Why it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission

Transport for London is preparing to launch a crackdown on Uber, proposing a series of new rules that will hit the popular minicab-hailing app in one of its most popular cities.

…The proposals include a minimum five-minute wait time between ordering a private hire vehicle and it arriving, and banning operators from showing cars for hire within a smartphone app – a hallmark of the American company’s service.

No, this is not from an Ayn Rand novel.

These proposed rules so nakedly protect rent-seekers and make life worse for consumers that I don’t think they will succeed. Even if the rules fail, however, we shouldn’t be complacent about the dangers to innovation.

What made Uber different and controversial is that their Ayn Rand loving CEO followed the adage that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Uber skirted the law and went to consumers directly about whether they wanted transportation innovation. Consumers around the world responded with a resounding Yes to the Uber-referendum so regulators and rent-seekers who want to control Uber now must also fight Uber-consumers. That genie won’t go back into the bottle.

In the usual scenario, however, innovation can be quashed before consumers have a chance to know what they are missing. Had the taxi companies had an inkling of what was coming it would have been easy to to pass stricter laws in advance that would have made Uber impossible to get off the ground. Of course, in many industries today the old guard does have an inkling of what is coming and that should frighten anyone who wants to see greater innovation.

Comments

Second.

Someone needs to make an app for commenting on blogs - if can be called "Fyrst" - with obvious usage

Given Uber is purely a rent seeker that provide no capital or labor or transportation services to customers, it seems odd to argue that leveling the playing field is protecting rent seekers.

Or is the idea that those without smartphones or credit cards should be denied taxi services as a matter of public policy? Customers those with taxi medallions must serve.

I find the concept of free market where the seller gets to chose its customers and exclude those customers who can't be the source of rent without providing the capital and labor to serve them.

Clarify how Uber is a "rent-seeker." You merely asserted this without proving it.

Who is denying those without smartphones taxi service?

How does mandating a minimum wait time improve the customer experience?

How does allowing customers fewer options for hailing a cab improve customer experience?

In a free market, the buyer gets to choose providers. Riders can now choose whether to hail a traditional cab from the street, or hail a cab from within a smartphone app. Many have chosen to hail from within an app. You would deny them this liberty? By threatening the use of force against them or the provider?

You don't know what rent-seeking is, do you?

Here, read up and come back when you have a basic understanding of what you are talking about:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking

Uber is a competitor. The incumbents are the rents seekers who seek to prevent competition.

Go read more about rent seeking. You obviously do not understand it very well.

Consumers uber alles.

It doesn't have to be read that way; consumers and potential providers, over people who have bought into the present regulatory framework and the politicians who sell them their seats. Where cab drivers are simply employees of the companies that own medallions, etc, then it might very well be in their own best interest to have uber as a competitive employer. The losers would be the 'non-practicing entities' of the cab company ownership who have close ties to the political machine selling the monopoly patent. Of course, those owners would want to bind the employees to their enterprise in some way - perhaps retribution, or by creating a part ownership situation, debt to the company store, or something similar.

I think you missed a joke...

But Uber provides no capital or labor to provide transportation to a select group of customers, limited to the customers who afford Uber rent taken from labor and capitalists. If you do not have a credit card and cell phone, Uber can't collect its rent, so it never serves that part of the free market, and leaves the excluded portion of We the People to rely on government to find some means of creating a real free market that serves all We the People.

The requirement of a Taxi medallion is you provide capital and labor and serve all customers.

Uber's rents are way too high for what they provide the capitalists and labor they exploit, so they will probably become a case study in a decade of business failure, unless they become capitalist and employer, perhaps by a transportation company buying them.

Uber is exploiting the failure of businesses like FedEx, UPS, PanAm, Greyhound, Yellow Cab to employ economies of scale to serve customers nationwide uniformly with constant attention to quality improvement. They fail to understand they are transportation companies providing a service that is needed nationwide and that is simply a logistic problem applied to people as well as to other cargo.

But Uber is doing nothing to prevent competitors from serving Uber's customers far better because the cost of competing with Uber is no more than $100 million startup. Of course, effective competition would result in no profit, just a market return on a $100 million, which in today's 2% return market makes that a zombie.

If dirt poor refugees from Syria can afford a smartphone to help them navigate their way to Europe with nothing but the clothes on their back, then nobody who can afford to take a cab is too poor to afford a smartphone. Bad argument.

