Monday, July 13, 2009

Have You Checked Your Federal Register Today?

This article in today’s New York Times brings up an interesting point. It’s not that “Consumers have a right to know when they’re being pitched a product,” or even that technology is changing too fast “for consumers and regulators to keep up” – both of which are insidious assaults on the rationality of men and attempted justification for an overreaching government – it’s that when a federal bureaucracy seeks to make a change to its scope, it advertises, or notifies the public through one particular document: the Federal Register.

What is the Federal Register you ask?

From the Government Printing Office:

Published by the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents. It is updated daily by 6 a.m. and is published Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. GPO Access contains Federal Register volumes from 59 (1994) to the present. [emphasis mine]
As referenced in the Times article, from the FTC Endorsement Guides:
I. OVERVIEW OF THE CURRENT GUIDES
The Guides, 16 C.F.R. Part 255, are designed to assist businesses and others in conforming their endorsement and testimonial advertising practices to the requirements of Section 5 of the FTC Act. Although the Guides interpret laws administered by the Commission, and thus are advisory in nature, proceedings to enforce the requirements of law as explained in the Guides can be brought under the FTC Act. In any such proceeding, the Commission would have the burden of proving that a particular use of an endorsement or testimonial was deceptive. [emphasis mine]
That’s right. Although the guides are advisory in nature, since they are developed from the regulations, they can be enforced by the FTC. At least it’s comforting to know that the burden of proof is still on the prosecutor as opposed to a blanket indictment of endorsers as guilty until they prove themselves innocent. Right?

Changes to the Endorsement Guides were posted in the Federal Register on January 18, 2007, garnered 22 comments, and the new advisory rules are expected to be made by the fall. It’s interesting to note that this four page notification was fitted snuggly among the 250+ pages of the Federal Register that day.

You may wonder, who on earth reads the Federal Register? As one who was once employed to regularly wade through the goo, I can tell you that people seeking to get a piece of the government pie (aka “our tax dollars”) read it religiously.

Finally, what about the deceptive practices of the Government?

How is that we withstand these hidden attacks on our freedom, the proliferation of non-objective law, and the direct violation of the Government in securing the blessings of Liberty for us?

It would seem that we the people are supposed to check out today’s Federal Register, consider ourselves notified, and be satisfied with that.

Interesting Update:
This morning, the article in the Times (online) was titled "When a Blogger Voices Approval, a Sponsor May be Lurking". Now it bears the innocuous title, "Approval by Blogger May Please a Sponsor". Hmmm.

2 comments:

Bill Brown said...

You might be interested in this report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute which supports this entry.

LB said...

Ugh.

So the question in my mind is, who's minding the store?

With approximately 200 pages of potentially life-altering proposals or notices generated every day (today's Federal Register is just over 220 pages), I'm certain it's not my legislators.