Ed Driscoll

Dirty Diapers, Done Dirt Cheap

In his latest column, Mark Steyn focuses on dirty diapers, big and small:

If you’re wondering what sentient being isn’t aware of diapers, you’re missing the point: Connecticut representative Rosa DeLauro is raising awareness of the need for diapers in order to, as Politico reported, “push the Federal Government to provide free diapers to poor families.” Congresswoman DeLauro has introduced the DIAPER Act — that’s to say, the Diaper Investment and Aid to Promote Economic Recovery Act. So don’t worry, it’s not welfare, it’s “stimulus.” As Fox News put it, “A U.S. congresswoman in Connecticut wants to boost the economy by offering free diapers to low-income families.” And, given that sinking bazillions of dollars into green-jobs schemes to build eco-cars in Finland and a federal program to buy guns for Mexican drug cartels and all the other fascinating innovations of the Obama administration haven’t worked, who’s to say borrowing money from the Chinese politburo and sticking it in your kid’s diaper isn’t the kind of outside-the-box thinking that will do the trick?

In fact, the federal government already provides free diapers for at least one lucky American. Stanley Thornton Jr. of California receives Supplementary Security Income disability checks from the Social Security Administration in order to sit around the house all day wearing a giant diaper and a giant onesie, sucking on a giant pacifier and playing with a giant baby rattle. Stanley Jr. runs a website for fellow “adult babies” called BedWettingABDL.com. I believe I first heard of the “adult baby” phenomenon some years ago in London. If memory serves, there was a club, and the members lay around in giant cribs being read bedtime stories by a bosomy nanny. Minor celebrities and possibly backbench Tory members of Parliament may have been involved. In those days, it was what we called a “fetish” and you had to do it on your own dime. Now it’s a “disability” and the United States government picks up the tab. And, if that’s not progress, what is?

But actually, the private market already took care of that, as Glenn Reynolds noted in An Army of Davids back in 2006. (Parentheses in original):

(After the hardcover edition of this book came out, I was approached by a University of Tennessee undergraduate who had read it. She informed me that she had paid her way through college— and set aside a nest egg along the way—by taking advantage of eBay and the Internet. She had contracted with a company in China to make adult-sized diapers, which she purchased at very low cost and then resold to the “adult diaper fetish market” in the United States via eBay. I neglected to ask what had given her the idea for this business, but it would seem the perfect illustration of the way technology allows a mix of small and big players to address niche markets, and turn a profit while doing so.)

The worker’s paradise may turn out to be a capitalist creation after all.

In the coming chapters, I’ll look at the way this change is playing out in the worlds of business, media, the arts, and even national security. I’ll also look at the downside of empowering individuals: if amateur musicians or bloggers are empowered by technology, so in a different way are terrorists.

Overall, I consider the trend to be a positive one. Whether you agree with that assessment or not, the existence of this empowerment is undeniable and irreversible. Love it or hate it, it’s worth close consideration.

As William Gibson has remarked, “The future has already arrived—it’s just not evenly distributed.” The pockets of the future that we’ll be surveying are not only interesting in themselves, but provide a look at how a lot more of the world is likely to operate before long.

Unfortunately though, between the president and hidebound fellow reactionaries such as DeLauro (whom I chiefly remember for her frequent screeching appearances in clips on Rush Limbaugh’s old TV show in the mid-1990s, after the GOP first recaptured Congress), the future is on hold for the moment, at least until the diapers are taken out of the White House next year.