“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
We’ve pointed out in the past that President Obama’s views on the surveillance state shifted completely from when he was Senator to when he was President. As Senator, he supported a bunch of reforms that are very much like the ones his panel have suggested — and which he’s about to ignore. The NY Times […]
Bitcoins are largely considered digital currency (or “crypto currency”) so you’d expect it to be treated like currency on a retail web site. But the Internal Revenue Service might not think so.
The great inventors/businessmen of the First Industrial Revolution, such as James Watt and Matthew Boulton of steam-engine fame, were not just smart but privileged. Most were either born into the ruling class or lucky enough to be apprenticed to one of the elite. For most of history since then, entrepreneurship has meant either setting up […]
Both research and production look poised for a revolution as 3-D printing applies its high-tech charms to the business of creating chemical compounds and turns the production of medicine into a DIY project.
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”When Capt. Jean-Luc Picard wants a steaming beverage in his ready room aboard the starship Enterprise, he just utters those words. The ship’s “replicator” then assembles the necessary atoms — including those for the cup — and produces it, ready for the drinking. Picard thinks nothing of it — it’s hardly more […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
[Ed. Note: This article originally published on Jan. 24, 2013]Stocks up. Gold down. Bitcoin… waaay up.The S&P 500 busted through the 1,500 mark this morning. Stocks haven’t been this expensive since 2007… right before they got a whole lot cheaper… for a whole lot longer. Gold, meanwhile, dipped a tad. This, despite central bankers of […]
Before the housing market collapsed and the government pumped billions into the economy to save it, there was a programmer named Satoshi Nakamoto. And without much fanfare, he created an idea that’s in the process of changing the world. His idea was Bitcoin.Some background information is in order before I go any further.Think back to […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
The online Internet exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act are up and running.OK, they’re up. Uhh, OK, some of them are sort of up.It has been almost a week since last Tuesday’s initial launch, and there have been more than a few problems.Website crashes, excessive response times and other problems have plagued the exchanges. […]
A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping.This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government […]
As much as I love technology, part of me hates being so dependent on a live wall plug wherever I go. You find yourself trapped in some setting without accessible wall plugs and your phone is dying. You charge from you laptop, but that is dying too. You take recourse to your tablet, but that […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Today, like most days, I fired up my computer.I read freely available information on the latest developments in technology that would, in the not too distant past, have required a drive to a library to flip through journals too numerous for me to afford. I read the latest national and global news without having to […]
On a Sunday afternoon swim, a 6-year-old boy was bugging me in a sweet sort of way. He rode up and down the handrail on the stairs in the shallow end of the pool where I was trying to sit in peace. He was laughing and talking, but I couldn’t understand a word through the […]
I’ve just completed a heavy schedule of talks at the Agora Financial Investment Symposium in Vancouver. All my talks centered on information economics, Web startups, and the productivity of the Internet and its meaning. As usual, I learned as much from the attendees as (I hope) they learned from my talks. The research I did […]
Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem, the ebook of the week in the Laissez Faire Club, is a story about a government that hates, fears, and bans technology precisely because it wants to keep the people enslaved in a primitive state of being. Preposterous right? Wrong: this is going on every day right in the United States, as the regulatory machine continually wrecks technological advances, past, present, and future. This article discusses two such cases.
The material discussed in this article will matter far more to the quality of your life in the future than the outcome of the president election. And yet we can know with nearly perfect certainty that no candidate will be asked about these issues. They know nothing about it. Neither do the moderators of the debates. It all takes place beneath the surface of American politics within the belly of the bureaucratic monster that actually runs the country and over which elected politicians exercise virtually no control whatsoever.
The regulation in question is “Energy Conservation Standards for Dishwasher, 77 FR 31918.” You can spend the day reading the history’s most obtuse bureaucratese, complete with legislative history and technical detail, along with testimony for and against and the Department of Energy’ final judgement. Or you can just internalize my summary: get used to hand washing your dishes. As of May 2013, dishwasher manufacturers are not going to be allowed to make or sell a machine that works.
The excuse is energy and water conservation of course. The presumption is that consumers and manufacturers have no interest whatsoever in saving energy and water even though everyone pays for both and, for the most part, our usage determines what we pay. The reason that companies and consumers have not adopted the new standards on their own is that they are incompatible with clean dishes.