They are not dirty poor. Could dirt poor people pay smugglers thousands of dollars? The dirt poor are in refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey.

If you don't think it takes capital and labor to develop an app that shows passengers where all the nearby drivers are, allows you to track their progress, bills you, allows drivers to see where all the nearby passengers are, and sets the prices so that most passengers have drivers and most drivers have passengers, I have some software projects I'd like you to do for free.

Uber is providing a service people want to use. We know this because people choose to use it.
The less labor and capital Uber consumes in providing this service, the better it is for society, not the worse.
Ideas have a return too.
In fact economic growth doesn't come from more intensive use of labor and capital, but from better ideas as to how to combine the two.

What is it we should think about the incumbent taxi organizations. Do they not want to even try to replicate anything Uber is doing? Do they think they aren't capable of doing so? Could the licensing commissions in London or NYC throw some money at a tech company to provide GPS tracking and an app to find open cabs, would medallion owners not want that?

I agree with Alex that the medalian system made innovation unnecessary. You are asking if innovation can be added back in? As a one time thing?

I have some sympathy for the incumbents--they've been bribing governments fair and square for decades to protect their monopoly. Now Uber has completely wrecked their business model, and so far Uber's has paid out a comparatively trivial amount in bribes. As a consumer I think it's hilarious but the rent-seekers are justifiably upset.

+1

Perfect.

+2

And +3

Perfect indeed.

Isn't Tullock's article on the transitional gains trap applicable here? When medallions are sold and resold, the rent is squeezed out. Why would the owner of a medallion sell it at less than the rent-maximizing price? Some (many?) cabbies and medallion owners may be earning normal profits. Hence their concern about Uber. Perhaps they should be bribed to exit the market?

They've tried that before, but entrenched interests have prevented real innovation

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20150319/OPINION/150319814/city-stifles-e-hail-apps-for-yellow-cabs

The current situation in London for anyone that doesn't know it:

There are 2 sorts of taxis in London: Minicabs and Black cabs.

Minicabs have lightweight regulation, what you might term as good regulation - to get a license, you need to have a roadworthy car, a legitimate driving license and no violent criminal record. You can't hail a minicab, you can only book it in advance to come and collect you.

Black cabs have heavy regulation: as well as what minicabs need, they also have to have certain sorts of cars, have maximum mileage rate and have to pass "the knowledge", a fearsome test of London's streets and monuments that takes years. You can hail a black cab. They're also more expensive.

For many years, there were lots of advantages to black cabs: you could get into one at a station, tell him an address and he'd get you there. With minicabs, you'd have to call them (from a payphone at one time), wait for a car to arrive, then quite possibly have to direct him.

Along comes the GPS and most of the advantage of "the knowledge" is mostly gone. You tell a minicab company a street, they punch it in, the driver can easily navigate with his device. A black cab driver may be better, but it's not by enough now. Then you get the likes of Uber with huge scale which means a car is not far from you at any time. You know the price (which is cheaper), it manages your billing and so forth.

The black cab drivers could compete, but they'd really rather not have to. They'd rather charge the sort of fares they're used to, which they could charge because of the high barrier to entry of "the knowledge".

They won't win, though. Even with a 5 minute minimum time, that's only 2 minutes above the average time. People won't trade that for a £3-4 saving.

And considering TfLs attitude in the past and the attitude of the Mayor of London towards black cab drivers, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this consultation is simply a way to get it down on record why some of these things make no sense.

RACISM! Oh, never mind...

I've started using Uber and I have come to love it. However, I'd also prefer a driver with "the knowledge" over somebody who's completely reliant on GPS. What's in the computer and what's on the ground can be different at times, and somebody who knows assuredly where he's going will be a better driver.

I think in the end municipalities will impose some minimum limits insurance, equipment requirements, and declare the field open.

I also prefer a driver with The Knowledge (these drivers also tend to be better drivers and have knowledge that is not part of The Knowledge) but I don't have 50 pounds a day to spend on that particular luxury.

Yes, especially for London, this is less about Uber and more about google maps on smartpones, and how almost everyone has access to 'the knowledge' that they studied so many years for.

FWIW there's an app called Curb (formerly Taxi Magic) that works similarly to Uber, but with existing taxi companies. I've used it in San Francisco and a few other places. I've always found it to be very quick but don't think I've used it in rush hour.

Are you asking if they want to stop paying taxes and start breaking employment laws because THIS IS THE CASE with Uber in many European countries.

