Economic Puritanism

 

The PuritanIt’s likely — okay, certain — that the punditocracy writes too much about Uber and Lyft. It’s just that they’re so damn illustrative: their businesses are easily understood, innocuous, cartel-busting, accessible, and at-will almost to a fault. They have very little coercive power over their contractors, who work when they want, directly serve clients, and are compensated more when their services are most in demand. They’re fantastic introductions to microeconomics, just with smart phones and getting home from the airport thrown into the mix.

As such, it should come as little surprise that a socialist like Bernie Sanders hates these platforms, sufficiently enough to feature an anti-Uber piece on his website (though, interesting, insufficiently enough to not use it). Hillary Clinton has, equally unsurprisingly, made similar noises, with a little more prevarication, or — given who we’re talking about — lies. The common thread is that it’s just not right for people to work for the wages and under the conditions Uber offers, even if such people clearly disagree every time they vacuum their car, grab their keys, and launch the service’s partner app.

To my knowledge, Donald Trump has made no criticism of the gig economy and his tax plan would apparently make things easier for independent contractors in general. I don’t often say this, but good for Trump. It’s a travesty that some forms of employment are needlessly discriminated against, and stupid that it happens to be one of the more enterprising, initiative-driven ones.

What is so amazing about this is that we’re living in an a moment when a host of new tools to earn money and take action have become available. Got a free evening? Drive for Uber. An empty bedroom? Rent it out on AirBNB. Need some seed money to write that book, produce that album, or start that company? Set-up a Kickstarter or Indiegogo account. These may not be the silver bullet to financial success and satisfaction, but no one’s figured that out, nor is anyone ever likely to.

And the Left’s reaction to all this? A haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be earning a living.

 

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There are 16 comments.

  1. Member

    Progs hate individual liberty and freedom. If an activity is not controlled by the government, it needs to be investigated, something has got to be bad about it, especially if that activity enables private wealth. If the activity is controlled by the government, well then, it must have more funding to get better, because it usually is a failure.

    • #1
    • May 24, 2016, at 9:11 AM PDT
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  2. Inactive

    Very nice piece. Sort of the David and Goliath theme, right?

    Except if everyone knows Uber, and so few understand the objections, which is the David and who does that leave as Goliath? Let’s see, who is throwing the stones…

    I don’t think there’s even going to be a fight, just noise and dust.

    • #2
    • May 24, 2016, at 9:12 AM PDT
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  3. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: To my knowledge, Donald Trump has made no criticism of the gig economy and his tax plan would apparently make things easier for independent contractors in general.

    One could hypothesize that Manhattan-based property developers get great value out of the car services that already existed before Uber and Lyft, and therefore might be sympathetic to the idea that ordinary consumers should also be free to access an alternative to taxi cabs.

    Meanwhile, by contrast, Washington politicians have full-time drivers paid for by the taxpayers, and those drivers get government salaries and benefits. As such, those politicians might be less likely to support a car service that doesn’t provide a similar level of compensation for its drivers, because they would then open themselves up to claims of hypocrisy.

    Just a hypothesis.

    (Also, cab companies are huge political donors. That’s surely just a coincidence.)

    • #3
    • May 24, 2016, at 9:19 AM PDT
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  4. Podcaster

    Misthiocracy: Meanwhile, by contrast, Washington politicians have full-time drivers…

    Have you ever taken a cab out of Dulles? There is ONE authorized company: Washington Flyer Taxi Service. ONE.

    • #4
    • May 24, 2016, at 9:28 AM PDT
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  5. Contributor

    EJHill:

    Misthiocracy: Meanwhile, by contrast, Washington politicians have full-time drivers…

    Have you ever taken a cab out of Dulles? There is ONE authorized company: Washington Flyer Taxi Service. ONE.

    I Ubered out of Dulles the last time I was there, so there’s another option.

    • #5
    • May 24, 2016, at 9:57 AM PDT
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  6. Contributor

    Well said….

    Let’s go further: EVERY American should be an entrepreneur, including the school teacher who shows up for work five days every week, and the factory work. Each of them is doing the same thing an Uber driver is doing, which is providing their service in return for compensation. So why shouldn’t all of us enjoy the privileges of being self-employed: We each take care of our own health care, our own pensions — and we each get the same tax privileges as business owners.

