The problem with “self-regulation”

Is that it’s usually “no regulation.”

I was at the local Modell’s sporting goods store this morning, killing time before an appointment by buying some socks. As I was checking out, I saw a display of liquid-filled rubber yoyo balls on the counter.

I’m intimately familiar with the toy, since they were all the rage at the local school, then summarily banned. | Yo-yo ball banned (May 21, 2003). The ball has been banned in countries around the world, because it’s just plain dumb.

I said to the clerk, “Did you know that this toy has been banned and it’s very dangerous? You shouldn’t sell it.” She shrugged and called over the manager. The manager said (I’m not making this up), “Oh, I’ve heard they’re dangerous, but I haven’t received a recall letter.” I pointed out that he could very easily put them below the counter until the letter got there. “Nope,” he said, “I have to keep selling them.”

An hour later, I got yet another spam (I get a lot, what a surprise). It consisted of a link, together with the line, “This is a legal adv, if you got it by mistake, please email back.” (aside: never email back, because you get put on the list of suckers who read and respond to spam–then they can sell your name for more). Anyway, “Luella Crawford” knows that what she’s doing isn’t RIGHT. She knows she should self-regulate. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t because it’s more important to her to make $1 than to save millions of people from having to invest five seconds each on the delete key.

In both cases, these law-abiding citizens would probably stop if they were required to.

If it’s important, the community should say, “stop it.” Relying on the conscience of strangers is a long shot, imho.