I am fine with the app and innovation, and only worry that it delegates tax cheating to ignorant drivers.

If we want low taxes, they must be uniform, otherwise someone must make up for cheats. Greece being the modern example of too many cheats, impossible to make up.

I don't know a lot about how Uber works, but doesn't it keep track of the driver and the fare (because Uber gets a cut, and maybe processes payment?). Wouldn't that make cheating much harder (auditing easier) than the current system of taxis (where you can just turn off the meter, if the meter even aggregates the data)?

I would really like to know how many Uber drivers have leased a nice car and then ascribed a majority of the cost of their sweet ride to their Uber business.

You are right that income side should be reported (1099?) but the expense side leaves people with a little tax knowledge a lot to play with.

You can only expense certain amounts which are spelled out pretty thoroughly by the IRS. If you don't drive the car many miles, you can only deduct on a per mile basis. Of course the driver can commit fraud there, but so can a standard taxi cab driver.

I think all of us know stories, like the IRS trying to determine how many shoe purchases are appropriate for a part-time tennis instructor.

That's kind of my point. In December 2014, there were 162,037 “active Uber drivers."

They are all invited to be creative, and the only risk is that they'll be the few flagged for an audit.

"They are all invited to be creative, and the only risk is that they’ll be the few flagged for an audit."

The same "invitation" applies to anyone who earns money in any way except from a standard employment relationship. There is no such thing as a perfect tax system and it is not clear what the IRS should be doing differently. It could tax gross revenue instead of profits but then that puts low margin businesses (think gasoline stations or convenience stores) at a huge disadvantage. As long as you tax profits, you are going to give people some incentive to either understate revenue or overstate expenses. And if you don't tax profits, what do you propose taxing instead?

On a few times my Uber driver didn't know what he was doing and took a wildly indirect route. I've left bad reviews for those drivers. On each time Uber has refunded part of my fare due. So yes, cheating is harder for Uber drivers.

...or knew exactly what he was doing.

How does taking an indirect route help a Uber driver? There's no meter, and the cost for the trip is fixed in advance -- if the driver takes a longer, slower route that means more of his time and more mileage on his vehicle, no?

Indeed, the Uber driver is incentivised to choose the fastest route, so that he can get another rider, sooner.

False. Look up their fare calculators.

The price Uber lists for you when requesting a trip is an estimate, based on a quick GPS calculation of how far the trip will be. If the driver takes a different route, the fare can end up varying.

'Uber skirted the law'

Or broke it - but why not use a phrase like skirt instead of the reality of lawbreaking, as determined by courts both in France and Germany.

For real - I eagerly await the crime-and-punishment contingent here to fall on the side of taxi services.

Count me among them. Sorry to pop your smug bubble of projection though. I'm sure you'd rather all your "opponents" had fufilles your aggressively negative assumptions. I'm sure we can count on your vociferous denunciation of illegal immgration going forward.

Lol.

Uber moves into areas where the regulations do not explicitly prohibit their operation. As soon as they are banned from operation, as in Berlin, they immediately comply with the law.

See, that's how it works. They are in a legally grey area, they could have asked for permission but instead they forged ahead. This is unlike your favorite causes which explicitly ignore laws which do not conform to their believies.

It is always skirting instead of law breaking if you don't really respect the law that is being "skirted." Just ask the progressives as they try to redefine illegal immigrants into "undocumented immigrants." That said, I love this whole Uber things. All the people who I know in real life who like Uber are big government love regulation types. Watching them get what they want good and hard amuses me greatly.

It is only on the internet that I run into these strange creatures who love liberty and yet live in big blue cites.

You need to get out more. People who love liberty also need jobs. The jobs are in big "liberal" cities.

I was not doubting that your kind exist, I just saying that most of the Uber lovers I know are hip liberals and I know them only because they related to me. As far as getting out more, the fact that I even know what uber is puts me ahead of most of my co-workers. We are all constrained by our backgrounds to a certain extent.

"Or broke it – but why not use a phrase like skirt instead of the reality of lawbreaking, as determined by courts both in France and Germany."

Is that like how VW broke the law in the US?

Yes, it is exactly like that!!! Except Uber wasn't deceptive, they flouted that they were breaking the law.

No, they flAUNted their flOUting of the law.

I love when you tyrannical libs fall back on the non argument "it's the law" but are horrified if anyone makes that argument to you about any of your sacred causes.