    For example, just last week I drove to Vancouver to give a speech. My costs — gas, tolls, etc. — are legitimate business expenses and tax deductible. So why shouldn’t a teacher driving to school, or a worker driving to work at a factory, have the same privileges?

    • #6
    • May 24, 2016, at 9:59 AM PDT
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  7. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: And the Left’s reaction to all this? A haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be earning a living.

    The concern is it is a living over which they have no control. Control of the individual is always the ultimate goal of the left.

    • #7
    • May 24, 2016, at 10:09 AM PDT
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  8. Member

    EJHill:

    Misthiocracy: Meanwhile, by contrast, Washington politicians have full-time drivers…

    Have you ever taken a cab out of Dulles? There is ONE authorized company: Washington Flyer Taxi Service. ONE.

    How many elected officials actually take taxis from the airport?

    • #8
    • May 24, 2016, at 10:32 AM PDT
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  9. Member

    Good article, says a lot with a few words.

    • #9
    • May 24, 2016, at 11:03 AM PDT
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  10. Coolidge

    But it’s all for our protection. Consumers are protected from the drivers. Drivers are protected from the corporation. Old Corporations are protected from the New Corporations. See, everyone is protected, safe.

    • #10
    • May 24, 2016, at 11:04 AM PDT
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  11. Moderator

    Matt Upton:But it’s all for our protection. Consumers are protected from the drivers. Drivers are protected from the corporation. Old Corporations are protected from the New Corporations. See, everyone is protected, safe.

    Most importantly, unions are protected from people working for themselves.

    • #11
    • May 24, 2016, at 11:49 AM PDT
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  12. Inactive

    Matt Upton: But it’s all for our protection.

    Indeed, it seems there is no limit to the things the progressives will do for my own good.

    As Jonah says “they are the car salesman of the state, and there is always more under coating to sell”

    • #12
    • May 24, 2016, at 12:28 PM PDT
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  13. Contributor

    Great post, Tom. Let’s hope we can resurrect entrepreneurship after the last eight years!

    • #13
    • May 24, 2016, at 12:49 PM PDT
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  14. Member

    Tom, I think the examples of Uber and Lyft should be taken even further, and this also applies (unsurprisingly) to Trump.

    The ridiculousness of complaints from the left about disruption are particularly obvious in a local economy, because we can observe that for every job lost there is a job gained, and consumers are better off.

    But what about a global economy? How do we apply those same principles to questions about international trade and tariffs.

    We’ve been “arguing” about this (I use quotes because honestly I’m just trying to learn about the topic enough to participate) in the latter pages of this thread. I started another thread to explore the question more fully. Best I can tell, the legitimate question is how we should apply our own anti-trust laws (and other laws about coercive practices) globally? But the idea that we should take steps to interfere with markets in order to protect American jobs strikes me as only slightly removed from the cases of Uber and Lyft. Protectionism, by definition, results in misallocation of resources, which (as I said on another thread) is always sub-optimal.

    • #14
    • May 24, 2016, at 1:05 PM PDT
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  15. Inactive

    One would think The Left would love said companies. Their aesthetic sensibilities such as the techie-hipster nexus seem to be aligned with this cottage transportation industry writ large. It’s just that when The Left gets it’s tentacles on actual government power it has no problem quashing anyone who would undercut the corporate interests who would help keep them in that power. This screams to me like a freeway traffic volume sign that many on The Left have no moral or ethical compass nor for that matter introspection that would help keep in check their ultimately self harming actions.

    • #15
    • May 24, 2016, at 2:08 PM PDT
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  16. Member

    As one who has been self-employed (and too often self-unemployed) for 4o years, it’s plain to see the government doesn’t really want any of us working for ourselves. We pay the full freight on everything, but don’t receive the same tax breaks as corporations. I’m fortunate: As a writer, my home office deduction has never been questioned, and no license or test is required of me by the state. But God forbid I might want to cut hair in my home and be paid for it.

    The federal government hates that which it does not control.

    • #16
    • May 25, 2016, at 6:46 AM PDT
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