Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Signature Nonsense

nanny state, too much government, books, authentication, California, busybody, Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, Jerry Brown

Did anyone really need this?

Last year, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill No. 1570, which concerns collectibles, particularly signed-by-author or artist books. But it doesn’t mention books, and is confusingly written. What a mess.

Who asked for it?

It certainly wasn’t the struggling booksellers who have come to depend on signed authors’ copies. In the Age of, book vendors need to add value to stay afloat.* Author-signed copies help.

The law says that for signed-by-creator collectibles sold for more than $5 — yes, a mere five smackers — sellers must provide customers a Certificate of Authentication. The law specifies nine “helpful” directions for said certificates. So imagine an edition of Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, signed by the author at, say, a non-profit dinner, or at a bookstore signing, or even a late-night bar —discounted to not much over five bucks.** The bookseller must not only provide a certificate, but list the book’s provenance. Talk about an added cost of doing business.

I mention Mr. Doherty not merely because of his excellent book, but because he has not unreasonably confessed that “my own interests could be harmed by any attempt to actually enforce the letter of this law.”

This week on EconTalk, economist Mike Munger mentioned the market’s built-in regulatory features — reputation being the most obvious — for helping consumers avoid getting ripped off buying books . . . and paintings . . . and anything else improved by creator signature.

But, really, can’t we make do with a little caveat emptor as well as caveat lector? Better than regulations this dense.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


* The number of independent bookstores plummeted (down a thousand) around the country between 2000 and 2007. But there seems to be an increase since then, despite (or because of?) Abebooks and Alibris and other dot coms.

** I found a signed copy of Doherty’s history at Abebooks for $10.

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By: CS Admin


  1. John F Brennan says:

    All American politicians profess a belief in the free market but most do not have sufficient faith generated by their stated belief to live it. 
    Beliefs are of not determinative, actions are.  The politicians false belief they can overrule the laws of economics, natural and instinctive human interaction, has been the downfall of every once great nation. 

  2. Pat says:

    I watch BookTV and see authors signing books that have been BOUGHT by customers.  Some of these programs take place in California.  How many of those who are being rushed through the line at the bookstore get a ‘Certificate of Authentication’?    
    A book is a book.   Enough, already!

  3. Brian Wright says:

    It’s part of the end of times, the terminal corruption of government at all levels. The ONLY solution in the world of form is resurrection of PRIME (people’s restored independent multilevel everywhere) grand juries. The people themselves are the hidden (and suppressed) fourth branch of government… by means of their grand jury sword and shield authority.. Laws like 1570, like the one mandating vaccines, are clearly in violation of America First Principles and the Bill of Rights. A proper grand jury would not only strike such down, it would initiate indictments (presentments) to court officials to bring those behind 1570 and the like to justice and trial, at the very least, for violation of oath of office.

  4. what ever happened to thinking a plan through before moving forward? A recently defeated county zoning ordinance would have provided homeowners’ and added layer of protection from unscrupulous contractors – all the while capturing the contractors for a county business privilege (extortion) fee.

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