"Sorry, we tyrants have already legislated on that."

Indeed. I am trying to figure out the more effective way of protesting the rabid bureaucratic regulatory state; buy a Volkswagen or take Uber.

Hitch hike, of course.

Nah, only Germans like the execs at VW break laws.

I dont know for a fact, but at least in the case of England, its not really clear that they did break the law. But, of course, as usual, you simply talk about something else and pretend you are refuting something.

Laws are not self-justifying. Bad laws deserve to be broken, vehemently.

Acting first and then winning in the court of public opinion. Isn't that the model for police brutality/murder?

And the Civil Rights Movement.

Heard it here first, folks. Uber is *literally* murdering people. And heartless libertarians don't even give a damn.

ooooh - we need to marry the two - UberCop is a great name for an app - you can dispatch it to your fave bad neighborhood to trample all over civil rights and whatnot

Yeah, like calling in anonymous complaints about your neighbours ...

There's already an app for that.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/magazine/who-runs-the-streets-of-new-orleans.html?_r=0

*brain explodes*

What? Because public opinion is so in favor of murder or something?

I guess Mercatus recently cashed their check from Uber, hence this article.

C'mon. Do you really think Alex Tabarrok would be anti-Uber but for some donation? Y'all are the ones with an excessively pecuniary view of life.

Yes that's the lie the left always says about principled opposition.

You are a liar and a tyrant.

Of course, in many industries today the old guard does have an inkling of what is coming and that should frighten anyone who wants to see greater innovation.

I agree with this and fear this, but how exactly is Uber's service innovative? Their operating model seems to be: "the conventions/regulations surrounding taxi services don't make any sense anymore, so we will offer such services bypassing existing conventions/regulations". Technically or operationally, what is challenging or novel about building a website (plus mobile app) to select a car on demand in your vicinity, and having the car then show up? Opening an Indian restaurant in Greenland would be more innovative; difficulty in getting basic ingredients and all that.

Having a website to order a car is not technically difficult, making it fast, responsive, highly available,well-serviced and low-priced is. There's a tremendous amount of engineering behind Uber's systems.

Lyft's relative failure suggests there's something Uber is doing that's hard to replicate, even if it's not obvious what that is.

Lyfts failure (or on-their-way-to-failure) is based on network effects and Uber's sabotage.
http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/26/6067663/this-is-ubers-playbook-for-sabotaging-lyft

Lyft is still in business, so it's a bit premature to proclaim their failure. That they aren't as big and wealthy as Uber is not an indication of failure.

As stated below, network effects are real and kind of a big deal.

They're something like a tenth the size of Uber. Uber is pulling away. And I did use the word "relative" on purpose.

While I agree that network effects are a thing, it's not obvious why they should be a big thing in this particular market.

Riches await the guy who writes an app giving you the lesser of the Uber and Lyft rate at any moment.

It's not obvious why more people driving for Uber means more customers are served through Uber, which means more drivers want to drive for Uber? I thought the feedback loop was self-evident. Nobody is going to use Uber if there aren't any cars available, and nobody is going to drive for Uber if nobody is using it. This is the mountain Lyft has to climb. But there is plenty of room for competition in this market.

It strikes me as a market that had been a state-enforced monopoly, and no will now be driven to price at cost. There's no natural monopoly here - it took the state to enforce one. All the market is waiting for is aggregators to make smaller providers (who want to set their own prices, sometimes below Uber's prices) easier to use.

So Uber will be a thing for a while until somebody more competent than Lyft comes along. Lyft's relative failure is the one thing making me confident in Uber in the mid-term, because it implies the business is at least not trivial.

It's not really an either/or proposition. Drivers can sign on with both Lyft and Uber then pick up through whichever app is charging the higher fare at that given moment. Similarly, riders can check both to see if a lower fare is available.

When you can switch networks literally instantaneously, it's not clear why network effects should be that big of a deal.

There’s a tremendous amount of engineering behind Uber’s systems.

Oh, I know. I've worked on programming such systems in the past. But there is nothing either conceptually or practically novel about these. If Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. had decided anytime in the past decade that they wanted to run an on-demand cab service, they could have provided what Uber provides now. And the core distributed systems concepts underpinning such software were worked out back in the 70s and 80s.

Maybe I'm being pedantic about this? I guess something ought to be considered innovative only when the wider public sees it working. (I had similar gripes when Apple revealed its Wallet last year. Mobile wallets in theory and practice were old news to someone like me, but apparently not to the public, to which something felt innovative only when Apple built a product around it.)

