If ICANN Regulated Cars
By Harold Feld
Let us pretend we are back in 1901 instead of 2001. The dominant means of high speed transportation is rail. Even in cities, private trolley companies and subways are bringing rail speeds everywhere. The alternative is the much slower and messier horse, which also must be stabled and fed. But a healthy industry has grown up around horse transport, and it works reasonably well for most folks. There continue to be refinements in horse related technologies all the time, which people hale as tremendous progress and a boon to all mankind.
Now for the last few years, people have started to play with this wacky thing called an "automobile." It is only just starting to grow from a curiosity into a real item of commerce. Costs are coming down and more people are owning them, although only a fraction of the people who could own them, do. Some farsighted folks are predicting great things for the "automobile" or "car." There is even a guy named Ford who is talking about producing cars in such volumes that every middle class family could afford one. He swears his "mass production" methods will revolutionize not merely transport, but industry generally, and it will provide relatively high paying jobs (25 cents an hour!) even to those who lack the years of training to be an artisan.
It does however, have one problem. Accidents are more frequent (and more disastrous when they occur) then in the existing regime of rail and horse.
Now suppose that the train people and the horse-n-buggy people believe they will be driven out of business by the "automobile." They launch a massive campaign against the car in the name of public safety. Indeed, the epitome of the car owner, they say, is some kid "jazzed up" on ragtime music who, with his buddies, drive around at all hours hepped up on marijuana and get into terrible accidents, frighten honest folk, and generally make the world unsafe. They slam into innocent horses and run across train tracks without warning. And, they will put millions of blacksmiths and other related industries out of business.
The train and horse people want to make it clear, of course, that they *love* cars. In fact, they want to see cars succeed. But honest law abiding folks will never adopt cars as a real mode of transportation (although they are buying up all the available ones like hotcakes) unless they can be made safe and compatible with existing horse and rail transportation.
In response, the government forms a regulatory commission and puts on it all the existing transportation exports: i.e., train and horse people. The train and horse people decide that to protect "stability of the roadways," cars must include numerous expensive safety features -- including a device which ensures they run slower than horses and devices that keep them from carrying freight, like trains. In addition, the committee recommends that automobile manufacturers and purchasers have to negotiate for use of the each individual street with all owners of horses to establish proper rights of way.
The tragedy is that the impact isn't just felt by the car people. All the filling stations that will never emerge, the boon to construction of roads suitable for automobiles, the increased demand for rubber and steel and the ripple effects from expansion of *those* industries, all of this will never take place. On the plus side, the blacksmiths will still flourish, the train monopolies will run on time, and the number of automobile related fatalities will remain predictably low.
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