Commenter Benjamin has a supple metaphorical pen, and this Comment of the Day, on the previous post regarding the open market platform Etsy selling facemasks as porous as cheesecloth is a blast. I’ll be back at the end to explain why it’s also a crock, but for the nonce, here is Benjamin’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Website Of The Month: Etsy”:
I oppose that modern compulsion to demand oversight of every man, woman, and child which blames every proximate business or municipality for every loophole it can find not as though a new opportunity has been found but as though this was malfeasance not to have thought to cover every possible route of escape. Etsy likely sees itself as a platform for individual sellers who found a way out of their over-managed corporate bureaucracies, not as an over-managing corporate employers of every seller on its platform. I applaud this model, knowing that other one from the inside with no realistic hope of escape. I could imagine an argument that Etsy must become this wretched, undesirable other thing which creeps throughout the world looking for life and happiness to strangle, but arguments from the presumption that it already is that thing are arguments from an untrue premise.
I, rather, should hope that this model becomes the norm, and that every detestable megacorp, losing the benefit of its lobbied-for oversight laws to maintain their bloated, inefficient dominance, files for bankruptcy, freeing us from the chains of a socialism-via-capitalism subversive commercial-governmental conspiracy.
And consider that Etsy is expected to police standards in masks which aren’t detailed in any of the mask mandates! When (not ‘if’) the governments demands simply that we wear “orange” to minimize pedestrian deaths, will Etsy be forced to police particular shades which aren’t ironed out in the law? No, I disagree with this at every level.
I’m back. The problem with this characteristic libertarian take is that it applies absolutism to an issue that society has correctly determined is subject to the maxim, “Enough is enough.” “Let the buyer beware” has its virtues, but within limits: before the government got into the business of regulating safety, drugs and food. In the days of patent medicines, gullible people were routinely killed or crippled by “elixers” that supposedly cured everything from warts to paralysis. Much later, chiropractors gulled desperate cancer victim into paying to have their tumors shrunk by massages.
It’s easy enough, as another commenter on the same post argued, to shrug off the fate of someone dumb enough to buy and wear a facemask that has visible holes in it during a pandemic , but with a minimum of thought it should be obvious that even to those enthralled by the siren call of libertarianism, this has to be an exception to “let the buyer beware.” There are a lot of fools and idiots out there, and as long as their stupidity only harms themselves, I agree that they should be permitted to blunder through life with minimal oversight. However, a pandemic is a special case. An idiot wearing a fashionable mask that does nothing to protect anyone risks actively spreading the contagion, and spreading the contagion a) can kill other, innocent, smarter people and b) extends the crisis, which has all sorts of negative effects unrelated to health.
To a degree, Benjamin’s argument is a straw man. Yes, it is unreasonable to expect a site like Etsy to “police” every product sold on its platform…but I’m not arguing for that. These are obviously porous facemasks being negligently and irresponsibly sold to jerks and idiots who are endangering the public. It’s not excessively burdensome to say “No.”