Long Live Lyft!
In “Technology Can Make the Regulatory State Obsolete,” The Independent Institute’s Lawrence J. McQuillan highlights one of the many ways markets and technology are undermining the power of the state to enforce their cartelizing and coercive regulations on peaceful people.
The late American inventor and futurist Buckminster Fuller said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Ridesharing services are trying to do this, but governments stand in the way.
In a two-minute Perspective aired today on National Public Radio station KQED in San Francisco, former taxi driver Kieran Farr explains why overregulation is making it impossible for San Francisco taxis to compete successfully with ridesharing services such as Lyft, Sidecar, Tickengo, and Uber.
Farr recommends that government agencies begin cutting taxi regulations and fees to allow cabs to compete; otherwise, taxis will continue to loose customers to app-driven alternatives.
Let the state regulate all it wants! It is becoming easier and easier to simply circumvent through non-traditional and more horizontal means of providing services to others.
But, as Farr points out, for those unfortunately entrenched and intertwined in the political cobwebs of corporatism, it is not that easy. Sure, we can get around many regulations, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop advocating for their immediate repeal. Not everyone can be an agorist, even if someone like Farr may long to be one.
It is so refreshing to hear Farr’s perspective because I have personally witnessed the exact opposite response to the growth of a freer market.
When I was unemployed, laid off because our company went out of business, I became a Lyft driver. I know San Francisco streets like the back of my hand and the money is good. And see, I wasn’t an employee of a hierarchical corporation, working for whatever the state leaves their subjects after they have “withheld” their cut.
I was, according to state-legalese speak, an “independent contractor.” Or in other words, a capitalist, consumer, laborer and manager at the same time. There are discounts given to passengers, and price hikes during peak hours that incentivize drivers and help level out supply and demand. The background checks are stiffer than licensed taxi drivers.
You don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars for a taxi license, just a safe car, insurance, and a clean driving record.
And, better yet, the burden is on me to file my taxes, and you better believe I will of course make sure and send them every penny they deserve.
And all of this is coordinated by an algorithm and an app on your smart phone. Leonard Reed would be proud.
But in my experience, taxi drivers have had nearly the exact opposite reactions that Farr had in his interview. This is not a slight against all taxi drivers – I am no collectivist – but here in San Francisco the majority of reactions seem to be public intimidation of rideshare drivers and asking the city and state government to use violence to stop people from engaging in private, peaceful commerce.
San Francisco is lucky that this happens to be where Lyft started and grew. It has become an entrenched part of the city, spread too far and too thick to regulate away. But as companies like Lyft try spreading into other parts of the country with a clean slate, taxi lobbies are beating them to the punch and pushing for laws that make rideshares nearly impossible to get off the ground. In Miami, the police ran sting operations to catch these evil criminals.
There is no doubt that technology can, will and does help us circumvent the corporate state and allow us participate in real free markets. Markets are becoming more decentralized now because we can deliver capital-intensive services without centralization. Information and technology is being dispersed to the masses, turning everyone into a capitalist.
All we need is a smart phone and we can have access to millions of other people’s minds, ideas, products and services. We can even use them to swipe credit cards and accept payments. Or scan a QR code and send and receive Bitcoin.
Unfortunately, the power of governments to trample on the free market is still a reality – for now.