Who's Next?

Recent developments in the cloistered world of federal politics scare me and should scare anyone involved in manufacturing. I'm talking about the recent announcement by our national chief executive that he supports and will use the power of the office of the Presidency to support a class action lawsuit against gun manufacturers on behalf of the public housing authority.

Columns From: 1/3/2000 Modern Machine Shop, ,

Recent developments in the cloistered world of federal politics scare me and should scare anyone involved in manufacturing.

I'm talking about the recent announcement by our national chief executive that he supports and will use the power of the office of the Presidency to support a class action lawsuit against gun manufacturers on behalf of the public housing authority. Mr. Clinton feels using the courts to create change on issues such as this is "appropriate." Hmmm?

Personally, I don't own a gun and never have. I've probably shot one three times in my life. But my point isn't about guns. It's about manufacturers. It seems to me that there is a pattern developing of using the court system to achieve what is effectively legislation. It thereby bypasses the rightful purview of lawmakers in the Congress. Granted, Congress has not been very courageous about using its legislative and regulatory power to mess with an industry like firearms. However, this is why the Constitution was designed with separation of powers and checks and balances. To me it's a frightening precedent that any lawful industry can be bankrupted while being in full compliance with the laws and regulations that pertain to it.

It's a slippery slope. The tobacco settlement has called the tune. Select an industry that is vulnerable to public opinion (read: politically incorrect), make a case that the industry's product or service is condemnable, then bring a suit and wait for the money to roll in. Project this scenario out, and there are many industries that can be exploited. No lawful industry is safe. Automakers, brewers and distillers, beef producers, knife makers and even baseball bat manufacturers are potential targets for hungry litigants under the rationale of "we don't like your product so we're going to sue."

For companies that make illegal products, there are laws on the books that should be enforced. Don't use individual "bad actors" as justification to indict an entire industry. To me, there is a certain amount of petulance at play here when one government branch can't get its way using the constitutional process and figures a way to skirt it.

Government's legitimate role is to promote the common good, not define it. If cigarettes and guns are counter to that common good, fine. Have the guts to make them illegal. Otherwise, as long as they're legal and compliant, get out of the way and let the court of free enterprise decide what industry lives or dies.

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