Kurzweil AI reports on a new possibility for the exciting world of 3D printing: drugs. 3D printing could usher in a wonderful new era of unconstrained creativity, which is why, of course, it will be fought tooth and nail by the IP lobby. Consider the mortal threat to drug patents caused by the ability to print a drug. The furor over home recording equipment would pale in comparison, considering the natural union, in this case, between large pharmaceutical companies and drug warriors.
The other aspects of 3D printing also seem to be headed for a collision course with state intervention. Copyrights and patents will surely impede the abilities of people to print just any old gadget, if that gadget is “protected.” Even if it is not protected by a government monopoly, how about printing guns? Both sides of the aisles would have no problem uniting over this threat to the children. Felons, terrorists, and other such unsavory folk could set up a nice black market for such weapons.
I enjoy reading about the new technology being developed, and I look forward to it being freely available to help improve lives worldwide. But it is fairly clear that in order for that to happen, the unholy alliance of business and state must be taken head on. It is important for the developers and supporters of these technologies to actively oppose the inevitable attempts at limiting them. Intellectual property, being privatized tyranny, is a grave threat to these emerging technologies. For a good example of how bad things can become, just take a look at the privatized tyranny of American cotton and tobacco farming 150 years ago. Don’t say “it can’t happen here.” It already did.
Any blow struck for economic liberty is worth celebrating, even if the person wielding the hammer is not, shall we say, a fan of Rothbardian libertarianism. But there is encouraging news from Tim Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which pressured the Missouri legislature to repeal its licensing laws regarding moving companies:
Under the old law, a person applying for permission to operate a moving company was required to submit to a licensing scheme under which existing moving companies were given the privilege of basically vetoing the application. We challenged that law on behalf of St. Louis entrepreneur Michael Munie, and argued the case in federal district court in April. But in the meantime, state lawmakers passed legislation repealing the law, and this afternoon, Governor Nixon signed that bill, thus opening the road for economic opportunity in the Show Me State.
Baby steps, to be sure — Missouri and most other states have licensing laws for dozens of occupations, some imposing absurd educational requirements (in Texas, for example, “shampoo specialists” at hair salons must have 150 hours of training before they can even test for their license) and exorbitant costs for both training and the licensing process itself. None of these laws actually do anything to ensure quality service for consumers; they exist solely to protect incumbents from competition. These laws can’t disappear quickly enough, and kudos to the PLF and other organizations, such as the Institute for Justice, for continuing to challenge them.
“Politicians treat firefighters like pawns. When my house burned down, I learned how valuable public servants can be.”
That’s the tagline of an article on Salon.com titled “Thank God for Taxes.” Naturally the author cannot imagine how firefighting could be better as a private business. It never occurs to him. He just praises public “servants” and calls for more taxes.1
If Andrew Leonard could imagine private firefighting at all, he would probably imagine something like the rival firefighters in 19th century America that fought violently over who would get to put out the fire while the house burned down. But of course, this was caused not by a free market in firefighting but rather a combination of public property (fire hydrants, roads), lack of private property rights enforcement (sabotaged fire engines), and political machines (Tammany Hall) — politicians like Boss Tweed using neighborhood firefighting departments for their own political gain.
We don’t want your money,
let the motherfucker burn!
Or he might imagine private firefighters refusing to put out a fire until the owner paid some astronomical fee, which the owner couldn’t afford on the spot. In fact, he might vaguely recall an incident in Tennessee last December2 in which firefighters let a home burn down because the owner failed to pay a mere $75. “This is what would happen in a free market!” he’d cry, not recalling, or never bothering to learn, the details of the incident. But this was a government firefighting department rigidly adhering to bureaucratic internal rules,3 as government agencies are wont to do, not a private business responding to profit incentives.
As the wildfires raged, apologists for government thought they had a trump card against libertarians and triumphantly concluded this was the latest proof that the government and its firefighters remain that thin line between order and chaos. Unfortunately for them, however, history has now made it abundantly clear that the true driving force behind the increasingly large mega-fires that plague public lands are the product of decades of mismanagement by the forest service. That is, we can thank the government for putting out the fires it is responsible for.
This has been well documented in some research published by the Property and Environment Research Center here and here.
Briefly put, decades of fire suppression and bans on logging by the feds to protect obscure rodent species has doomed the forests to massive wildfires which thrive on forests where underbrush piles up and creates a “fuel ladder” which in turn ignites the trees.
More logging, more small, natural fires, and more decentralized management (including privatization) is the answer, but don’t expect the politics to line up behind any of these sensible solutions any time soon. Most Americans now have utterly unrealistic expectations for forests. Forest fires are going to happen, and short of an army of robots to clean out and manage forests constantly, lighting will ignite forest fires in even the most well managed environments. The idea is to let these fires happen. The politics is against this however since wealthy vacationers with second homes in forested lots think that they should be able to build mansions in the wilderness and not be subject to the basic laws of nature.
Thus, the forest service gets huge funding increases every year to badly manage forests, and when that fails, spend tens of millions on fire suppression.
But don’t worry, it turns out that forest service has spent the last eleven years developing a plan for the forests. They’ll be finished sometime before the end of the next decade.
My friend Paul Vahur has just announced the formation of the Mises Institute Estonia. As their introductory notes explains:
We are glad to announce about the creation of Mises Institute Estonia (in Estonian: Misese Instituut). The founders were 10 members of Mises Circle Tallinn which was created in 2009. Mises Institute Estonia is politically independent and funded only by private donations.The purpose of the Institute is to promote and advance in Estonia the theories of Austrian School of Economics and classical liberal and libertarian political theories. To achieve these goals, the Institute will regularly publish articles on its website Mises.ee, it will also hold conferences, educational courses and lectures. The Institute publishes books in Estonian popularizing economic science and libertarian political theory.
The Institue will be headed by Paul Vahur. The members of supervisory board are Risto Sverdlik, Urmas Järve and Paul Keres.
Mises Institute Estonia is named after Ludwig von Mises, a renowned Austrian economist whose biggest contribution was to explain the cause of economic crises and why state’s economic intervention is doomed to failure. First Mises Institute was founded in 1982 in USA. Thanks to their great success many other Mises Institutes have been founded in recent years in other countries such as Poland, Brazil, Sweden and Canada.
It is heartening to see the growing ranks of counterparts to the US Mises Institute or others similar or related to or inspired by same, such as the Cobden Centre in the UK and others, to help spread the message of private property, individual liberty and Austrian economics.