2017 SECOND PLACE ESSAY

by Bethany Cooksey, Age 15
Submitting Teacher: Kathryn Cooksey


Since the beginning of time, man has been inventing. From the wheel to the phone to the lightbulb, inventions are constantly making our lives better. However, in many situations, innovation brings new problems while solving old ones, sometimes creating bigger problems than before. 

Asbestos was supposed to be both cheap and magical. It was a material that was strong, sound-resistant, fire-resistant and electricity-proof. However, with its increase in use came asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory problems. Although the U.S. government hasn’t banned all of the types of asbestos yet, its use has gone down significantly in the past forty years. Should America ban it altogether?

With the invention of genetic modification, scientists are creating wonder plants that are resistant to weed-killers and disease. It seems like a dream come true, but many people are disturbed by genetically modified foods and are supporting the “Non-GMO Movement.” Should the government join them by making genetic modification illegal?

What about music and videos? John Stossel's television special, Tech Revolution, discussed the pros and cons of YouTube and music file-sharing websites. On the one hand, they have made it much easier for us to watch and listen to media for free, but, on the other hand, some would say that they are ruining the entire movie and music industry. 

The same goes for companies like Uber and Airbnb. Some people really appreciate how they make travel easier and cheaper, but taxi drivers and hotel owners protest them, saying that they are taking their jobs or preventing them from making as much money as they would have otherwise. Should the government side with the protestors?

Consider VidAngel. It has revolutionized the way we watch movies and has allowed parents and children to opt out of seeing or hearing violence, profanity, nudity, and even Jar Jar Binks. However, Disney, Warner Brothers, Lucas Films and 20th Century Fox see VidAngel as a threat to their paychecks, and have sued VidAngel, saying that VidAngel is illegally using their movies. According to VidAngel, Hollywood has already won twelve suits against various movie filter companies. Should the government let Hollywood successfully sue yet another filtering company? 

Even computers and smart phones have brought new problems to society. Increased obesity, poor posture, carpal tunnel, phone acne, eye problems, headaches, and many more. Does this suggest that the government should outlaw all technology, prosecute invention, or send Mark Zuckerberg to Alcatraz?

No.

First, pause a moment and imagine what it was like back in the day when someone discovered fire. Suppose his name was George. George’s family was getting sick from the raw meat they ate, and they were also very cold. Suppose then that George rubs two sticks together and invents fire. What an incredible discovery. Unfortunately, he accidentally burns his finger, or worse, someone else’s. 

Would it have been better for George's family to die from frostbite, food poisoning or starvation, or to burn his finger occasionally? Beyond that, this was a monumental discovery of energy. Fortunately, the government did not exist then, or else fires might have been banned.

George should have been especially happy that he did not live in New York, sometimes called the “Nanny State”. New York has banned Airbnb, self-driven cars, Uber, and Lyft. As a result, it was counted the least free state by the Cato Institute’s “Freedom in the 50 States” analysis. New York also shares the title “Most Outbound State” with New Jersey. It seems as if banning technology is not going well for New York. 

Remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. This might seem like an instance where the government was right to ban an invention, but it is actually not. For even if the government had not banned the Note 7, who would want to have a bomb for a phone? Samsung certainly did not want to keep selling them, because there could be some terrible accidents and lawsuits.

The role of the government is frequently misunderstood to be a second mother, following us around and making sure we do not get hurt. What the government does not take into account is that we are not babies. We can think for ourselves… and besides, we already have a mother.

To solve these problems, here is what the government should do about innovation: the more they stay out of the people's business, the better they will be able to invent, sell, and improve the economy. Let the people of America -- the consumers -- analyze the pros and cons of any new invention, and let them decide for themselves whether they want to spend their money on it or not. 

Even if something is entirely stupid, the government does not have to ban it. Oftentimes, it is not very popular to be stupid anyway.