There are two basic ways to view government. One, it’s a collection and concentration of force and power for the purpose of providing safety and a basis of interaction and commerce for the peaceful, and a means of curtailing and penalizing the predatory. Two, it’s a protection racket designed to enable the wealthy and powerful to concentrate and maintain their power and wealth.
Both views are true, and often not in competition with each other. The latter view of government is embodied by the likes of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who uses government to busybody and ban everything he doesn’t like (while exempting major corporations from his bans when he can) and Austin city councilman Mike Martinez. Martinez is trying to crack down on an app, SideCar. SideCar lets people who need a ride connect with people who can give them a ride, across town, across the country, whatever. If I’m going somewhere and so are you, SideCar makes it easier to share the ride. Martinez wants to regulate Sidecar users, and he appeared on local radio KLBJ late last week to explain why: If one private citizen gives another private citizen a ride and any money changes hands, it may push wages for cab drivers downward. Cab companies got together and basically bought Martinez’s support one way or another, so he is lobbying on their behalf to crack down on an app, which is really a crackdown on one person’s ability to transact with another without government interfering. His lobbying created a stir ahead of the massive SXSW conference, during which Austin’s downtown traffic becomes a nightmare, and SideCar may serve as an open source relief valve.
What we may need against such government busybodying is a good, old-fashioned rebellion. Cody Wilson is stepping into that role.
Wilson, a University of Texas law student, is quickly becoming one of the most notorious people on the planet. He is the man behind Defense Distributed. That group is behind the recent push to print firearm parts via 3D printers. You’ve heard of Wikipedia and Wikileaks. Wilson’s big idea is the wikiweapon.
Wilson gave a talk at SXSW Monday afternoon. He cuts a contradictory figure, apologizing repeatedly for getting too technical while explaining Defense Distributed’s history, and the modeling and printing of working firearms components, but not apologizing at all for pushing a technology in directions that its inventors probably never intended.
He opens his talk with a joke — a picture of a garden gnome.