When a California public-interest group decided that regulators in Washington were ignoring hazardous lead in children's lunchboxes, it pursued the case on its own and forced several manufacturers to get the lead out of their products.
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Has the federal regulatory system failed so miserably that the only alternative is for the states and non-profits to enter the fray at a new level and intensity?
The self-regulating model (the market will monitor and correct itself) has been prevalent for decades, it seems that a new cynicism about the role of government (blame the neocons?) in conjunction with the self-regulating model has resulted in the near collapse of the federal regulatory system at a time when the economy is more globalized than ever before.
Who will protect us from defective products? Are parents supposed to test toys for lead or GHB (or whatever) before handing them over to the kids? Do we employ "food tasters" to check out the latest offering from Jeno's Pizza before we succumb to the latest round of E. coli?
A major problem facing the states is funding. How can a state like Idaho direct funds to this effort, especially when the legislature is in the grips of the ideology that contributed to the national crisis in the first place?
Enter the non-profits. Extending back further than Nader's Raiders, these organizations play a vital role in policing industries and corporations, but they too have their own set of limitations.
Do we need a new era of muckrakers to draw the public's attention to violent white-collar crime? The death toll from white-collar crime far exceeds the number of people killed from terrorists and conventional street criminals, so why is our attention (and our funding) focused on the latter?