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I’ve spent hours of keyboard time disabusing the free market crowd of their starry eyed positions on Uber. What more can be said when you repeatedly rebut the same talking points? Apparently, plenty, so I can’t let it go just yet.
Again, it’s not just about free markets. In a Constitutional system where “all men (women, too) are created equal,” we celebrate equality of opportunity in an atmosphere of structured, guaranteed liberties. This applies to businesses, as well, since I do agree with Mitt Romney that businesses, corporations, LLCs, etc. are people, too, at least from a taxation standpoint. I already knew about our nation’s underlying Constitutional rationale in junior high. So why can’t the Generation Opportunity authors of this op-ed piece in the Sept. 28 Wall Street Journal understand it as well?
In criticizing the inconsistent patchwork of regulations for transportation network companies (TNCs) emerging across the U.S., the authors state (in italics):
"Michigan has no statewide legal framework for ride-sharing services, and lawmakers are considering legislation to regulate them the same way as limousine drivers."
What is wrong with regulating Uber drivers like limousine drivers, aka chauffeurs? This makes practical safety sense and it levels the playing field. Uber drivers and chauffeurs do the same thing, except one is on-demand and the other reservation-based. Shouldn’t both be regulated or de-regulated alike? The authors don’t address that point.
"San Antonio requires drivers to be fingerprinted and to have commercial insurance."
What is wrong with requiring all drivers — taxicab, limousine and TNC — to be fingerprinted and background checked before driving commercially insured vehicles? Given the incessant deluge of rapes, assaults, and creepy-weirdo behavior from too many Uber drivers, should the requirement for FBI-level background checks and fingerprinting even be debated? And since cabs, limos and TNC vehicles are engaged in for-hire transportation, does that not qualify as a commercial activity?
Then the authors resort to this whopper: "Politicians may fret about public safety, but a Cato Institute analysis concluded that ride-share companies have safeguards “stricter than the screening requirements for many American taxi drivers.”
Fret about public safety? With good reason: The proof is in the results. I’m not reading continuous media coverage of crimes committed by taxi drivers and chauffeurs. At 33 alleged sexual assaults in the last six months, TNC driver bad behavior stretches well-beyond the “bad apple” and “handful of troublemakers” canards. If you just got out of prison, it’s easier to drive for a TNC than become a greeter at Wal-Mart. The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank, so what else would it assert on the issue of safety and TNCs? The idealistic notion that competitive pressure encourages self-enforcement fails the reality test. (By the way, most teen-age males go through a libertarian phase. It can be outgrown).
This set of Uber talking points, like so many pro-TNC articles, misses the big point: It’s not about innovation, freedom or opportunity. Everyone favors those all-American attributes. The problem centers on fairness. Until chauffeurs, cab drivers and TNC drivers are treated exactly alike, conflicts will multiply across the regulatory, legal and special interest arenas.
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