If there’s anything that scares government loving progressives more it isn’t what you might think. A lot of people (myself included) would think threats to the Democrat voter base would be the worst thing to progressives. Apparently that’s not the case. The biggest threat is anything that challenges their political money base.
Uber is a fine example of free enterprise at work. It uses existing untapped resources (people who already have vehicles) to provide a service better at a cheaper price than what is already offered (taxi services, in this case), and the people who do the work (individual citizens using their own vehicles) get to enjoy a little prosperity for their efforts. The process is self regulating (reputational tracking) which protects both passengers and drivers, and all this happens in real time. And drivers get to set their own schedules to work as much or as little or how they want. Is this a great country or what?
Well, for some, the answer is “or what”.
You would think offering the people more choice, improved service, at a lower price, with no increased risk to their well being would be a good thing. But you’re not an ultra leftist, are you? You don’t think government knows best and government needs to be in charge of everything and control people’s choices (except who they have sex with), do you? But some people are ultra leftists, radical progressives who think too much freedom and independence is a danger to us all.
The Washington Post’s Emily Badger recently chronicled how NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to limit Uber. The mayor essentially tried to paint Uber as a big corporate bully trying to tell government what to do. Does Uber make money in the billions? Yes. Is Uber a big corporation? Well, that depends on a few of the details. You see, the many people offering rides to people are the primary driving force of Uber. Without them Uber would never have gotten off the ground. Then there are the millions of people to use Uber to transport themselves. They are the paying customers, they are the source of Uber’s billions. Why would so many people in big cities choose Uber over taxies and public transportation? I’m sure you can figure that out on your own.
But to make choice and innovation and convenience look bad de Blasio essentially has to treat Uber like the Kulaks, a class of peasants (that’s you and me, and Uber drivers) who have the gumption to rely on ingenuity and ambition to create something other people are willing to pay for but has the unfortunate effect of challenging government cronyism. And what crony industry is being challenged by Uber – taxi cartels. Badger provides this nugget in her article:
“This lets other cities know that Uber is not going to be intimidated by municipal governments,” said Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at NYU, “that the days of taxi industry cartels are over, and that meddling with how people get from place to place is not easily done in an age of Internet-based mobility.”
Okay, if you’d like a less politically loaded term, instead of taxi cartel how about we just call them Medallion owners. But they are an example of cronyism none-the-less. In fact, what is a medallion in this context anyway? It’s a regulated requirement of taxi companies, companies who are highly regulated by their local governments and have to pay sometimes over $1 million to have the right to transport people around town. And the taxi industry’s multi-billion dollar bottom line is being threatened by Uber. But because of the many regulations on taxis, so is the tax revenue big city governments collect from taxi companies.
Ironically, it is taxi companies who are acting like a big corporate bully trying to tell government what to do. Taxi companies are complaining that Uber is taking business away from medallion owners and driving prices down. Oh my! And to rectify this horrible travesty taxi companies are pressuring governments to clamp down on Uber. And taxi companies have allies.
The Observer’s Ronn Torossian also seems to think Uber is a danger to the people, not merely the taxi companies. Torossian is worried that Uber drivers are unregulated and therefore dangerous. Never mind pedestrians are unregulated and people walk passed them all the time. But government regulation is not the only means of regulating Uber and similar businesses. Market self-regulation is happening via the reputation tracking feature in Uber. The reputation tracking idea is old, as far as technology goes. And it’s viability has been proven beyond doubt by giants such as Ebay.
On the more mindless end of things is infamous personality Russel Brand, complaining about profit. We all know cab companies are in the transportation business for money but Brand doesn’t seem to realize this. And he thinks Uber drivers don’t put their “profits” back into the local economy like official cab drivers do.
On the elitist, arrogant side is Mayor de Blasio himself. He was offered an opportunity to debate the issues with Uber but smugly rejected the invitation claiming he doesn’t “debate with private corporations” and labeled the open invitation as an attempt to dictate to government.
But the public isn’t buying that. While there is indeed a lot of blowback, guess who’s defending Uber – the people! Not only Uber drivers, but Uber’s customers are defending it. Uber agreed to a four month study of its impact on traffic and the environment, which also gives de Blasio room to maneuver for his cronies who don’t like Uber. While de Blasio lost this round, the battle is not over.
Opponents of Uber would have you believe they are concerned about corporate greed (but not government greed or government cronyism). You should be aware of some history about government regulation of transportation.
The progressive political class doesn’t like Uber because it threatens the flow of money into their coffers. They claim they are trying to protect people and to protect the environment, but to quote the mayor, “Let’s not kid ourselves about their motivations.”
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