"Mobile wallets in theory and practice were old news to someone like me"

You are so dreamy. Can I subscribe to your newsletter? Will it have a picture I can adore?

Apple did a great job throughout the product, from the business side working with CC companies, to the Banks, to the finger print reader, to getting more NFC systems deployed. That is why people know about it.

But you are so dreamy that you already knew that.

I am a computer scientist (have a PhD and am employed in a research job, so I guess I have the right to call myself a "scientist") who was conducting research on mobile commerce a few years ago. That's how I know about this stuff. I'd even link to papers and patents I filed if I didn't care about my anonymity.

There were a number of companies that had released products as well, and signed up with carriers to allow customers to make payments through their mobile phones, or built custom PoS terminals. Mostly in the US, but one or two in India too, where I work. They didn't seem to get too much traction, and most seem to have faded away. Some examples are Google Wallet, Square, and Boku. There was something called Mobile Pay USA, which I thought had potential but seems to have died out.

Apple's extra innovation seems to have been in the area of signing more deals and doing better marketing.

Like I said, I don't expect the general public (or in this case, even techies) to know about every increment of innovation, and the most accomplished self-promoters win their places in the public's mind. That's the way of the world, and I have no problem with it. I don't think that makes me "dreamy", whatever you meant by it.

It is innovative because no one thought of it or implemented it before Uber/Lyft, and it's a great boon to consumers.

"It is innovative because no one thought of it or implemented it before Uber/Lyft, and it’s a great boon to consumers."

Unlicensed cabs have been operating since the day after cabs were licensed. Uber just created an app for it, nothing else.

It's a car service app not a cab app

She's a sexual therapist not a hooker.

Yeah and cars are really no different than horses.

Is that so? I've had many a taxi dispatched to my location using my phone long before Uber even was a slide deck.

Yes it is so

Before Uber came to my mid-sized town last year, taxi dispatched involved a vague and unreasonably long time estimate. Then usual several calls back 45, 60 and 75 minutes later. The taxi may show up in 90 minutes, or they may tell you that all of a sudden no one's available on such short notice. And forget about the actual price being anything remotely related to the quoted price, if you get one at all.

Uber in contrast arrives in 10 minutes, is always conservatively reliable in its estimates, is available 100% of the time, costs a third as much and the whole process takes virtually no time or effort.

At a recent party, a friend of mine and I both ordered taxis to get back to our homes. I called a taxi company while he got Uber, which turned out to want 'surge pricing'. (Neither one was cheap, but his was the dearer.) To add insult to injury, my ride arrived first. However, he's been very protective of Uber even so.

I assume taxi must truly suck in San Francisco, though the ones I've used while there have actually worked just fine.

I wonder to what extent Uber really is competing by having an enormous war chest compared to the actors in a fragmented taxi market.

You keep calling for a cab if you want. The last time I tried to call for one, none showed up for 20 minutes. I called back dispatch, and they asked me where I was again and said one was coming. Thirty minutes later, still no cab. I downloaded the Uber app and signed up in 5 minutes and within the next 10 minutes an Uber arrived. I will never ever turn back, and will gladly pay any surge pricing. Eff the cabs. Eff them hard and good.

The innovation is in the business model, not the software per-se (although the software for matching customers and drivers and managing dynamic pricing is non-trivial).

It appears to me that the improvement is in the centralization and scaling of dispatch. They've eliminated an individual dispatcher and used GPS and asset tracking to improve dispatch as well as matching drivers to customers. I know in a lot of the cities I worked in dispatch was handled by a call over radio with little optimization applied.

Uber haven't broken any laws in London.

What makes Uber's service innovative is scale. You aren't calling a small cab firm with a small number of drives, you're calling a giant company with a huge number of drivers. That means that the odds of a car being near you that has just dropped off goes up. Which improves efficiency. It's also that it's a global brand. If I went to London, I wouldn't try and find a minicab company now. People I know are happy with Uber, so I'd just book an Uber car.

Anyone who has used it knows it's innovative as it simply works much better. Qed. But, yeah, you could've thought of it, you just didn't,

It's interesting but unclear to me why Uber is the dominant ride-sharing service in so many markets.

Uber's massive scale in London doesn't really help a rider in New York, so there's reason to think Paris, London, New York, and other cities would each have a different dominant ride-sharing company.

