In 1968, Eric Clapton played a Gibson Les Paul guitar on the White Album’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by the Beatles. Other guitar greats like B.B. King, Slash, Alex Lifeson, Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend and Keith Richards have all used Gibson Guitars. You would think the Department of Justice has higher priorities than investigating a guitar company, but you’d be wrong.
By now, nearly everyone knows that the Department of Justice raided Gibson Guitars regarding the use of certain wood that may have violated the Lacey Import Act. At issue is Gibson’s import of unfinished, as opposed to finished, rosewood and ebony. FBI raids effectively shut down the business and idled workers. Gibson has since reopened, but the federal action raises issues of over-criminalization of business behavior.
Not surprisingly, the legislation to criminalize the use of ebony and rosewood in the Gibson guitars came from the usual suspects on the Left. But it also had support among American forestry business interests seeking to erect barriers to competition from overseas wood.
The craziest part of the Lacey Act is that it allows Gibson to import finished guitar pieces made from the same wood. But if Americans working in Tennessee cut, sand and varnish unfinished wood, then call in the FBI raiding parties. The law was amended in 2008 to reach this state with the support of the Bush administration.
This is the sort of illogical madness, fueled by special interest meddling in the economy that has most Americans rightfully disgusted with Washington.