Politicians have no business regulating Uber

Uber is caught up in arguments with municipal and state/provincial governments around the world. With government-backed taxi cartels already in place, your freedom to use Uber (and other ridesharing apps) is being held back by politicians eager to protect their friends in power.

This article isn’t about debating the finer points of regulatory law, it’s about a deeper question: Why should a politician have the right to block you from using Uber?

The whole point of being an adult is that you get to make your own decisions. We elect politicians to administer the government efficiently, not to become our parents in adulthood.

Think about it this way. Anyone driving with Uber is an adult, who has freely chosen to sign up for the service. You freely chose to download the Uber app, and now you want to make a transaction with the driver: The driver will pick you up and take you to your destination in exchange for money. Very simple. All of it accomplished through a smart phone, with no need for anyone else to get involved.

Yet, politicians can’t help but stick their noses into your business. Somehow, they think the government has a place in interfering with two adults making a simple transaction. But why?

This is part of a more serious problem underlying our society, as government is seen by some politicians as a tool to impose fear and dominance, rather than inspire empowerment and opportunity.

You should be free to make your own choices

Uber ridesharing drive
Photo credit: Ian Forrester https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The very idea of taxi or Uber regulation makes no sense. What is the fear of unregulated taxis or ridesharing services? Why should one adult need permission from the government to give a ride to another adult in exchange for money?

The issue of safety is often brought up as the reason to regulate ridesharing/taxi services. But that assumes that the heavily regulated taxi industry is safe. As shown in a recent article in the Atlantic, that is far from the case:

“Taxi drivers have been in the headlines just like Uber has. In the past year, there have been assaults against taxi passengers reported in Seattle, Washington, D.C., Portland, Fort Lauderdale, and elsewhere. In 2012, a rash of incidents in Washington—seven assaults over the course of a few weeks—prompted the District’s taxicab commissioner to issue a warning to female passengers. At the time, the commissioner promised panic buttons would be installed by the end of that year. Now, three years later, the target date for installation is June of 2015″

Is Uber completely safe? Of course not, but neither are taxis. Total safety cannot be guaranteed in anything humans are involved in.

This isn’t just about Uber. What if you want to start-up a ridesharing service? What if you feel unsafe in taxis and want to start your own business? Why should a politician be able to step in and block you or tell people they can’t freely use your service?

Another argument used against Uber is that it doesn’t pay well. Fair enough, nobody is going to get rich from it. But again, if someone wants to make some extra money on the side, what business is that of politicians? And if we’re talking about income security, that’s on politicians, not Uber. If they are worried that people need to drive for Uber to make ends meet, our politicians should consider their own failure to help build an economy with broad based opportunity.

As I’ve written before, while politicians are giving out big breaks to their powerful well-connected friends, low-income and middle class people are struggling. Bringing in a Guaranteed Minimum Income (AKA: Negative Income Tax, Basic Income), would take care of income security and make driving for Uber or other ridesharing services a way to supplement a more stable income. That’s what politicians should be focused on.

The final point I’ll make is this: Our world has serious problems. Rising inequality, chaos and instability, terrorism, and a rapidly shifting economy. We need our elected leaders to focus on the big issues. Having them waste time telling us what kind of apps we can use and interfering with our personal choices and decisions is the surest way for the big problems to go unresolved.

Politicians have no business regulating Uber, and the sooner they realize it the better.


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