Directive 10-289 for Indie Businesses

Small, independent businesses are contributing more than ever to the American economy. Not everyone is happy about this, however, and so Congress is busy cooking up new laws straight out of Atlas Shrugged.

“Behind every great fortune, there is a crime.”

Balzac’s famous quotation is quite likely an accurate description of the economic climate of authoritarian 19th Century France.

But as any fan of Ayn Rand’s novels — and indeed the American dream in general — can attest, a great many fortunes can be, and often are, made quickly and ethically when people are left to pursue their own interests via free enterprise. Warren Buffet and Linus Torvalds are two among millions of examples, here.

It’s only the insecure, the “second-handers,” the inferior producers of inferior products — the Peter Keatings and Orren Boyles of the world — that need to create and maintain their wealth by unethical means.

For myself, I am a middle-class woman, born in the Rocky Mountains and raised in the rust belt, who has a particular love of coffee, chemistry, excellence, and liberty. I have a collection of excellent friends that serve as both inspiration and test market, who are a fabulous amalgamation of style, substance, and hilariously wicked senses of humor.

Amidst the laughter, the food, the wine, the coffee, the travels, and the great conversations that define the life of yours truly, I founded a small, independent haircare business called Serpentine Hair, a company born out of pure frustration with not only mainstream companies’ sulfate-laden shampoos that damaged my tresses but also the other indie companies out there that rarely offered scents or products that justified their higher prices.

After learning, through a process of trial and error, how to create the haircare products I always wanted, Serpentine Hair was born. My products have now been available to the public online and doing well for the better part of a year.

I’m far from alone in my reasons for starting a business, and I’m hardly alone in my field of endeavor, either. There’s an entire booming cottage industry of independent bath and body companies that share a similar mission and back-story. And many of them — like Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, Villainess, and the indie aggregator Etsy — have done extraordinarily well in this arena.

Possibly the ultimate example of an indie bath and body business gone super-successful is The Body Shop, a billion-dollar business that was recently purchased by L’Oreal

All of these companies made their mark with unique, gentle products that offered a better choice to the consumer, and were justly rewarded for their hard work and fine output. Basic Capitalism 101 in action, right?

Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. It would seem — witness the near-ubiquity of things like Burt’s Bees sulfate-free products in large chain stores, and Maybelline’s new mineral makeup line — that many of the qualities that have traditionally distinguished the small indie personal care businesses in the marketplace have made the large multinational conglomerates sit up and take notice.

This would be terrific if the big boys were simply improving their own products in response to a rising consumer demand for better, gentler products — again, exactly how the system was designed to work. But apparently the Orren Boyles of the world would prefer to slowly crush the system that made their companies so big in the first place by introducing their very own “moratorium on brains” for the 21st Century.

What is this real-life version of Directive 10-289, you ask? It has the very Orwellian tag of the “FDA Globalization Act of 2008.”

In a nutshell, this shining socialistic example of government interference would force all cosmetic/personal care businesses to pay the federal government an annual $2,000 “registration fee” — for which neither the business owner nor consumer derive any benefit — in addition to the accompanying bureaucratic time-suck of extra paperwork to fill out every year.

While the annual $2,000 fee and added paperwork are nothing to Proctor & Gamble, L’Oreal, Revlon, and their ilk, it’s the difference between profitability and bankruptcy for many fledgling small businesses in the personal care industry.

It’s a truly shameless, anti-free trade stance taken by certain Congressional representatives — who, by the way, receive large campaign donations from some of these same mega-companies — to protect the interests of their corporate sponsors.

The fact that there’s been little or no mainstream media coverage of this bill, especially in an economic downturn, when our economy needs all the viable businesses it can support, is particularly disappointing.

Like the fictional Directive 10-289 from Atlas Shrugged, the FDA Globalization Act of 2008 is couched in the euphemistic, Orwellian language of “helping the people,” and will have the absolute opposite effect of preventing many honest people from making a living.

Small businesses today are the lifeblood of the American economy, employing over half of the nation’s private workforce. The FDA Globalization Act will only sever another economic artery.

This Act is nothing more than second-rate, second-hander “producers” buying off the legislature in order to protect their market share against people of greater ability.

Please add your voice to the petition against the FDA Globalization Act of 2008, and let our representatives know that the interests of we the (thinking) people will not be ignored.

Kimberly Wingfield is an entrepreneur and founder of the indie hair care business Serpentine Hair. She lives in Albany, New York.

14 comments from readers  

To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.
Will sign the petition, Kimberly. Atlas has made a great re-read this summer. From crane collapses to energy shortages, it's all right there!

Good luck continuing your fabulous enterprise.
Hopefully, the thought of a government shake down does not come to as a shock. It is greasing the spokes in the corrupt wheel of Congress. Unless we the people revolt, it will continue. I am not referring to a gentle request. I am referring to a real revolution. The kind that they had in France 200 hundred years ago.
You didn't mention that that act also requires it's victims to use "good manufacturing practices" without specifying those "practices" or preventing the rules from changing.

That alone gives bureaucrats carte blanche to micromanage or shut down any business.
Such a "registration fee" is absurd, I completely agree. Given that the FDA Globalization Act of 2008 provides no incentive, no choice and no help whatsoever, it should be more appropriately labeled a "Creativity Fine", for that's just what it is: a fine.

