Perhaps you’ve seen this photo of model Dita Von Teese wearing a dress made by a 3D printer.
I’ve noticed a couple of articles abut this development, one in the Fashionista website: “The implications of 3-D printing on the fashion industry cannot be understated. It has the potential to do great things: create shorter lead times for designers, offer the ability to produce things in smaller quantities, and create easy personalization.”
The Truthout web page takes a somewhat more alarmist attitude; “3D Printed Guns Won’t Hurt You – but Jobs of 50 Million Women Could Be in Danger”.
The idea of “fashion” itself might seem sort of frivolous, yet much, if not all, of modern marketing revolves around it. One of the ways that the aristocracy has reinforced it’s position in the world has been in terms of manner of dress. Going back to the middle ages, if not further, royalty has always cloaked itself in splendor few people could enjoy. Indeed, they were the only folks who could possibly afford clothing that went beyond keeping one’s body safe from exposure to the elements. The beginnings of the very concept of fashion were the tailors and dressmakers that were in charge of keeping royalty one step ahead of the rabble (actually the emerging merchant classes) with ever more fantastic designs the less well heeled couldn’t afford.
The textile industry was the leading edge of the industrial revolution and a big part of the economy of that fledgling nation, the United States. Modern “marketing” that plays on emotions and everyone’s desire to be the King or Queen (or at least look or live like one) and the very market itself are creations of the industrial era that expanded in lockstep with the modern, corporate economy. Our marketplace is one where emotional appeal rules, not “rational self interest”. We’re a society of “wants” not “needs”.
The point I’m trying to make here is that 3D printers, nano technology and increasingly less expensive computational power along with previously unavailable streams of all sorts of data are likely to make the 21st century a very different place than 19th century economists could have envisioned. The uses of capital are likely to be very different, as they already are. Do you think that Adam Smith, Von Mises, or Marx envisioned hedge fund managers, credit default swaps or that computational speed would be major factor in financial transactions? They provided useful prisms with which to understand the pre-corporate economies of post-enlightenment Europe and the beginnings of the industrial era, not laws of nature.
Along with this 19th century legacy, come two conflicting economic theories that have become the basis for our current political stalemate. One might call this divide Capitalism/Socialism, or Big Government vs Big Business, but whatever one calls it, we must admit we are still arguing over economic concepts that have lead to a complete stalemate leading right up to today’s government shutdown. We’ve handed over our futures to opposing groups of people who have a religious fervor that their economic god is the one true path to salvation and freedom from tyranny. We need to realize that all the fuss has been about who’s economic theory is the correct one. “Social Issues”, as important and real as they are, have served mainly as “useful” ways to pick up support by the two parties.
Does anyone believe that economics is actually a science?. Seriously? Economic theory has always been used to justify that whoever sits in the seat of power is somehow entitled to be in that position and we end up slaves to an economic system rather than having one that serves us. Human Capital needs to be more important than Economic Capital. Blaming our current mess on either “The Government” or “Greedy Corporations” with the assumption that everything will get better if we’d just rid of one of them is neither realistic nor likely to produce a lasting solution. (Ironically, we may be on the edge of having enough accurate data, and the ability to analyze it, for economics to be something more than a theoretical guessing game propelled by quasi-mystical concepts like “the invisible hand”)
I think we need to realize that the concentration of wealth we are now experiencing also confers a concentration of power that allows a small percentage of the population to effectively “rule”. The entire theory of the government the founding fathers set up was to prevent a concentration of power in the hands of one individual or group. Shrinking the government to where it gives even more power to those who are already the power behind the throne and have no such checks and balances is not likely to produce a result most of us will be happy with.
I think we must also realize that the modern multinational corporation has evolved into a profoundly non-democratic institution; only casually related to anything one might call the “free market”. Do you think the lot of a factory worker in China, working 12 hour shifts six days a week and living in a dormitory has a lot much different from a feudal peasant in the 17th century? More “choices” in her working environment? (Or a factory worker in the early 20th century USA?) The workings and governance of the modern multinational corporation throw a monkey wrench into the anarcho-capitalist wing of the Libertarian movement who feel that if “big government” would just “get out of the way” that the “free market” would somehow restrain the multinationals without a shred of evidence that would actually happen.
We’ve entered a new era with many challenges that have never existed before and we’re still arguing about a horse that escaped the barn a long time ago. We’re a giant ocean liner headed towards a looming iceberg with two opposing sides fighting for the wheel steering right into it.
I feel the major problem with out government is that we have a “free market” for politicians that results in the “best government that money can buy”. Our political campaigns have turned into mere advertising where complex ideas are dumbed down to catchy slogans with high emotional content, but little in the way of actual ideas or specifics. We have a legislature made up of millionaires who have to raise huge sums just to run for office. It would be foolish to assume they aren’t beholden to those who’s money they depend on. “We The People” can effectively “take back” our government by passing legislation that ends the idea that corporations have the same rights as people in terms of political speech.
We then need to severely limit campaign spending, and we can help to do that on our own by not voting for anyone who refuses to sign a pledge stating that he or she will accept no campaign contributions in an amount greater than $1,000 from any one individual or organization during either the campaign or his or her term in office.
You’re not restricting free speech if you give everyone the same opportunity to be heard. With this being the era of the internet, one person can get access to the entire world (or at least the portion that has internet access) by starting his or her own website. (More people read this blog than read my hometown newspaper) This is something that has never before been possible and should usher in a new era of representative democracy.
Our system of government has endured for over 200 years, because, by and large, the will of the people has managed to be carried out and because it has lead to compromises that seem to suit most people. Most of us are mostly middle-of-the-road in our beliefs. Now our political system has become gridlocked, fossilized into two opposing camps who are unwilling to budge and our legislative process is being held hostage to legislators who’s number one goal is staying in power and pulling us to one side or the other .
The 21st Century will belong to those who understand the world is rapidly changing, and who have governments that are able to assist it’s citizens in adapting to meet those changes. History, if it shows anything to us, would seem to indicate that one needs private enterprise and effective government. (Think of the US between 1945 and 1980) It also shows us that countries with a high level of financial inequality don’t do too well. (South America would be a great example of this) It is no coincidence that the fortune (in every sense of the word) of the middle class began to decline as big money took over the political system. The fact that financial inequality has sharply risen over the last 30 years is evidence our leaders have not been looking out after the interests of their constituents.
It’s time to end the sideshow spectacle of American politics. It’s NOT a panacea that will end all problems or solve all issues, but unless we return the reins of the government to those who represent the majority of Americans instead of those who have the money they need to get re-elected, we can look forward to a future of gridlock and government by crises.