Friday, November 11, 2011

Gibson Guitars and Out of Control Government

This story is a little old, but deserves to be kept alive because it is so illustrative of the sweeping overreach and potential for tyranny as we allow the federal government to become involved in every aspect of our lives.

On August 24th, Federal SWAT teams working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided Gibson guitar plants, looking for illegally imported wood from India. Supposedly, Gibson was damaging the environment by importing wood that is environmentally protected. But is that really the case? The federal government has yet to return an indictment, so here is what Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of Gibson, said about the behavior of the federal government.

The recent raid of Gibson, however, did not come about because the wood was illegally harvested. Rather, the U.S. government alleges that the wood was imported in violation of an Indian export restriction designed to keep wood finishing work in India. To make matters worse, although the Indian government certified that the wood was properly and legally exported under this law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service substituted its own opinion and reinterpreted Indian law. Its analysis suggested that if Gibson would just finish its fingerboards using Indian labor rather than Tennessee craftsman, there would be no issue.

Let me get this straight, this wood would have been harvested no matter what; the Indian government certified it for export and the only beef is that Obama and Holder want Indian workers to finish the wood, not Americans? Well, Obama sure is consistent on his desire to destroy American jobs. I'm thinking about Keystone XL pipeline and Boeing plant.

Think that this is just a problem for a big manufacturer? Thinking about traveling with a musical instrument? This could happen to you.
Recent revisions to 1900's Lacey Act require that anyone crossing the U.S. border declare every bit of flora or fauna being brought into the country. One is under "strict liability" to fill out the paperwork—and without any mistakes.

It's not enough to know that the body of your old guitar is made of spruce and maple: What's the bridge made of? If it's ebony, do you have the paperwork to show when and where that wood was harvested and when and where it was made into a bridge? Is the nut holding the strings at the guitar's headstock bone, or could it be ivory? "Even if you have no knowledge—despite Herculean efforts to obtain it—that some piece of your guitar, no matter how small, was obtained illegally, you lose your guitar forever," Prof. Thomas has written. "Oh, and you'll be fined $250 for that false (or missing) information in your Lacey Act Import Declaration.

This is the result of an out of control government that seeks to criminalize everything under the sun. For example, a father and son who were arrested and threatened with felony charges because they dug up Indian arrowheads. The Right Thinking blog has a more full exposition.

A nice side benefit of cutting the size of government will be to reduce tyranny such as this.


  1. Excellent reminder that there is so much corruption that we can't barely keep track of everthing we know of.

  2. Thank you for refreshing this important story!!

  3. destroying archaeological sites has been illegal since the first Roosevelt Administration

  4. Calivancouver, true, but it doesn't explain why it's a federal felony and why we have so many federal felonies that don't even have an element of intent. That is certainly a departure, and a necessary but not sufficient condition for tyranny.

  5. I'm not sure, but I would imagine that the Antiquities Act applies to federal lands, and this case was probably on federal land.