“Did you know all this about Home?” Vic asked.
“Very little of it,” Eileen admitted. “Mostly, I knew that it and the Moon colonies are the only places that have no regulation of life extension therapies.”
“And yet we have the public cameras on the corridors and places like the cafeteria and docks,” Vic said. “Even without regulation I don’t see freaks like China produces.”
“Technically China has regulation, thousands and thousands of pages of it I gave up trying to wade through,” Eileen said. “It doesn’t prohibit stupid modifications like webbed hands and feet. That would be great for Olympic swimmers if any other country would allow them in. But it doesn’t have much to do with extending a normal life.”
“It doesn’t seem like Home has much regulation of anything,” Vic said. “They certainly don’t regulate banking. There are basically two banks, a couple of payday lending companies and some odd little companies, usually individuals, who buy and sell currencies, stocks, jewelry, lift tickets and such sort of like pawn brokers. But pawn brokers aren’t regulated either. On the plus side, I admit the interest rates for those kinds of services aren’t ruinous like here. It’s still scary to have no deposit insurance.”
“Shouldn’t it be just the opposite?” Eileen asked.
Vic opened his mouth, blinked, and shut it.
Eileen looked worried at his reaction. “I mean, the purpose of regulation is to keep unscrupulous people from taking advantage of the public, isn’t it?”
“In theory,” Vic admitted, frowning.
“And in reality?” Eileen asked. “I never learned much about business. I was still in school when The Day so rudely interrupted that. I’ve never even had a job.”
“In reality, it’s often about sucking in more fees for the government creating the regulations. Also for creating a body of merchants beholden to the regulators for keeping the barriers to starting a business high so they have little competition.”
Think about it,” Vic invited. “How many people do you think died of dirty combs because barbers were once unregulated? They once did minor surgery too. That’s where the red strip running down a barber sign comes form. But that was when a real surgeon hardly existed and you were lucky to have a barber who had the tools and would help you. They were pretty much gone by the end of the nineteenth century. But barbers and hair braiders and nail salons are all regulated. If you can see a shop isn’t clean you can go elsewhere. In truth, under regulation the banks can charge more for credit card debt than just going to a loan shark you know is part of organized crime and paying their vig.
“We’ve spent the past couple of years with no regulation. Instead of everybody being anxious for it to start up again we’re worried about them taking our radio net off the air and finding ways to pay sales and income tax when that starts up again. Maybe the Spacers have the right of it. They just went so completely radical that it was a shock to read about it.”
“I don’t know how you know all this stuff,” Eileen said. “It took me forever and learning how to get past the net censors just to find out about life extension. I’ll be too old to go back to school by the time they open. I’m too busy to go back anyway.”
“I didn’t really learn all that stuff in school,” Vic said. “My head is stuffed full of irrelevant and usually useless facts because I read everything I could in books and so many web sites.”
“Our teachers constantly warned us away from reading the web,” Eileen said. “They told us we didn’t have the tools to know what was right or wrong.”
Did they tell you they had the tools to do so? Or give you any idea when they intended to gift you with these mystery tools?” Vic asked.
“We were kids. I can see that was pretty self-serving, now. It was just a way to say believe me, because I say so. If somebody I trusted hadn’t told me the official view of life extension was a lie I’d have never made the huge effort to investigate it. It does make me wonder what else is a lie. Once somebody lies to me I don’t trust them again.”
“See? You have good instincts,” Vic said. “I’ve seen you immediately not trust somebody right when you meet them. Some people never learn that, skill of identifying a liar or a crook from the subtle signs when you meet them. Just like face to face, there’s all kinds of tells online that somebody is self-serving or lying. I can tell you have the capacity already. You don’t immediately believe gossip and you reasoned out why it was not in our gold refiner’s self interest to cheat us. We’ll do some lessons in the evening. Not dry school subjects. I’ll more formally introduce you to what constitutes critical thinking. Consider it getting ready to live up there. I’m pretty sure Home is short on stupid people to deal with. If you want something like math that isn’t opinion based there’s lots of free university level courses online. We don’t have to be frugal with data now.”
“I’d like that. Maybe you aren’t too old to consider taking some?” Eileen suggested.
“Maybe,” was as far as Vic would go.