WASHINGTON, April 14, 2013 - Each and every day, the free market provides us with something new and wonderful. Cell phones, personal computers, airplanes, automobiles, steam engines, moveable type: the regression is endless. Creative individuals risk their livelihoods in the hope of one day sharing something useful (and profitable) with the rest of the world.
The past few years have brought us the iPad, the app economy, electric cars, and much more. Three innovations stand out when compared to the rest, however, the Google car, 3D printing, and Bitcoin.
First, there is the Google driverless car. For a few years now, a team at Google has been working on an “autonomous driving project.” The goal is to produce a car that can drive itself without the necessity of a driver being inside it. Technology of this nature would allow you to send your car home if you can’t find a parking space or if you’ve had a few too many to drink.
According to project manager Anthony Levandowski, the car could be ready in three to five years. “I can’t tell you you’ll be able to have a Google car in your garage next year,” he said, and then adding, “We expect to release the technology in the next five years. In what form it gets released is still to be determined.”
Of course, the timeline will be heavily influenced by the role government decides to play in the regulation of this technology. Obviously no government performance standards for driverless cars exist at this point. And one can imagine that the government, which always moves at a tortoise’s pace, will take its sweet time creating these unnecessary standards.
Then there is 3D printing. Also known as “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing produces objects by adding one small layer of material at a time. “Additive,” stands in opposition to more traditional “subtractive” processes such as sawing, drilling, cutting, etc.
3D-printed objects are printed using downloadable design models, which, like any digital file, can be sent to any corner of the globe via the Internet.
Recently, the price of 3D printers has dropped significantly, allowing for greater use and experimentation. Pushing the technology to its limit (for now, anyway) is engineer Jim Kor, who has successfully produced a 3D-printed car. As strong as steel at half the weight, Kor’s design maximizes fuel efficiency by reimagining shape and material composition.
While it will have all the necessary requirements present in and on a traditional production vehicle, high-beam headlights, turn signals, safety features, etc., the car will most likely be registered as a motorcycle (because of its weight) in order to avoid much of the nonsensical government restrictions and scrutiny.
3D printing technology has also been used by individuals to manufacture guns, objects which, if produced by an individual for private use and not sold, are not subject to federal oversight. This has created a method of circumvention around current and potential gun control measures.
Finally, there is Bitcoin. Created by a person called “Satoshi Nakamoto” in 2008, Bitcoin is the first digital currency that fulfills all the requirements of a real, sustainable currency. It is scarce; it is controlled not by one entity, but by everyone (“open source”); it is encrypted and (so far) unhackable; and each unit can only be owned by one person, eliminating the possibility of a pyramid scheme.
While the technological aspects of this new innovation are difficult to grasp, the real-world consequences are not. Trading for a few cents when it went live, Bitcoins are now worth over $100 apiece. Bitcoins can be used at an ever-increasing number of digital marketplaces. Soon they will be a payment option at virtually every online store.
The most remarkable thing about Bitcoin is its ability to be completely free of state intervention. No person or group of people could gain control of the currency production like we see today everywhere in the world. As an alternative to paper money and even precious metals, Bitcoin unlocks an entirely new world of possibilities, much like the Internet and email did a few decades ago.
Economic author Jeffrey Tucker has said of Bitcoin, “Innovations in money are going to lead to a complete separation between money and state, and if the state can’t control the money, it can’t control anything at all.
“I don’t think states are aware of it,” Tucker continues. “In fact, it’s so terrifying to them, they can’t even think about it, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. If Bitcoin fulfills even a fraction of its promise, it could change the world.”
Bitcoin may not be the currency that it promises to be. Nevertheless, it is inarguably a harbinger of the future in which digital currency reigns supreme. While Bitcoin may be a “fad” or a “bubble,” the idea of digital currency and the benefits that come with it are not.
If government did not control the money, there would be no need for a Federal Reserve to buy Congress’ debt. As a result, there would be no war as we know it. There would be no welfare as we know it. There would be no government as we know it.
That would be a great thing.
Every day, the government does some stupid thing or enacts some idiotic law that prevents the free market from functioning properly. Yet, every day, entrepreneurs, innovators, and creators find their way through the proverbial crack to bask in the metaphorical sunlight. The Google driverless car, 3D printing, and Bitcoin are three marvelous recent examples of the free market at work.
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