The Uber Wolf In Stars N Stripes Clothing

Martin Romjue
Posted on March 5, 2015

By now, we are attuned to how Uber misleadingly speaks the language of free markets and competition in its political and lobbying efforts. The TNC has co-opted the jargon of libertarianism in its fight against regulators and other ground transportation sectors.

As on cue, a cadre of free-market supporters and deregulation advocates has leaped to Uber’s defense, turning the $40 billion capitalized TNC into an innocent poster boy victim of ant-market forces. The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, did an analysis that claims TNCs are “too different from traditional taxis and warrant their own regulation system,” according to an article in U.S. News.

How so? A Transportation Network Company like Uber still puts drivers into cars and charges passengers for rides. Just like a taxi service, a limousine company or a charter bus operation. A TNC simply uses an app to connect provider and passenger instead of a telephone, website or street hail. And many taxi and limo services now offer app-based reservations and ride-prompts as well.

My theory is that Cato has been seduced by linguistinastics. That’s my invented term for some really nasty gymnastics involving the English language. By defining itself as a technology company doing ride-hails as part of a sharing economy, Uber and its acolytes can set the core vocabulary of the debate to tilt the argument field in its favor. A technology-driven ride-hail service that’s part of a sharing economy will sound different than a for-profit ground transportation company that employs people and puts owned metal on the road.

The Cato Institute’s position on Uber and TNCs falls flat. It doesn’t even consider the very basic Constitutional premises of property rights and equality before the law. How free is a limousine service, and how secure is it in its private property, if it must abide by a stricter set of laws than a TNC? If it is categorized differently based on its operational model?

Another unfolding revelation about Uber has been its hiring of former Obama adviser David Plouffe as its publicity maven and political strategist. This is the same political courtesan who served the most anti-Main Street business, pro-crony capitalist, and pro-regulatory Presidential administration in U.S. history.

Don’t think that an ideologue and apologist like Plouffe suddenly has morphed into a free business marketer just because he's doing flack jobs for Uber. He works for Uber because it stands for the same bullying, high-handed, elitist mentality that defines his previous employer. That’s why he’s good in that role.

Limousine companies are overwhelmingly part of Main Street America, i.e. the small business, entrepreneurial, Rotarian, Chamber of Commerce, retail business sector. You won't encounter any big wolves in this crowd. They don't have the billions in capitalization that buys Wall Street level political access and favors.

To find the Cato Institute and David Plouffe on the same side not only makes for strange bedfellows but mocks fair and free market ideals.

Related Topics: entrepreneurship, industry politics, limo tradeshows, regulatory enforcement, taxis, TNCs, Uber

Martin Romjue Editor
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