One of the hallmarks of an Obama health care speech is to pick one or two or three anecdotes of people who have had trouble with their insurance company as proof that we need to overhaul the entire insurance industry and health care system. These anecdotes may be true [sometimes they are not], and the underlying problems may need to be addressed, but Obama never has explained why getting government involved in a restructuring of the health care industry is the solution.

In fact, the overwhelming evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, is that government involvement in micromanaging industry has disastrous negative unintended consequences.

Here is an anecdote from the Wall Street Journal about how congressional legislation regarding lead paint in children’s toys has had enormous unintended consequences. Read the whole thing.

The bottom line is that the law ends up devastating small businesses and resellers who were not involved in creating the problem, whose products may not even contain lead, while creating lobbyist-induced breaks for big toy companies like Mattel which did create the problem (emphasis mine):

This law has saddled businesses with billions of dollars in losses on T-shirts, bath toys and other items that were lawful to sell one day and unlawful the next. It has induced thrift and secondhand stores to trash mountains of outgrown blue jeans, bicycles and board games for fear there might be trivial, harmless—but suddenly illegal—quantities of lead in their zippers and valves or phthalates in their plastic spinners….

Why did Congress rush to pass this bill, and why is it so reluctant to amend a law whose burdens fall mostly on products that have never been linked to poisoning? One reason is the skill of antibusiness groups claiming to speak for consumers. Groups such as Public Citizen and the Public Interest Research Group seized on and promoted the Chinese toy panic for their own legislative ends and have taken credit for some of the law’s most extreme provisions. (The tracking-labels provision was added by then-Sen. Barack Obama.)

So I hope President Obama will mention this anecdote in his next speech or interview when he is telling us how he and Congress are so wise as to be trusted with restructuring our health care system. I would like this anecdote mentioned when we are told that lobbyists are not allowed to influence the legislation.

Most of all, I would like to hear this anecdote mentioned when we are promised that thousands of pages of legislation, to be followed up by multiple thousands of pages of regulations, will not have the unintended consequence of trashing our best doctors, health systems and medical technologies.

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