How to Kill America’s Tech Economy in One Lesson

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US Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are at it again. They’ve released a “discussion draft” of  their “bill to require the provision of data in an intelligible format pursuant to a court order. … if such data has been made unintelligible by a feature, product, or service owned, controlled, created, or provided, by the covered entity or by a third party on behalf of the covered entity.”

In plain English: American tech companies would be legally required to only build encryption technology into their products that they could break pursuant to government demands.

There’s been plenty of ink spilled on why this bill is a terrible idea from a privacy standpoint. To put it succinctly, if a type of encryption can be broken, there’s no way to limit to WHO can break it or for what purposes. So even if you trust the US government — and you shouldn’t — the requirements of this bill would also leave you vulnerable to foreign governments, identity thieves and other financially driven cyber-criminals.

Except that no, it really wouldn’t. The strong crypto genie has been out of the bottle for a couple of decades now. Anyone who really wants encryption can get it now and will still be able to get it if the Burr/Feinstein abomination becomes law. That includes “the bad guys” (terrorists and criminals) and it includes you. The only people affected by this law to a level greater than minor inconvenience will be those who just don’t bother.

Except that no, we’ll all be affected, because this bill is custom-made to destroy the US tech industry … and if Silicon Valley sneezes we’re all going to catch a cold.

Yes, America is the prime combination of large and wealthy as a consumer technology market. There are 320 million of us and we’re all rich by comparison to, say, the average resident of Benin City or Budapest or Beijing.

But the seven billion people in those other places do buy computers and smart phones and software. If this bill passes they will continue to buy computers and smart phones and software. They’ll just buy those things from companies that aren’t headquartered in the US or bound by the ignorance and arrogance of the likes of Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein. Why? Because they don’t want Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein reading their mail.

If you’re surprised that Burr and Feinstein would willingly tank the US economy, sending millions of jobs and billions of dollars offshore just to aggrandize their desire for power, you shouldn’t be. That’s what politicians do. Nothing’s more important to a politician than believing he or she is in control. Even if that belief is, as in this case, false.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Also published on Medium.

  • Herb Salit

    Dear Mr. Knapp,

    I read your interesting piece, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. There is no question that the fully-corrupt politicians who comprise the US regime – all fully-owned by Wall Street and the other centers of Capitalist Corporatism – love to aggrandize power, and, of course, to steal money for their puppet-master owners, hoping to merit a ‘doggie treat’ for themselves, too.

    You are, however, quite mistaken, delusionally so, in thinking of The US Empire Homeland – formerly and incorrectly known as ‘The United States’ – as the world’s richest and biggest consumer market, and also as the home to something else important known as ‘the tech sector.’

    Four-to-One China, for example, vastly exceeds the Yankee Imperium in all real economic measures, including disposable consumer income. This society has several true high-technology industrial sectors, all of which have vanished from Yankee visibility.

    The so-called ‘tech sector’ to which you allude involves mostly ‘coding,’ which itself is a rather low-tech grunt-work, though still necessary, process in the overall area of software engineering, a truly high-tech arena from which all Western economies are being increasingly pushed-out because of society-wide shortages of true engineers.

    The ‘USA’ is, in fact, a has-been, empire-state, not long for this world. The only question remaining is how much additional murder and mayhem, death and destruction this rapacious Capitalist Robber Baron bastion will cause on its way down to near-term oblivion.

    Best regards,
    Herbert Salit (
    Los Angeles, CA

    • Herbert,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I chose my words carefully, and think they stand up to scrutiny. Per capita disposable income in the US is close to three times that of China. That’s in the process of changing, but it hasn’t changed yet.

      • Herb Salit

        Hello Thomas,

        Thank you for your reply. Perhaps, in the universe of faux ‘facts’ – which includes the ’emissions’ of all Occidental regimes, universities, corporations, ‘news’ media, etc. – something per capita in the Yankee Imperium might look to be impressive, but, in the real universe, on this planet Earth, most ‘average’ Americans – the serfs of ‘the 99%’ – are barely getting by, living hand-to-mouth with less than $400 in available resources that they could call-up in an emergency.

        By way of contrast, few people in Four-to-One China are that desperately poor, these days. I have been to China many times on business, where, back in the ’90s and ’00s I sold big-ticket US-made capital equipment there. No longer, as the Chinese entered and now dominate all such industries, and this crumbling Homeland long-ago de-industrialized.

        Thus, today, also, by way of contrast, ‘The US Economy’ is mostly a Potemkin fake, its heart being the ‘printing-press’ theft-engine of newly-created Federal Reserve Dollars, which do have purchasing power as the Yankee fiat currency remains the world’s international reserve currency. This, too, is changing, and, I predict, continuing today’s trends, that most of the world’s nations will have fully-exited ‘The Dollar Zone’ – no acceptance or convertibility – within 5-10 years, which will mean ‘sudden death’ for this society.

        I call your attention, too, to the idiot, mendacious concept of a Yankee economic ‘tech sector.’ As I pointed out previously, the domestic economy here actually is rather low-tech, suffering from a massive ‘technical deficit,’ such as in trained, graduate engineers, and a rather primitive ‘technical literacy’ (I have an MS in physics), such that most people, even the few honest ones, cannot tell the difference between true software engineering and rather low-brow ‘coding,’ which is most of the current, urban-domiciled ‘tech sector.’

        Four-to-One China, by the way, annually graduates something like ten-times the number of degreed engineers as the entire collection of Western societies! They already are leading in shaping and building the Humanity’s future, on a cooperative basis, not the predatory, exploitative imperialism and Capitalism of the Occident.

        Herb Salit

        • Herb,

          Well, I can’t see any reason not to defer to your actual experience versus my second-hand research. You’ve been there, I haven’t.

          What do you mean by “Four-to-One China?” Unless you’re referring to the aging population due to the old one-child rule?

          • Herb Salit

            Hello Thomas,

            Thanks for your reply. China, as you know, has over four times the population of this society. China also has – and has had for over 30 years – among the very best educational system and results in the world, especially in technical fields. China already has more industry than all Western nations combined, and Chinese people culturally are thorough, detail-oriented workers, in all fields. The upshot?

            I would say that China soon – such as by the 2020s – will be fully-equal to any Western society in what I call overall ‘per capita development,’ as they already are drawing ‘uncomfortably’ close. That will mean that on a society-wide basis, China is building up to a preponderance of four-to-one over the Yankee Imperium, in all ways, including, of course, military power. Imagine, if the Washington boys planned their ‘foreign policy’ with cognizance that, in their imperial bullying, they would be picking a fight with a ‘new, big kid’ four times their size!

            If you might care to read a little more, a little while back, I published a piece on just this point: **
            Also, this might be of interest:
            Best regards,


          • Herb,

            OK, so 4-to-1 population and at least coming up on 4-to-1 in economic power. That makes sense. I’ll check out your OpEdNews piece, and thanks for taking the time to discuss this stuff with me!