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Right to Repair

If you're not familiar with Right To Repair, you should read how the advocates describe their position.  Basically they are unhappy that modern cars have computers in them that are encrypted, preventing the average mechanic from working on the engine of the car.

This is a thorny issue for libertarians, who believe that government intervention in industry should be as light as possible, and only happen when the rights of the people are threatened.
When a car is sold, the new owner has no responsibilities to the auto manufacturer and has right to seek repair wherever he/she choose. The owner also has the right to attempt to repair the car personally.

Clearly the government has no right to interfere with the owner's rights. But should government interfere with the manufacturers right to create a defective by design product?

I see very little difference between a car and a computer in this case. I find Apple computer to be a very aggressive company, with the way that they only allow for music and programs for the Iphone to be bought through their store. While I as a computer professional find this onerous, Apple has done nothing illegal in setting this up, and in fact has many happy customers, inspite of the restrictions on the product. An example of this is that if I have a recording of my band on my Iphone, there is no way for me to share that recording with you on your Iphone directly, even though it's very possible with the technology on the devices. Apple deliberately prohibits that.

Should the government FORCE Apple to change this policy? Clearly they are restricting the rights of their customers...

IPhone customers can choose to jailbreak their phones however, and once they do that they can use their phones as they please. They can install whatever programs they want, and share files as they would like. 

I think that Right to Repair should be the same way. Car manufacturers should be forced to disclose if cars that they sell can only be serviced at the dealerships, or what the cost would be to a local mechanic to be able to service their car. But it they want to use computer codes in their cars to disable functionality on a product they are making, the law should not FORCE them to comply with the wishes of another business.

However manufacturers should NOT however be able to use the law to prohibit mechanics from "jailbreaking" cars. Reverse engineering is a well protected right in the United States. Compaq made billions of dollars by legally reverse engineering the IBM PC. 

A step further -- In the beginning Apple did not sell mp3s at the ITunes store -- instead the sold music that restricted the owners rights to do with it as they please. As owners became more informed, and competitors such as Amazon and Walmart started selling unencrypted mp3s, Apple was forced to change their policy as consumers voted with their wallets.

I do not support government intervention in directing a business on how to operate when there is no clear violation of the rights of the citizens. While I cherish my local mechanic, and am happy for all that he does for me, the rights of the consumer are not threatened by encrypted codes SO LONG AS THE CONSUMER IS INFORMED.

I will support all legislation that promotes FULL disclosure, and a car manufacturer should disclose all the barriers of entry involved with servicing their cars. And they should not be allowed to prevent reverse engineering of their cars.

But they should not be forced into a practice they view as noncompetitive by government. The consumer has the right to buy any car. If this manufacturer is able to discount the price of the car because he thinks that he will make some of the money back via service, this is not enough of an infringment on the rights of the consumer to warrant government intervention.

And this is where principle must be served. I'm not happy about what my decision may mean. I think it stinks that the car manufacturers are doing this and given an option I would prefer that my local mechanic be able to service my car. But I do NOT think the answer to this problem is government intervention. The answer is consumer activism and protection of the mechanics' rights to reverse engineer anything. If you believe in smaller government, you must believe in it all the time.


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