While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Not long ago, I wrote of the travails of Gibson Guitars. Gibson has not been charged with breaking any laws, yet they have been raided and harassed by federal agents. The controversy stems from the US Government’s interpretation of an Indian law prohibiting the exportation of certain kinds of wood. It wasn’t “finished enough.” As Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal asks in the above-cited article, “Got that?”

No, I am afraid I don’t, but it is not Strassel’s fault.

Strassel takes great pains to walk us through the the history of the Lacey Act, which was designed to protect wildlife–tigers and such. In 2008, it was expanded and rendered vague enough to cover plants as well, including trees. Domestic lumberers love that–it prevents competition–no mystery there. Unions jumped in as well–again, no great surprise. Environmental groups love it too, and here is where we shall focus today.

First, the “law” itself. The most recent incarnation of the Lacey Act is an example of getting one’s way not by stating clearly what is to be illegal, but by making it impossible to comply with the law under sane conditions. Wood is grown just about everywhere and used in just about everything. Anti-logging groups like the EIA don’t like it when their meddling is restricted to the US, so they helped author the new version of the bill such that reporting and compliance would be prohibitive. Imagine a law that does not prohibit walking on the sidewalk, but punishes viciously for stepping on ants and you have an idea of how onerous this is.

Not content with merely having a host of fools in their ranks, environmentalists may now boast of fascists as well. Not content with allowing other people or other countries to weigh the relative merits of people and trees, they have taken on strategies that intentionally muddy the legal waters. In Gibson’s case, they are even willing to invoke a technicality from another country. Now the Justice Department may harass at will without bothering to bring charges. One cannot help but conclude that this was the intent all along, as Strassel notes.

More broadly, these rogue packs of environmentalist hounds have inspired less vicious advocates for “nature” to adopt similar tactics. Thus global warmingists are loathe to allow dissent among their own or skeptics dwelling outside the cult. Likewise, the EPA has largely thumbed its nose at attempts to restrain its do-goodness by factoring in the economic cost of its prescriptions. When you know best, it’s just too stinking much trouble to check with anyone else.

I have often said that the best feature of democracy is that idiots on each side of an issue usually cancel each other out. I believe personally that environmentalism is an abomination and that human well-being trumps any plea I have ever heard for a tree’s or a kangaroo rat’s well-being. I also recognize that not all share my massive lack of interest in greenness and so would be tolerant, if not approving, of laws that are the result of rational compromise. There is little danger of that as long as a minority of arrogant thugs is allowed to run the show.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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