Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Going down the drain: Regulation in real life

Don't get me wrong: Some reasonable regulation is necessary in all sorts of contexts. I am not one of those crazy people who think that unthinking deregulation is the answer to every economic ill. Most of those people are billionaires or their stooges (witting, unwitting and Tea Party) who think that the only proper function of civil society is to protect the billionaires' wealth.

On the other hand, regulation should be reasonable, rational, and related to real civic needs.

This does not include putting most cold and allergy pills behind the pharmacy counter and making law-abiding citizens sign their lives away each time they have the sniffles. Apparently these pills, in mass quantities, can be used to 'cook meth' -- and that, of course, is frowned upon. But could 40 cold pills really be cooked into some significant quantity of any illegal drug? Isn't there a less restrictive way to accomplish this?

In Illinois, in addition to cold pills, certain types of drain cleaners are regulated. This apparently stems from a single Chicago-area incident in which a drain cleaning product was hurled in a woman's face -- with horrifying results. I do not mean to suggest that this was part of a trend of criminals using weaponized drain powder; I mean there was one and only one incident. However, in the outraged aftermath, a law was quickly passed and all similar products were removed from store shelves, to be sold only -- like cold medicine -- after signing one's life away.

The drain in the sink in the upstairs bathroom of the Curmudgeon manse has been slow of late and Long Suffering Spouse went into the hardware store on Sunday to buy a new can of this regulated drain powder. As best as I can reconstruct, this is the actual conversation:
"I'd like Product X, please."

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we don't sell that anymore. It's been banned."

"Banned? I just bought some a couple of months ago." [The bathtub drain has been slow, too.]

"New rules. Sorry."

"But the plumber told me to use Product X because it was not harmful to the pipes."

"Let me think. We've got this stuff -- Product Y -- it should be just as good."

"OK, Product Y, then."
I can't be sure of how the cashier came into the conversation. Perhaps the drain powder was kept up at the large island in which the cash register is situated. But when the clerk produced Product Y and Long Suffering Spouse produced her driver's license ready to sign her life away the following colloquy took place:
CLERK: "You don't need to sign for this stuff."

CASHIER: "She doesn't? I just sold someone else Product Z and I made him sign. It came up on the cash register and everything."

CLERK: "New rules since August 10. Products Y and Z are now both exempt. We have to change the cash register then."

LSS: "So I don't have to sign?"

CLERK: "No."
And so Long Suffering Spouse was able to buy Product Y without making extravagant promises, under penalty of perjury, about not using the product as a weapon.

On the other hand, Product Y didn't work nearly as well as Product X.

1 comment:

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

well buggers...

smiles, bee