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.