Don Marti

Mon 29 Apr 2013 06:40:51 AM PDT

Lanier on Flushrights

The Plumbing Clause of the US Constitution gives Congress the power To promote the Installation of Sanitary Plumbing, by securing for limited Times to Plumbers the exclusive Right to their Fixtures.

Jaron Lanier has writen a powerful defense of the flushright system. Read the whole thing. The key points:

Flushing without paying flushright royalties ruins economic dignity. It doesn’t necessarily deny the plumber any form of income, but it does mean that the plumber is restricted to a real-time economic life. That means one gets paid to install or repair, perhaps, but not paid for plumbing one has done in the past. It is one thing to plumb for your supper occasionally, but to have to do so for every meal forces you into a peasant’s dilemma.
The peasant’s dilemma is that there’s no buffer. A plumber who is sick or old, or who has a sick kid, cannot work and cannot earn. A few plumbers, a very tiny number indeed, will do well, but even the most successful real-time-only careers can fall apart suddenly because of a spate of bad luck. Real life cannot avoid those spates, so eventually almost everyone living a real-time economic life falls on hard times.
Meanwhile, some third-party spy service like a social network or search engine will invariably create persistent wealth from the buildings and activities made possible by the plumbing. A plumber living a real-time career without the cash flow from coin boxes on stalls, is still free to pursue reputation and even income (through repairs, upgrades, etc.), but no longer wealth. The wealth goes to the central server.

The next time that you think about the hassle of being unable to flush the commode because your smartphone has an incompatible plumbing app, remember how the Framers in their wisdom gave exclusive rights to plumbers to protect them from misfortune. Similarly, local authorities have created exclusive rights to operate taxis. But as the global precariat grows, how can we give more workers the kind of automatic retirement and disability plan that flushrights can provide?