Buckyballs creator stands strong for market freedom

December 17, 2013

1356169943776171955By Nancy Thorner and Mark Weyermuller – 

What gifts could one expect under the “free market system” tree?  Our guess might be prosperity and freedom for all.

Last Tuesday, the Illinois Policy Institute hosted its annual “Gifts of the Free Market” party. This year’s festivities featured speaker Craig Zucker, a serial entrepreneur from Ohio and former co-founder and CEO of Maxfield and Oberton, makers of Buckyballs.

Buckyballs was named 2010’s “Best Desk Toy of the Year” by the Rolling Stone Magazine. Three years later, Zucker’s powerful ball-shaped toy magnets are banned from sale by government agencies.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission took action against Zucker’s product shortly after Buckyballs became a rage for adults. Within a matter of months the business, which brought in $18 million at one point, was destroyed – with no due process.

Maxfield & Oberton was the small company behind Buckyballs (and Buckycubes), an office toy that became an Internet sensation in 2009.  The company sold millions of Buckyballs unites under the watchful eye of the CPSC before the product was banned.

From the beginning, Buckyballs were marketed and sold to adults.  Each set was wrapped with five conspicuous warnings to keep the product away from children.

Zucker and his company worked with the CPSC over its expressed concern that children could swallow the powerful magnets.  Maxfield & Oberton even ran a pubic-education campaign to alert consumers of the potential danger. When the age of a child thought safe to use a product increased from 13 to 14, Maxfield & Oberton changed the child warning label accordingly.

In July of 2012, the CPSC sued Maxfield & Oberton thereby forcing a full recall of Buckyballs. According to the CPSC, Buckyballs were deemed defective in that unintended users could misuse it and suffer injuries.

In December of 2012 Maxfield & Oberton shuttered and dissolved.  A “Save Our Balls” campaign was launched to keep the business alive, but failed to raise enough to pay legal bills.

In February of 2103, the CPSC invoked a little-used legal doctrine to try to force Craig Zucker, as former chief executive of Maxfield & Oberton, to pay an estimated $57 million in costs related to the recall. The $57 million amount exceeded what the company ever made in sales.

Not willing to allow himself to be used by the government in a ruling which could ultimately have severe and far-reaching consequences for the future of American businesses and consumers, Zucker filed a lawsuit in October this year in the U.S. District Court of Maryland to block the CPSC from seeking damages against him.

In an attempt to pay his legal costs, Zucker set up the Unite We Ball website to “support the legal battle of one individual against government absurdity overreach retaliation regulators and stand up for the rights of all Americans.”

Several products for sale at “UnitedWeBall.org“, including “Liberty Balls, Founding Balls, Balls of Right, and UWB merchandise,  including tees. The items range from $10 to $40.  100% of the profits go towards the legal fees of fighting the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s absurd case against Buckyballs and Craig Zucker.

Many free marketers see Zucker’s case as one to watch for the country’s free market future. If government wins over Zucker, a precedent will be set for agencies to go after an entrepreneur or officer of a company and hold him or her personally responsible for his or her company’s actions, even if no laws or regulations were violated.

The free market system allows a vibrant entrepreneurial environment to flourish and create a force for good, as first protected and promoted by our Founding Fathers. Free enterprise must be allowed to survive and flourish for her to remain strong and competitive, for it is freedom that allows the human spirit to soar to accomplish, invent, and create new products unhindered by government regulations and control.

At this time of year and beyond, courageous Americans like Craig Zucker should be celebrated and cheered on to stand against this nation’s direction toward centralized government and nanny statism.

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Illinois Policy Institute’s Jonathan Greenberg, Ex Vice Pres Kristina Rasmussen and Buckyballs creator Craig Zucker

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