Tag: uber

The Left vs. the Sharing Economy: Where Are the Atari Democrats of Today?


Atari-2600-Wikimedia-commons-500x293Vox’s Timothy Lee looks at how Republicans and Democrats view the emerging sharing economy. Republicans — at least nationally — seem almost uniformly positive. They see Uber, for instance, as a feisty, innovative startup vs. regulators and the cronyist taxicab cartel. But Democrats are sort of split. Lee:

Some liberals dislike Uber on ideological grounds, but others — especially in the media, politics, and technology centers of New York, Washington, and San Francisco — are regular Uber customers. On one side of this debate are old-school liberals with strong ties to the labor movement and urban political machines. For them, Uber is a conventional story about worker and consumer rights. Labor unions believe Uber is flouting the law by classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees. And they would love to unionize Uber’s fast-growing workforce.

More broadly, conventional liberals are suspicious of claims that deregulation and innovation will benefit workers and consumers in the long run. They view Uber’s “gig economy” as part of a broader trend toward declining worker power. They blame decades of deregulation — under both Republicans and centrist Democrats like Bill Clinton — for this trend, and believe stricter regulation of Uber could be part of a larger trend toward stricter regulation of labor markets more generally. In his campaign against Uber this week, Bill de Blasio primarily focused on congestion concerns, but he also mentioned workers’ rights as a major concern.

The Toronto Uber Controversy: The Real Issues


2012916-uber-torontoThe Uber controversy has come to Toronto. As most people know, Uber is the smart-phone app that allows people who need a ride to connect to a driver affiliated with Uber. As in other cities, the local taxicab monopoly freaked out at the prospect. If one’s only source of information were the local media, one would get the impression that the taxicab owners’s beef is that Uber’s arrival tilts the playing field against those who comply with City regulations designed to ensure driver safety and car safety.

What the media leaves unmentioned is that a cab license in Toronto costs between $80,000 and $100,000 on the open market, because the number of cabs in Toronto is fixed. In other words, cab owners are paying for the privilege of belonging to a monopoly. This cost has nothing to do with safety regulations.

Another associated but unstated fact is that the financial burden of purchasing a cab license means that the cab owner has less money left over to maintain his car. The more you pay for the license, the less money you have to keep the car in good running order. The result: ratty old cabs.

The Libertarian Podcast, with Richard Epstein: Uber and Innovation


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — brace yourself for this one — is trying to make it harder for Uber to do business in the Big Apple. This comes on the heels, of course, of California trying to upend the company’s classification of its drivers as independent contractors and protests from French cabbies who are upset about the competition.

Can innovative companies like Uber overcome the political power of the incumbent companies they’re disrupting? Is it inevitable that even the most dynamic startups will have to eventually assimilate to the culture of lobbyists and rent-seeking? Those are some of the topics I take up with Professor Epstein in this week’s installment of The Libertarian. Listen in below or subscribe to the show via iTunes or your favorite podcast app.

On Creating New Government Policies to Deal with the Sharing Economy


shutterstock_250766428Nick Hanauer and David Rolf outline a solution to what they (and Hillary Clinton, it seems) argue is a big, big problem right now: economic insecurity created by the growing sharing/on-demand/gig economy. Americans need a new social contract, one that brings more certainty and tangible benefits to all these part-timers and independent contractors. As they explain in Democracy Journal:

This is the new “you’re on your own,” benefit-free, race-to-the-bottom reality for millions of American workers. And as more new innovative businesses and business models are invented, this process will only accelerate. As the sharing economy kicks into high gear, more and more Americans will become independent contractors activated at the touch of a button on an app, working for a fleet of employers. … A robust set of mandatory universal benefits would put all employees and employers alike on an equal footing, while providing the economic security and certainty necessary for the middle class to thrive.

So what does this new social contract look like? It consists of two parts, what Hanauer and Rolf  have termed a “Shared Security Account” and “Shared Security Standards.”  here is how this system works:

Trust 2.0


shutterstock_225204676On Monday, I ordered lunch from the Japanese take-out I frequent. At the register, I realized that I’d forgotten my wallet back at my desk. Sheepishly, I offered to run back and get it, but the owner handed me my food, smiled, and told me not to worry, just pay next time I come in. This was smart on a number of levels: it was good customer service, and — given how often I come in — he was all-but-guaranteed payment within 24 hours (unwilling to to jeopardize my future access to chicken katsu or udon soup over a measly eight bucks, I was back within the hour). But he was only able to do this because he knew me well enough to trust me.

