break dancing,” I answered, way too honestly. I was astonished to learn that men’s suits are not designed for doing “The Worm.”
If your child enjoys wearing clothing, it’s possible he has a death wish. Pajamas, we now know, are inflammatory. On Dec. 10, the CPSC announced a recall of 7,000 Little Miss Matched Girls pajama sets because they failed “to meet the federal children’s sleepwear flammability standard.” Children should “immediately stop using” them, the CPSC advised, insofar as wearing them will set you on fire. No injuries were reported.
Halloween costumes are also theoretically deadly. In September, 1,400 animal masks were recalled because they contained lead, and lead “is toxic if ingested by young children.” Presumably, the masks are safe as long as you don’t eat them.
That goes for many items of clothing. Last Wednesday, 21,000 Timberland children’s boots were recalled. No injuries were reported, but something far more ominous came to light: “The logo stamped onto the children’s boots’ insoles contains excessive levels of lead,” which means that swallowing Timberlands can be detrimental to the digestive system. The CPSC takes a loose interpretation of foot-and-mouth disease.
Most products are safe until they are abused (break dancing) or misused (eaten). The danger is the hypothetical possibility of danger. Problems arise when toys are used improperly, which puts them in the category generally known as “everything.” A television can be a great source of entertainment, but if dropped on someone from 30 stories, it can be a source of tremendous pain (as well as entertainment).
Insofar as anything can be misused, everything is dangerous.
Last month, 5,400 sweatshirts emblazoned with the words “Beverly Hills Polo Club” and selling for $15 at Burlington Coat Factory were recalled. The sweatshirts were discarded because they had “drawstrings through the hoods.” Though no incidents or injuries were reported, it’s dangerous to let consumers pull the strings, especially when playing polo.
Indeed, the government’s operating philosophy is that consumers don’t know how to consume. It’s an odd way of thinking in a capitalistic society.
Socialists pride themselves on being humanitarians, but their “sweet cred” is undeserved. Two Sundays ago, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez held a “socialist toy fair” in which he and his elves gave out toys imported from China at reduced prices to adulating crowds. He appeared to be playing Socialist Santa, but obviously he wanted to commit euthanasia against the youth in Venezuela with toys made in Asia.
America is more paternalistic than that. The CPSC, charged with doing something with its time, publishes instruction manuals for consumers with too much money and absolutely no brains. There is a manual called “The Super Sitter,” presumably intended for teenage baby sitters with an affinity for downloading PDFs from government Web sites. It has all sorts of practical advice, such as:
• “Keep the youngsters safe by preventing accidents.”
• “Running or horseplay on [stairs] can lead to falls.”
• “In the event of accidental choking, apply first aid measures to clear the child’s airway.” (In the event of intentional choking, do not apply first aid measures.)
It is easy to ridicule government publications, especially those intended to “instruct” or “guide,” but it must be done. Increasingly, the CPSC is trying to raise children by “raising awareness” of the importance of not killing them.
When the Founding Fathers outlined the proper role of the federal government, they didn’t mention anything about inspecting children’s pajamas for safety. They supposed their countrymen would be men, at least eventually, rather than infants infinitely.
They were wrong. Today’s inhabitants of the land of the free and home of the brave are scared of Mr. Potato Head to the point that they pay officials to regulate which toys they can buy. If we followed all of the CPSC’s advice, children would be unentertained, unclothed and unfed.
And that’s just what I’m doing. Insofar as anything is potentially lethal, I am giving children their lives by not giving them anything. I help people by ignoring them completely.
I think I deserve at least a PlayStation 3 for that.
Windsor Mann is the letters editor of The Washington Times.