Blawgletter saw a recent headline about American companies’ welcoming of federal regulation.  We got the gist that the businesses now prefer the feds to pass nation-wide rules because the U.S. agencies demand less of them than many states do.  And federal preemption doctrine protects them from liability for transgressing state mandates.

The tragic killing this week of Iraqis by a North Carolina contractor, Blackwater, appears to have resulted from an extreme case of U.S. preemption.  The Coalition Provisional Authority, which disbanded in June 2004 when it turned over "sovereignty" to an Iraqi government, exempted Blackwater not only from U.S. military regulations but also from Iraqi law.  As the Washington Post reports, the CPA’s special dispensation made the contractor "untouchable".

The WSJ today glorifies preemption not as a way to protect consumers but as a device for reining in trial lawyers.  The op-ed piece, "Trial-Lawyer Kowtow", urges Congress to prevent "state juries" from "second-guess[ing] FDA scientific decisions" because otherwise new drug-labelling legislation would deliver "a high dose of steroids for the plaintiffs bar."

Blawgletter tries to to avoid hyperbole, but we don’t see a material difference between preempting Iraqi law, on the one hand, and overriding the laws of the 50 United States, on the other.  Both sacrifice individual accountability in the name of uniform laxity.  And both cost lives.

Barry Barnett

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