Trust, however, often takes some work to build and can be difficult between strangers (though our ability to so at all is among the things that distinguish humans from the rest of nature). Remember when eBay started, and the idea of sending some random schmuck your money in exchange for a promise that they’d send you an item — as-described and in a timely manner! — seemed crazy? Turns out that worked rather well, with those who attempted to game the system getting punished for it.

But it’s one thing to fork over money for a product and quite another to (potentially) put yourself at risk of physical harm. Only a few years ago, very few people were willing to let perfect strangers into their car, let alone their spare bedroom: too darn risky. But thanks to services like Uber and AirBNB, putting that kind of trust in someone from out of town whom neither you nor anyone else you know have ever met, and who you’re unlikely to ever see again, is now a perfectly rational, relatively safe thing to do.

The Libertarian Podcast: Uber, Lyft, and the Future of Independent Contractors


The left, increasingly unwilling to tolerate any social arrangements not tailored to the exact specifications of the state, has recently set its sights on dramatically narrowing businesses’ abilities to classify workers as independent contractors. In this week’s episode of The Libertarian Podcast, Professor Epstein looks at how a pair of California lawsuits against car services Uber and Lyft are advancing that goal — and what it might mean for the broader economy. Come for the legal and economic analysis, stay to hear Richard try his hardest to restrain his contempt at the mention of Robert Reich’s name.

Practicing Capitalism without a License


Uber is a classic disruptive technology. The ride-sharing app has revolutionized the moribund taxi cab business model by providing better service for a lower price. The Uber model is so new that existing taxi regulations by local governments are, in many cases, inoperative.

This upsets bureaucrats greatly. Who does Uber think they are to improve the lives of consumers and providers without getting government approval first? Exhausted at the wait for the city of Portland to rewrite its rulebook to allow the popular service, Uber launched today without the city’s blessing:

Member Post


The average price of an individual New York City taxi medallion fell to $872,000 in October, down 17 percent from a peak reached in the spring of 2013, according to an analysis of sales data. Previous figures published by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission — showing flat prices — appear to have been incorrect, […]

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Let’s Support Uber, Lyft, and Free Markets


Ride share companies like Uber and Lyft offer customers added choices in transportation. Unfortunately in big cities like Atlanta, governments have erected barriers to entering the taxi business by requiring taxi drivers purchase expensive “medallions” and limiting how many taxis can operate in their cities. These regulations artificially raise prices and stifle innovation.

In some cities around America, government officials have even threatened Uber and Lyft drivers with arrest, and had their cars impounded. Here in Atlanta, taxi medallion owners have sued Uber drivers trying to prevent them from being in business.

Conservatives and Unions – Oil and Water?


union labor

In the course of my life, I’ve been exposed to the undeniable malignant effects of large scale labor unions and — whether in the form of the massive teacher’s unions, public sector unions, or countless others — they all seem to have more or less the same ultimate effect. That is to say, burdening the companies and governments with whom they “partner” with vast and unreasonable entitlements that they cannot hope to meet over the course of time.  

The influence the labor union is undeniable in today’s political landscape.  Almost every conservative campaigner has something to say about unions being an undue burden on the state and the taxpayers. This is good. Scott Walker, in particular, has some first hand experience deep in the trenches of this particular war. And he has won battle after battle in this war.  

Uber: Poster Child For Free Markets


Last night, my wife had a stomachache and asked if we could take a taxi home from work rather than the metro. I’ve had mixed experience with cabbies and — given the combination of high price and great unpredictability — I avoid taxis wherever I can. Still, I wasn’t the one with a stomachache, and a few extra dollars is a small price to pay for a happy and comfortable wife.

I was all ready to hail a cab when I remembered that I had a $20 credit toward my first ride with Uber, the online driver service/app, so I decided to give it a try. Result: I’m never taking a cab again.

Member Post


In Columbus, Ohio, the city council is trying to craft an ex post facto law to shut down Uber, the distributed ad hoc paid car service.  Their reasoning is the usual: “Would you get on an airplane that wasn’t properly inspected?” said Morgan Kauffman, who owns Yellow Cab of Columbus. “There’s no chance in the […]

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