Let’s pretend that you’re a fledgeling inventor who has come up with a new mechanism to make a currently available tool safer. The idea seems solid but it’s also very expensive which has lead to nobody licensing your invention from you. What do you do? If you’re the asshole who invented SawStop you go to Capitol Hill and try to use government to force companies to license your invention:
Gass’ saw uses an electrical sensor to detect when the blade touches flesh instead of wood. Within a few thousandths of a second, the blade slammed to a stop.
But as well as the technology works, the major tool companies have failed to put this kind of device on any of their table saws — even eight years after Gass offered to license it to them.
“They came back and said, ‘Well, we’ve looked at it, but we’re not interested because safety doesn’t sell,’ ” Gass says.
SawStop, Gass’ little upstart company, has sold tens of thousands of these safer table saws, and lately things have been heating up in Washington. The National Consumers League last month brought in injured woodworkers to meet with lawmakers and regulators. They want to make the SawStop safety brake mandatory on all table saws.
That’s one of the most dick moves somebody can perform. When you want to make money by creating a better mouse trap that is great and I fully support you. On the other hand if you want to make money by getting the government to use their monopoly on the initiation of force to make people buy your mouse trap I will condemn you.
The reason saw companies aren’t adopting SawStop isn’t because safety doesn’t sell, it’s because safety isn’t worth the asking price to most people:
In other words, let consumers decide. Young says many consumers won’t want to pay for the SawStop technology, which could add $100 to $300 in cost, depending on which side you talk to.
As mentioned earlier in the article SawStop has sold tens of thousands of their safer saws. His customers obviously felt the additional cost of those saws was small enough that it outweighed their fear of getting injured should their finger get near the saw blade. On the other hand other people who’ve purchased saws want something that is cheap (for instance a person who uses a saw sporadically for hobby project) and adding an additional $100 to $300 will make a big difference to those people.
The reason a free market is great is because it allows us to determine what will be available. Different customers have different wants. Some people want an industrial saw because their business requires it while others want a cheap saw because they only use it once every two years. By mandating SawStop the legislature would destroy the market for those wanting a cheap saw as the cost of licensing the technology is more than some of those saws are.
And in the end there is an incredibly cheap and effective safety mechanism for saws called a push stick. Hell you can make a push stick with basic woodworking tools (no saw required) in a few minutes. Not only do I hope legislation mandating the inclusion of SawStop on all saws fails but I hope Mr. Gass goes out of business and ends up poor and penniless on the streets. Does that sound harsh? It should, I’m not a fan of somebody using force to line their own pockets.