I’m thinking but I don’t have to like it

               I’m having a bit too much fun reading some crazy shit, even if I’ve put most of it on hold. But some of it is too much, like this here gem and some of the commenters. I’ll tell you, it’s somewhat like watching mr. Bean, funny but sad because the process of reading it doesn’t involve even a single neuron. Not even if you only have two of those, like I do.

               The above mentioned article pulls a red herring, reframing Uber and the lot into heroes that brought down the taxi cartels. Should be obvious by now I sort of dissagree with it, even if you didn’t catch my previous articles on the matter. However, besides the article, there’s only two comments to point out:

“Not even close. Uber is a voluntary arrangement. Uber organized the concept, apps, legalities, etc. It is a voluntary relationship. If you do not like Uber, drive for Lyft. If you do not like either, run a traditional cab or limo. Uber cannot be maintained with the protection of government unlike the medallion program. “

That’s a-one.

“Uber provides the service of connecting drivers to customers. It’s a voluntary association for mutual benefit. Uber has no defense against some other company developing it’s own system and software to do the same thing. Which why there is Lyft.”

That’s the second one.

               I wonder if anyone else spots the exact places where logic breaks down.. I may not agree with the article, but others do. I also have to point out I’m a reader of ZeroHedge even if I don’t agree with half their stuff, more importantly I happen to agree with the other half. Which half I agree with is the important point. Though, that one’s source is actually here. Just to be fair, even if I’m not. It’s like somebody telling you to buy a red car, but you don’t really have to buy a red one, you have another option – chiefly, pink.

               Folks, I now tend to think in absolutes – abuse is abuse and abuse is not really either ethical nor moral therefore you can’t fix what’s broken by breaking it in another spot. You can’t replace one type of abuse with another type and call it a victory. You can’t… ah, what the hell, you actually can… but wait, I ment to say you shouldn’t. There, that’s fixed. You can’t justify abuse, and … crap, I did it again. There should be a law against writing when under the influence. So let’s have it again, from the top. Math is hard.

               Let’s say there is a legal cartel in the NY taxi business. Cartel meaning it controls that activity because it’s a monopoly. Immoral and unethical, indeed. But not against the law, innit? Now somebody else appears, using fancy words and fast lawyers to skirt around the law and directly compete with that cartel. Most of the things they use to drive prices down doesn’t affect their business at all – they aren’t a taxi business. They rely on untrained people to drive people around for money (hey, ain’t that a definition of a taxi driver?) but they don’t pay for repairs, insurance, maintenance and other things that make up the bulk of normal taxi expenses instead they get paid a percentage (around 20% and up) from each earning. They control their drivers by fixing prices and demanding a certain amount of positive feedback or their drivers get fired. This is different from a cartel how? Because they don’t have monopoly over that business? Because Lyft is doing the same thing?

               The problem isn’t the law, the problem is abuse. Is the old way of doing things abusive? Yes. Is the new way abusive? Hell yes. Now pick a side, between the old way of abuse within the law and the new way of abuse outside the law (and a hell of a lot more laws than meet the eye). You think I was kidding? If a Uber driver gets into an accident, which insurance pays for it? Think again. If you’re an Uber driver, what’s the average profit you make, after tax (because it’s sure as hell you have to pay income taxes, at the very least)? In that profit, did you account for maintenance, insurance premiums, car washes, licensing fees, Uber percentage and the normal spit and polish (including new tires and windshield fluid)? Tell me again how that’s worth your time. Do you even own your car?

               Yes, there’s a whole bloody lot of rationalization involved. For both sides. It’s not against the law to burn your money, but it’s a stupid thing to do. It’s not against the law to pawn taxi medallions, or use them as collateral – but it won’t make much sense. Hat’s off to those fellows who rent their medallions. They’re exactly like Uber, only less … evil, of sorts. I’ll give you a hint, though. Uber, Lyft and all others are not representative of free market economics. They’re not heroes. They are only taking advantage of loopholes within the law for their own benefit. They managed to get different types of licenses for the same business. It’s true, they are licensed in some places, even if they operate outside the law in other places. But even then, they put pressure on everybody to get what they want. I don’t care about if they’re licensed or not, actually. The issue is exactly the above part – replacing one type of abuse with another. In short, if the taxi business is an abusive monopoly it stands to reason their would be replacements are also abusive. No, not because of how they treat their customers but because of how they treat their drivers. Only they get better PR.

               I don’t have a magical orb for peeking into the future. I can’t say for sure ride-sharing will turn out bad. However, I’m a firm believer of Murphy’s Law because there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Progress isn’t brought by happy thoughts and flower waving – it’s based on greed and/or the desire to work less. In this case, I’m betting on greed. So we’re replacing a few greedy folks with other greedy folks. Oh, now it does sound better.. Oh, and one more thing.

               Let’s say one taxi driver purchased several medallions for a rather large amount of money, which then put as a collateral to start his business. At that time, that was the only way to operate a taxi business, medallions being the actual permits. You couldn’t do the job without them. But along comes Uber, crashing the party. Now, if we forbid Uber, people say we’re feeding the banks – it’s actually true, though it’s only part of the whole truth. The point is, our driver has a business – he works within the law. The law isn’t changing for him. He still can’t do business any other way. Oh, he could work for Uber? Really? That’s an option? Do you even hear yourself? You think free market means being employed by somebody else? I’ve got news for you, then. Licenses are just one part of the whole thing – make everybody work the same way but remove licenses (and medallions) and compensate medallion owners accordingly. Let Uber obey the same laws about driver background checks, insurances, vehicle maintenance, safety standards and everything registered taxis already have to obey. Let them fight on even ground. That’s free market. Everything else is just bullshit.


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