As I sat on one of those metal benches, retying my shoes after enduring yet another near-cavity search courtesy the TSA, something both rather obvious and rather sad dawned on me. It is, in fact, the answer to the question that heads this post, and that answer, by the way, is “No.” As a matter of fact, “Hell no.” As I sat there, I contemplated how much more intrusive the searches could get before the public rose up and said, “Enough!” Simultaneously, a conversation I had enjoyed with a fellow traveler as we stood in a very long line at the Monroe County (Rochester) International Airport rolled around in my head.
She had quipped, as we inched closer to our turn in the scanner, “I’m just glad that we haven’t had a bra bomber yet.” We laughed, but it was more out of pain than humor. She and I both knew that we were experiencing a real-life reenactment of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and that things would get worse–likely a lot worse–before they got better. (And that’s making the very large assumption, an assumption I might characterize as a pipe dream, that things will ever get better.)
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.
“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.
Over the weekend there was a small health expo at my local YMCA (which also shares a building with a public elementary school). A variety of organizations had stands and booths–from golf and swimming coaches to dietitians and chiropractors. And, like civilized people, they would pitch their goods and services to passers-by. Unfortunately, this peaceful demonstration of entrepreneurialism and voluntary market demand was tainted by the presence of the police.
No fewer than five “cruisers” lined the edge of the parking lot. About a dozen police officers, in full regalia (guns, tasers, cuffs, baton, military boots) interacted with children who would ask one question about another, their eyes glazed over by the “magnificence” of “our” public “servants.” But the “law and order” monopolists would still had a gem to show the community. Parked on the grass a B.E.A.R. military-style vehicle was the center of attention. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters were taking turns climbing on the truck of mass destruction.
I approached and listened to the guy inside tell a kid that he was the one in charge of holding the bullet-proof shield when they have to go “serve warrants” and that the guy you see right there (pointing across the parking lot) was the one whose job was to break doors open. Another officer (dressed in camo and looked like a military soldier but was a local cop) told a girl that they were there to help the good ones and take care of “the bad guys.” Meh.