Schneier's Essay (30 Sep 2004)

So, as Oskar at least has noticed, comments have been removed from this site. This is for two reasons: few people used them - they mostly emailed me anyway; I switched to a new server and couldn't be bothered to setup comments.

But Oskar wanted to take me up on a few points. I'm not posting his email here because it wasn't a public and I haven't asked him.

I linked to an essay a while back about car license plates. The reason I did this is because I thought it put across a good point that ease of access makes a fundamental difference. Often it's suggested that since cars have "always" has license plates, then the introduction of cameras which can log every car isn't a fundamental change.

For most of the time that ID plates have been in operation there has been a cost to looking them up. That cost was in the time it took to do it. Thus there was a fairly inflexible limit to the rate of queries and they didn't have to ban anything because there were no technologies that could do it quicker.

But that cost has now disappeared and reducing the cost of anything to zero usually results in a big effect. We could impose a query limit on the central computer somewhere - but we all know that would be ignored for 'national security' and they could get traffic analysis anyway.

Maybe now the old system (of limited lookups) is impossible we shouldn't have license plates (and maybe we should never have had them), but I don't believe that we'll ever get that freedom back.


Next up, my linking to this Guardian text.

Now, I'm sure that many writers for the Guardian would be very upset at the thought of an unregulated market. All that uncertainty, all that rope to hang oneself with. Much better to have some government take care of all that for me, right? Not as far as I'm concerned and Oskar suggests this report which shows the link between uninterfered markets and their success.

But Kosovo and Iraq aren't examples of corrupt backwards governments being knocked over for the good of the people. The assets of the state are being stolen by force. The people of those countries were forced to buy these `public' enterprises for the state or to give their labour to them - misguided and inefficient as they may have been. That was the first theft and that should be righted as much as possible by giving the people ownership of them. If they then choose to sell to someone else that's their business.

But, unsurprisingly, what's happening is that these assets are being sold off to outside groups with the proceeds disappearing into the mists of government. The spoils of war, right?


Just to make it clear - I don't think that RPOW is going anywhere practically. A currency backed by a non-scarce resource isn't going to work. Worse yet, Moore's Law suggests an inflation rate of about 160% per year, right? :)