There’s a pretty good chance that your current dishwasher using 6.5. gallons in a load. In the future, only 5 gallons of water can be used in the course of washing dishes. Maybe the manufacturers can ramp up the intensity of spray? Think again: new “energy efficiency” standards require that they use even less energy. Less energy plus less water equals dirty dishes. Plus, the new energy standards will substantially increase the cost of the appliance, taking it out of the affordability range for elderly people and the poor.
How the heck can the regulators get away with this? You really want to know? Here’s the answer that the Department of Energy cites: “7 U.S.C. 7701–7772 and 7781–7786; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, and 371.3. Section 301.75–15 issued under Sec. 204, Title II, Public Law 106–113, 113 Stat. 1501A–293; sections 301.75–15 and 301.75–16 issued under Sec. 203, Title II, Public Law 106–224, 114 Stat. 400 (7 U.S.C. 1421 note).”
And this is only a few years after the regulators made two additional changes that degrade the value of the dishwasher. They required that dishwasher soap stop using phosphates, and hence the soap scum stays on the dishes and doesn’t get whisked away by this natural chemical. The only real way to get dishes clean in many water environments is to add your own. Plus, with the default setting on hot water heaters at a tepid 120 degrees, the water isn’t hot enough to really clean, unless you have taken the time to hack your heater.
The latest blow to the dishwasher means its near or final death. It will look like the old-fashioned kind. It will take up space in your kitchen. It will have lots of lights and look pretty. But it won’t do a damn thing to actually clean your dishes. Such regulations are never reversed. That means that future generations will never know of a time when you could stick a bunch of dishes in a box and have them come out clean. If you want clean, you will be filling sinks again.
Further, as the amazing Sofie Miller of the George Washington University Regulatory Center testified, this regulation is also an assault on human dignity because it denies us choice in the matter. The central planners know what is best for us and they are going to give it to us good and hard.
I wouldn’t even know about this regulation — and no one would — but for her incredible activism on behalf of human freedom. She is like one tiny David with a slingshot vs. the whole regulatory Goliath of the modern nation state.
In her public comment against this crazy ruling, she pointed out that the proposed savings from the ruling as seen in the models posit a time period well beyond the life of most all dishwashers. She concludes that 84% of consumer will receive no benefit at all from these changes.
What’s more, as people shift from dishwashers to hand washing dishes, there are huge costs to consider. “Thousands of Americans will spend time washing dishes by hand as the price of dishwashers increases,” she writes. “The value of time reallocated to washing dishes by hand totals between $241.4 million and $963.6 million, or almost $1 billion, even at a very conservative estimate. The cost of this time, which will most likely be borne by low-income and elderly Americans on fixed incomes, was not taken into account in the Department’s analysis of the direct final rule.”
As you continue to ponder the implications of a government that is directly targeting your domestic quality of life for destruction, consider this parallel legislation: “Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Clothes Washers FR 77 32308.” This one won’t go into effect until March 7, 2015. So you have two and half years of somewhat clean clothes. After that, it’s pigpen.
It took me hours to dig through the details of this regulation that has been batted around since 2008, but here is the upshot.
Washing machine will become “Washington machines,” useless and heavy steel squares that are more expensive than their predecessor that actually washed clothes. Built by government dictate, Washington machines can’t use much more energy than a wristwatch. Amazing. Infuriating.
Back when washing machines were just introduced, half the American population heralded them as the great key to “liberation from drudgery.” And here they are being destroyed with no public debate whatsoever. The politicians don’t even know anything about it. The media doesn’t care.
I was intrigued to find that one poor soul actually did take seriously the Department of Energy’s invitation for public comment. The comment (view here) was from a woman named Ann Grigorian from Yorktown, Virginia. She pointed out that her washing machine doesn’t work well now and that she expects that the regulations will be worse.
“I have been doing laundry for well over 30 years,” she wrote. “I do not need a babysitter to determine for me how much water to put in my laundry. To say I can get more water by putting less articles of clothing into the washer is incredulous to me – how wasteful is it to wash three articles of clothing just to have enough water to clean them?”
Poor Ann. She is probably on a no-fly list by now.
These two machines together were the greatest boon to American women in the twentieth century, doing far more for women’s liberation than all the legislation and political activism. They created that greatest gift, free time. They allowed women to emerge as full public citizens, to spend time with their kids instead of slaving with household routines, and created the space in life to cultivated the mind and civilization itself.
The regulators want to drive us back, back, back, imprisoning everyone in life of drudgery so that the “earth” can flourish and the rest of us languish, die, and be buried in soiled clothes. The greatest insult of all: this is likely the first and probably the last article you will read on this topic.