Should gadget makers "brick" your phone--refusing to let a new use register it--if it's stolen?
The biggest worry most people have with a lost device is that someone will call Guam on their phone and talk for 9 hours, so gadget makers say their priority is shutting down the account to prevent fraudulent charges. And the New York Times wrongly implies with its headline that gadget makers can always find your phone; in the cases where I've had something stolen, the thieves usually tried to use it a few times, then tossed it.
Still, no one should be able to use a stolen phone, Kindle, or other gadget.... If you're using a Kindle or an iPhone, the company has quite a lot of information on you, and they should use that information to reunite owners with their lost property.
But apparently they don't, because they'd rather sell content to the thief, or the person who purchased the device from the thief. This seems like an obvious place for some basic regulation.
The libertarian is calling for regulation to force the companies to change, when all McArdle has to do is wait until public pressures and/or poor sales force the company to offer the new services that she wants. If they won't she can just get a different e-book or phone. Hasn't she heard of free market forces? If someone gets hurt in the process at least they will know they are supporting free market capitalism.
Sure, McArdle will be out a Kindle or phone and the thief will have a ton of new information to use against her to commit more theft, but it's better than having the government, which is incompetent and lives on a slippery slope, take over the matter. Her loss will be a harsh lesson to the giant corporations who manufacture the products that she is willing to sleep on the street to get before everyone else. Who knows where the government will stop if they start to regulate? Next thing you know there'll be three million dead Kindles and telephones. You're substituting Kindle lives in the future for Kindle lives in the present. And what about those future Kindles--how can Kindle make enough money to spur further Kindle innovation if it has to hunt down stolen Kindles and give them back to their owners, instead of selling a new Kindle to the newly Kindle-less? It's immoral!