Yes there are some brand effects, but I suspect the key factor in Uber's world domination (rather than local domination) is either capital or technology. Neither of those advantages is clearly sustainable in the long-term.

I live in DC, but I'm used to Uber now, so I use it in other cities as well. That's one way that the massive scale helps me.

"Technically or operationally, what is challenging or novel about building a website (plus mobile app) to select a car on demand in your vicinity, and having the car then show up?"

Thats a bit like saying that there is nothing challenging or novel about Shakespeare. After all, its just a bunch of words organized together. Just because you understand all the pieces doesnt mean that how they are assembled is trivial.

Just because you understand all the pieces doesnt mean that how they are assembled is trivial.

It's not trivial, but it's been done before. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo..... Running a high-volume web server and a distributed database with 24/7 uptime and fault tolerance is well-known art, though building any new instance requires high-skilled programmers and architects. If no one had built a high-volume transaction server before Uber, I would definitely consider it innovative.

Like others have said, the business model and product are probably what lends Uber its innovative credentials, not the technical challenge.

(This is neither here not there, but now that you mention it, wasn't Shakespeare accused of ripping his stories off people like Christopher Marlowe and Robert Greene?)

>wasn’t Shakespeare accused of ripping his stories off people like Christopher Marlowe and Robert Greene?

He was, but he never said his stories were original, and Marlowe and Greene couldn't write like Shakespeare! (Marlowe was pretty good, but Shakespeare is once in a millennium.)

Fascinating post. The invocation of Rand dovetails with the CEO's preferences, sure, but there may be another apt analogy here.

Schattschneider noted that the best thing to do when you're losing a fight is to expand the scope of the conflict. Inserting satisfied consumers into the regulatory fight accomplishes exactly that.

Shoot all politicians. With actual bullets. That's the one innovation the world truly needs.

Wise words Wisdom. This country needs more people like you to organise the people and lead them... Hey, wait a minute. Would you do me a favour and tape this paper target to your back?

No, I don't seek to replace them. I'm not a parasite.

Of course, in practice you can't kill all politicians. Even if you could promote the ideal, some thugs would defect and obey orders, and so some thug lords will always have power. Like everything else, it's a coordination problem.

But a hypothetical world in which all politicians are killed, and never replaced, would be a much better world. Somewhat less complex but certainly much more moral.

Why is everyone so mad at taxi rent-seekers when other industries have benefited from rent-seeking on a FAR larger scale? Bank bailouts? Farm subsidies? Anyone alive?

Taxi drivers don't have a national lobbying front on the order of Big Banking, Big Ag, Big Oil, etc.

As a result, they don't have the multi-faceted PR campaign needed to sustain this stuff: Direct lobbying, sham research, donations to quasi-academic think tanks.

Also, Uber's political fights all take place at the local level. It's hard to get people in Los Angeles to give a shit about arguments in New York, and vice versa.

Buddy, Uber is like a centicorn and if we can stay angry at the (Taxi-)Man, some tech people and their financiers will get very, very rich. Yuge. So don't mess it up.

Uh, you realize many of us, including Alex, have spoken out against those too, right?

Because right now it's the taxi rent seekers who are lobbying to foreclose a competitor. There have been plenty of comments here about the regulations in the wake of bank bailouts being slanted in favor of rent seekers as well, but those aren't in process right now while taxi rules are. I'm sure I can recall at least a couple of comments against farm subsidies as well. But the rent seekers who are most aggressive at the moment are the taxi companies, so that's who we're talking about.

Wouldn't the Bryan Caplan logic of subsides would be to oppose any and all subsides, except for any subsides that would go to him or his family, and to vociferously support those ones?

"If my reasoning sounds familiar, it should. I'm a strategic non-conformist. When I can bend stupid rules with impunity, I bend them."

(http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/09/why_im_homescho.html)

To what subsidy are you referring? Sorry, it wasn't clear from your link, considering Caplan doesn't discuss subsidies in his post.

I think it's because the difference in price/quality is so evident to individuals at a large scale. For instnace, with farm subsidies, it's hard to get worked up about the few extra cents you pay in taxes that flow to farmers (who people only know abstractly and see them all as good virtuous salt-of-the-earth folks). People's interactions with cab drivers are personal and often bad, so a product that is presented that is superior in both price and quality makes an immediate and salient impact.

Why am I not mad at bank bailouts? I am mad. Lots of people are. I use a Credit Union for my banking, is that like using Uber?

