Toying with Bigness

By Daniel Akst

toys.jpgI've blogged in this space before about the many ways in which modern life promotes bigness--in business, government, finance, health care and so forth. Here's another: the New York Times is reporting that a new federal law requiring safety testing of toys, adopted in response to an influx of unsafe toys from overseas, may be a threat to artisanal toy-makers who use maple, beeswax and other wholesome stuff. It seems they can't afford the testing. 


We've seen situations like this many times before. People are horrified to discover the dangers of some sensitive product--say, milk--and government reacts with legislation. But that legislation requires new equipment, testing and procedures. The result, often, is rapid consolidation into a handful of much bigger providers. It's just very difficult to bear the burden of expensive new requirements unless you happen to be doing a great deal of business. 

This toy controversy is an example of how difficult it can be to balance the desire for regulation ("there oughta be a law!") against the desire for niche products (uncured ham, progressive education, handmade toys) that often run afoul of even the best-intended legislation.

Photo Credit: Flickr User monozygotic

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/10/toying-with-bigness/29413/