This just in from the folks at Reason: The 3D Economy – Forget Guns, What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes? Excerpt:
Imagine what will happen when millions of people start using the tools that produced The Liberator to make, copy, swap, barter, buy, and sell all the quotidian stuff with which they furnish their lives. Rest in peace, Bed, Bath & Beyond. Thanks for all the stuff, Foxconn, but we get our gadgets from Pirate Bay and MEGA now.
Once the retail and manufacturing carnage starts to scale, the government carnage will soon follow. How can it not, when only old people pay sales tax, fewer citizens obtain their incomes from traditional easy-to-tax jobs, and large corporate taxpayers start folding like daily newspapers? Without big business, big government can’t function.
Naysayers to this scenario point out that the typical 3D printer is still expensive (a canard; technology always drops in relative price as it becomes mainstreamed) and that users still have to buy raw materials and software (somewhat accurate; raw materials will also become cheaper, but software is effectively uncontrollable.)
This tech, Reason accurately points out, has the potential to set manufacturing on its ear. However, world-changing new tech always does; the invention of the automobile and Henry Ford’s introduction of mass production in the automotive industry changed the world, and drove several competing industries into near-extinction almost overnight; buggy-whip makers, horse tack manufacturers, farriers and coachbuilders suddenly found themselves looking for other work. This will do the same; it will be awfully hard for TV pitchmen to convince you to buy the new Whang-O One-Hand Bottle Opener for just $9.95 (Order NOW and we’ll double the offer!) when the typical consumer will be able to download a pattern and print their own.
Be prepared, however, to expect some pushback from your local regulators. Over the past decade or so, as newer technologies and fewer opportunities for traditional employment have prompted more people to act in entrepreneurially innovative ways, government’s response has been the same: Consumers must be protected against strawberry balsamic jam made in home kitchens. Tourists must be protected against immaculately maintained carriage houses that can be rented on a daily basis for below-hotel rates. Travelers must be protected from cheap rides from the airport.
When government realizes that self-produced plastic shower curtain rings are far more potentially disruptive than self-produced plastic pistols, it’ll be more than libertarian entrepreneur-iconoclasts at risk.
3D printing gives consumers much, much more control over a wide range of consumer goods – how they will be produced, designed, bought and sold. The down side: Government at all levels in institutionally incapable of surrendering control. This is a technology that threatens to place a vast swath of consumer goods outside the taxable, regulated grasp of industry and in the direct control of consumers. Watch for the inevitable shouts of the need to control this – probably “for our own good.”