Tag Archives: economics

Music Piracy and Star Trek

This is one of those absolutely bizarre ideas that one has completely inexplicably, but then feel the need to share with the world.

Once upon a time, music was scarce. It was all bound up into a physical item: a vinyl record, a tape, or a CD. If you wanted a copy of the music, you’d have to physically remove that item from the possession of someone else. There was no such thing as piracy; there was only theft.

What has happened since then is that technology has ensured that music has become a post-scarcity commodity; once a piece of music is in existence, it costs almost nothing to reproduce and transmit it. As most of you are aware, this has caused the music industry to collectively shit itself; it’s not their fault, really. The people at the top were too old, and too stuck in their ways to understand that the economics they were used to were fundamentally gone, replaced by something that nobody had ever really seen before.

Which makes me wonder what will happen if something like Star Trek replicators are ever invented. To the uninitiated, a replicator allows any item to be duplicated as long as one possesses the raw materials. This of course leaves some scarcity, as the raw materials will still be hard to come by, but it raises the spectre of a world in which, say, an Audi or an iPhone can be duplicated as easily as the latest Muse single.

I have no conception of how such an economics would impact society. Imagine if the histrionics of the music industry were repeated everywhere, from every sector and corner of society.

The shame of it is that living in a truly post-scarcity society would probably be like existing in utopia. Although, there’s probably a reason that “utopia” means “not place”.

Europe

Through awful necessity I’ve been trawling through the regulations required to bring a medical device to market. It’s highly Byzantine, which convinces me it would really be very sensible to pay someone to do this for you.

Anyways, happily the regulations required for doing so and getting a CE mark on your product are harmonised across Europe, so a device fit for sale in the UK is automatically good for sale anywhere in the EU and EEA, and even a few places beyond that which trade with the EU.

These regulations are implemented via EU directives, the aims of which are incredibly noble; rather than having to conform to regulations in every country you want to go to market in, you need only comply in your own country, and you comply everywhere in Europe.

Now for this system to work, it’s necessary for every country to transpose the directives into national law, as is the process for all EU directives. In the UK, these directives are implemented as part of a Consumer Safety Act, and policed by several bodies, including Trading Standards, the Health and Safety Executive, and the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

So for the aim of these regulations to succeed, that is, make it easier for business to work in Europe, EU law must form part of National law; some part of our sovereignty must be ceded to the EU. In return, we take part in the political structure that then forms those regulations, we elect our MEPs, we help write the constitution Lisbon treaty, we get the (formerly) rotating Presidency for a few months, etc.

If we pulled out of this political structure, we’d just end up receiving the same regulations, but without any say in how they are written. This would not be an improvement. Pulling out of the economic harmonisation endeavour entirely would be both stupid and pointless; all having an entirely seperate British regulatory system would do is force businesses to go through red-tape twice if they want to export to Europe.

Basically, the upshot here is that UKIP , the BNP and eurosceptic Conservatives are basically retarded. The goal of helping our businesses through economic harmonisation necessarily entails a corresponding political harmonisation. You cannot have one without the other, and our current way of stubbornly denying this fact is entirely mad.

Instead of a reasonable framework in which laws passed in Europe just apply in the UK we have a ridiculous process of transposition of directives, instead of a proper constitution we have a treaty that crudely patches together all the existing treaties, etc. It’s silly, and based on nothing more than the essentially odd idea of nationalism; the loyalty to whichever strip of land you happen to be born on, rather than on something more important like values and ideals.

I guess I’ve made a firm decision that a properly federal Europe is a good idea, for reasons with a little more substance than naïve idealism.