Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Possible Amendments to Lacey Act
The Lacey Act is apparently the current poster-child for the excessive regulation of business. I know that because ON February 2, Senator Rand Paul has proposed FOCUS, the Freedom from Over Criminalization and Unjust Seizure Act. Under the bill, the criminal sanctions in the Lacey Act would be replaced with civil penalties. The bill also excises any reference to "foreign law" from the Lacey Act.
The Lacey Act is intended to prevent U.S. importers from benefiting from trade in plant and animal products that were illegally obtained. In other words, someone in the U.S. should not be in a position to benefit from elephant poaching in Kenya. But, it is only "poaching" when defined as such in Kenya, which is foreign law.
According to a web site for Senator Paul's campaign, "The Lacey Act as currently codified is overly broad, imprecise, vague, and subject to abuse by overzealous prosecutors and activist judges." Oddly enough, I think it is a compliance mess that is extremely difficult to manage. That said, I think the notion that we cannot recognize foreign laws in situations like this is silly. It is not exactly the same thing, but if this is successful, I bet there will be efforts to loosen restrictions on conflict minerals, blood diamonds, and similarly regulated products. Again, I understand that compliance with these rules if difficult and that enforcement needs to be based on common sense and reasonable business possibilities. But, there is a baby and the bathwater problem here as well.