Zen Magnets

“On September 24, the CPSC [Consumer Product Safety Commission] commissioners voted 4-0 to ban small, high-powered magnets,” Melanie Asmar reports for Westword. The CPSC has already driven almost every U.S. seller of these magnets out of businesses, including, most infamously, Buckyballs. Now a single company, Zen Magnets, continues to sell them—but, unless Zen’s owner Shihan Qu wins his legal battle against the CPSC, the government will force him to stop selling magnets on April 2, 2015, Asmar reports.

The CPSC’s pretext for banning the magnets is that they are dangerous if swallowed, because magnets can stick together in the intestines. One toddler died from eating them, and more than two dozen children required surgery to remove them, Asmar reports.

But every product is potentially dangerous, including balloons, strings, plastic bags and buckets, bicycles, swimming pools, knives, water, cars, ATVs, matches, screwdrivers, ladders, and every electrical device. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control reports, 1,070 children ages one through nine died by suffocation, 773 died in car crashes, 609 died by drowning, 262 died by burning, 123 died by walking, and so on.

Each of these deaths is tragic—but these deaths do not justify government banning bags and balloons, cars, swimming pools, matches, and sidewalks. Likewise, government is not justified in banning the sale of magnets because a tiny fraction of people who buy them use them irresponsibly.

The proper response to the danger posed by the magnets is for adults to take responsibility and not give young children access to them—just as responsible adults do not give children access to drain cleaner, gasoline, and the like.

Government properly serves two main functions in this area: first, to assure that the marketing of the magnets does not fraudulently claim they are safe for young children; second, where appropriate, to pursues child-abuse charges against adults who negligently harm children by letting them eat the magnets. Beyond those actions, government should protect the rights of businesses to sell magnets and of individuals to buy them.

Zen Magnets sells its products as scientific and recreational curiosities. Users have posted over five thousand photographs of their magnetic creations to Zen’s Flickr page. I personally have enjoyed observing the magnets’ strong attractive force and creating designs with them. These magnets are a real value to countless individuals—and government has no moral right to obliterate that value in its irrational crusade for the perfectly safe product.

Qu has valiantly stood up to the CPSC’s unjust campaign to drive him out of business:

We vow to continue this legal, awareness, and lobbying battle, until our very last drop of cash-flow blood. We will combat the CPSC’s magnet prohibition until triumph, or until a glorious death of insolvency on the legal battlefield.

For the sake of justice, let us hope that Qu wins his battle to stay in business and to offer his magnificent products to people who wish to buy them. If you would like to help Qu in his battle, consider purchasing a set of his magnets.


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