Oh, I also started using the Interact payment system, which bypasses the credit card companies who I am also mad at.

I'm also looking to buy a Volkswagen since I am mad at the EPA.

It seems everybody want to be a Greek taxi medallion owner with 800 acres of corn ..using contract or illegal labor in this country?! Jimmy

"Why are you prosecuting my client for robbing a liquor store when there are murderers out there?"

I'm not sure that "mad" is quite the right word. Perhaps "unsympathetic"?

Anyone can drive a car. They offer bad service and high prices and expect us to protect their business model, despite the fact that they are basically promising NOT to innovate, NOT to improve bad service, NOT to reduce high prices.

Due to the high cost of the accessing the license, I know that a lot of taxi drivers work long hours for low pay. But ... why don't they just join Uber?

They are also largely foreigners, and mostly of darker hues. Not much sympathy for them from the public.

Because I need several rides every day. Each one has to be safe and get me to where I am going. I only care about bank bailouts and farm subsidies as a citizen and taxpayer, not a constant user.

Ohhhhhhhh so I guess it's fine for everybody else!

In some cities the agreement between old taxis and Uber is that old taxis are also part of Uber fleet and everybody seems to be happy, drivers and consumers.

"Why it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission."
Isn't that the strategy of Volkswagen? I never understood that strategy.

The Uber strategy seems to be quite different:
"Never ask for permission and fight back with everything you got."

I don't know if this is more successful but at least it's bold, maybe even heroic.

When those giving permission aren't interested in a just outcome, it's probably not in your best interest to bother asking for permission.

It's interesting to me how little non-libertarians focus on the occupational licensing issue that Uber is exploiting.

Mostly when I listen to liberals (do conservatives use Uber?) talk about Uber, the focus is on worker rights and employee vs. contractor status.

This seems like a loss for libertarians, in terms of using Uber's success to generate further change.

And if you ask most drivers, they don't want to be formal employees, they much prefer the ad hoc, piecemeal nature of being able to drive a few hourse or not each day with minimal hassle of being 'employed'. Many drive for both Uber and Lyft for example.

Your listening sample is faulty. Conservatives DO use Uber, but they have more productive things to talk about.

This is exactly the situation presented at FCC back in my day. Being pro Uber, when there was no Uber but there would be one, was our goal. Reed Hundt

Businesses *should* have to ask permission. Government is the price we pay for *civilization*. By the way, Ayn Rand was crazy even by libertarian standards. Murray Rothbard (also crazy) wrote a hilarious short story about her called Mozart was a Red. You can read it here: https://mises.org/library/mozart-was-red

Business should have to obey laws, not ask permission. I agree with you about Rothbard, Rand, and Mozart was a Red.

Do drug dealers too ask customers directly if they want a change in regulatory landscape? What about money counterfeiters? Can they act and ask for forgiveness later?

Seriously, this article reads like some kind of parody.

Uber is a the ultimate machine for value seeking leeching business model.
It adds no value. In the end, governmets will come up with such cab hailing software as an infrastructure for cabs, buses etc. The cabbies will wise up, get together and commission a software instead of giving Uber money.

Uber is the most basic form of automation. Nothing extraordinary.

It would be great if brains and money be spent on life sciences instead.

Americans have been brain washed to believe that everything they do is great.

Why don't they appreciate the immigrants who innovate and get withing their borders.

Surely many arguments for that too !

Love Uber because they inherently all take American Express (which I must use for work expenses).

Especially (where legal) in Europe - regular cabbies there seem to have a tougher time with AMEX there than the US, either they won't take it or they complain to you at the end of the ride about how they'd prefer cash.

I think Uber and the like should get their way. Ignore their behaviour as a firm that has been complained about - they are far far from being angelic innovators and would love to see their monopolisation plans thwarted. But the idea of apps based cab services should not be banned. But lets not forget that they have essentially circumvented the regulations in place. If I was someone who was planning my future and trained and took out a taxi medallion in London, it is in the belief that the current regulations would be enforced at least for some period. There was no talk of loosening the regulations of any kind to warn me and suddenly the regulations are meaningless because Uber circumvented them. Thats a true kick in the teeth for a regulated industry. I would think the fair thing to do would be to have a phased tax on Uber like services that raises their cost in the short term. A tax that fades over a period of three years or four years. That would give the Taxi industry and the taxi drivers time to adjust their industry and their occupation.

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