Putting Up Roadblocks

The first Executive Order to come from the new President was withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This was a relatively uncontroversial move, and was also a pretty toothless move, as Congress had effectively withdrawn the US from TPP in 2016. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and many other technologists were in favor of withdrawing from TPP for a very different reason--secretive clauses about US copyright--than the President's protectionism.

Whether we like it or not, technology is going to keep progressing. We all know that laws can slow down progress only so much. The concept of copyright is enshrined by the mighty pen into the U.S. Constitution--it will be no match for technology. Protectionist executive orders will be no match for technology, either. But people of every political stripe will try to put up roadblocks, to stop the rise of the machines, because jobs ARE in danger--workers in the future will lose their jobs to machines, not foreigners.

Nobody wants to tell anybody that we don't need a dozen doctors or lawyers or brick layers or pipe-fitters to do what was necessary a dozen years ago. Computers, robots, gadgets, and software cut down on our need for so much of our workforce. And we can only turn to the mighty proverbial pen to put up roadblocks against this juggernaut.

In the U.S., especially, we are what we do. I remember hearing that from Aussies I met 20 years ago about the difference between Americans and Aussies. Isolated from so much of the world, so many Aussies love to travel. So many Aussies work to travel. Americans' identities are so often tied up with our work. For all intents and purposes, when we fight for the preservation of our jobs, we fight for the preservation of our identities themselves.

In the field of law, bar associations in almost every state are requiring lawyers to have "bona fide offices" in states in which they are admitted but do not live. For instance, Florida lawyers don't want New York lawyers to practice from a condo in Boca in the winter if they are not actually Florida residents. More protectionism. Maybe even understandable--lawyers are worried about competition.

But here's the thing: these rules--these roadblocks--can't last forever. The world is smaller than it's ever been. Technology makes it possible to practice most forms of transactional law--actually, to conduct almost any business--from anywhere on Earth with an Internet connection. And the pen can't stay so mighty when everyone would rather communicate with a mobile device.