As a college student who's life goal is the creation and "flipping" of small businesses, the steps the government is constantly taking towards the stifling of achievement (however big or small) simply infuriates me.

I'll spread the word as well.
Great column - this is exactly what's wrong with our government. As a small business owner myself, it's very frustrating to deal with all the extra red tape and expense of regulations like this.
I have great sympathy for you, Kimberly. My real estate franchise business has had to pay $200,000 in regulatory fees and attorney fees related to regulatory requirements, including the execrable UFOC and interminable state registration processes, in the last four years. That is money that didn't go to me, to greater effeiciency and to business building. With the current sad state of real estate (caused by the government), my business is going through tough times, so that 200K is a cushion that does not now exist.
Good luck to you. You seem quite ambitious and creative. I wish you the best.
Excellent column. Freedom is what the whole game is about. The people want Freedom, whether they know it or not, and Government saying "You can't handle Freedom!" America is going down the moral drain since 2003 and Bush's attack on Law and Order. Who is going to save us in this year of a Presidential Election, Obama or McCain? Ha! Not a chance in Hell! Government is running amok, and neither of these Candidates have any understanding of the problem, all they offer us is the usual cures of more control, gross interference, because they know better than we do what the problems are, after all, they caused them all. Keep up the good work.
Thanks Kimberly for sounding the alarm on this one. As if it isn't hard enough on small businesses already.
Congrats on the business venture, Kimberly, and thanks for sharing your experiences about the insanity known as politics. It's way past time we rejected the notion that our lives should be run by people who depend on our moral sanction to threaten and extort money from us. Time to shrug, don't you think?

Warren Buffet doesn't deserve to be listed as an example of someone who has pursued his rational self-interest via free enterprise. In addition to leveraging the corrupt ties between the Fed, fiat currency, and Wall Street (and the legal fiction created and regulated by the State known as the corporation), he's an icon for altruism. Check out his Wikipedia page for starters. A couple years ago, I watched a televised town hall forum where both he and Bill Gates mouthed the unforgivable platitude that government isn't taxing them enough! -- as if some individuals have the right to tax other individuals in the first place. Immoral ideas such as this, broadcast to millions of young business people, contribute much to the sorry state of our ethical/political world. I'm reminded of Frederick Mann's insightful discussion of "slavespeak": The Anatomy of Slavespeak.
Another great example that proves that Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand's philosophy are even more important now than ever before.

I also agree with Wes Bertrand's comment on Buffet and Gates. They might have been great when they started their businesses, but since then they have done more to destroy free enterprise than all the politicians taken together. The politicians know that they can get away only with as much as they are allowed to get away with; and these two gave them a blank check, trying to outdo each other in demonstration of their selflessness.
Thank you for your article, Kimberly, however, I must disagree with the supposed wrongness of Directive 10-289. While I too believe in the power of the individual and in the economic strength of small businesses, it is not unreasonable to charge a fee that will allow the FDA to keep food and cosmetic products safe for American consumption. There are always some entrance costs to business, whether it is for facilities to manufacture the product or the cost of a storefront, and for many businesses registration fees are also one of those costs.

Smaller government is indeed better, but the FDA serves a vital role in keeping the populace safe and healthy. Fortunately, we live in a country where laws and directives can be discussed before voted into existence, and the online community against the directive (where the link for â??FDA Globalization Act of 2008â? leads to) is doing just that. Good luck to you and other small cosmetics business owners in working out a compromise on the directive.
Kim: Tara is just plain wrong. there is nothing good about this law (It is NOT a "directive," as in the book), and if they're smart, they won't pass it. There is enough money in the larger companies to pay for the "control" she mentions without saddling the tiny ones with such a big outlay before they're even in business. If such a law had been effect when today's big companies had started, there wouldn't BE any "big companies." It's this kind of thinking that allows liberals to do such things.
This law goes against the grain of the entire American experience. It is a blatent attempt by the so called "powers that be" to crush incipient competition before it can start, or for any budding entrepreneur to bring fresh life to the business world. Such a measure bespeaks of the inherent corruption of those who seek to escape competition for the monopoly priviledge of using the legal or political system to limit opportunity in America.
Lemuel Linder
Tara Overzat offers the rationale that a government agency is needed to keep food and personal use products safe. That is false. There is such a need. It, like almost all of government's currenct activities, is best supplied by the free market. We already have such things as Underwriter's Laboratories and other certifying organizations which test products and give test results for the public to use in making decisions about what to buy. Information is power. But, when power uses the excuse of providing information to justify its predatory regulations and fees to prevent new competitors from growing in the market place, it's time to re-examine how we get protective information.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, a couple of British gentlemen, Cobden and Bright employed the understanding of economist Adam Smith and began a political revolution called Reform by Repeal. They caused Parliament to remove the Poor Laws, the Corn Laws and others. The result was a freeing up of the British economy and the flourishing of the British Empire.

Today, it is clear that both the Democratic and Republican Parties in USA lack any intellectual/practical program with which to inspire voters and guide the country to prosperity. What we need is to formulate the details of a Reform by Repeal movement. And, Miss Wingfield's case makes an excellent instance of why such a movement is needed.
To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.