Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Hey New York Times, This Is Why Uber Is Awesome
We are only a few years into the emergence of a new form of market freedom.
In our highly regulated, static, and bureaucratized job marketplace, hobbled by a thicket of government rules and impositions, there appeared a beautiful thing. Sometimes called the gig economy, it specializes in using mobile apps and other software to directly connect producers and consumers. These new strategies have turned billions of previously idle physical and human resources into ones active in markets, to the great satisfaction of people, but much to the annoyance of governments and their connected labor unions.
The gig economy has turned billions of previously idle resources into ones active in the markets, to the great satisfaction of people and the great annoyance of governments and unions.The headline company here is Uber, the global ride-sharing service that only employs 7,000 people but gives power to millions of drivers and passengers, but there are also thousands of others. What a bright spot! Economic opportunities are being made available for millions, and these markets really do represent a hope for the future.
The irony here is that these strategies are devolving capital control back to workers, just as the socialists once imagined it should be — but it is happening through a capitalistic process. You might think that the emergence of such markets would be greeted with universal acclaim. But, of course, nothing this dramatic is greeted with ubiquitous cheers.
The New York Times has issued a major blast against the gig economy, and it has all the features of this genre of writing: find anything in the sector that might be improved, or is improving, and treat it as something government should crush immediately, regardless of the results for people who are actually choosing in favor of this form of market participation.
An editorial as bad as this calls for a good fisking:
“Utopia” is a pretty high standard against which to compare any existing reality. Itís also pretty presumptuous for any writer to presume people are being “manipulated” because they choose to work hard. Many, just like many newspaper reporters, they desire success.
Imagine an Uber driver sitting at home, binging on Netflix, who suddenly realizes: I could be out making money by driving people around the city, having great conversations, making people happy, and getting drunks home safely. So up he goes out on the town. This is what the Times calls “exploitation.”
I have no doubt, but the Times is blaming the solution and calling it the problem. People who need another source of income have one, thanks to the gig economy. Would they be better off or worse off without the opportunity? (Iím embarrassed to have to make such rudimentary points here but such is the current situation.)
That Uber grew so fast under this model should tell us something. The conventional workplace is not working precisely because of the “basic protections” that are actually horrible burdens that donít help either workers or business owners. What these regulations do is diminish competition in every sector. The success of the gig economy is proof that the market is crying out to carry a lighter load of law. When you see success, thatís a signal you are doing something right (again, my apologies for typing such obvious things).
Put on your decoder ring: the term “workers” here means labor unions, whose only interest is in cartelizing the labor market for their benefit and at the expense of everyone else. As for government agencies, sure, they are ready to beat into submission anything in the market that moves without their permission. This is an old and grim story.
Hey, listen. If the Times is saying that Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Handy, and the thousands of other gig companies are going to fail in the marketplace and be replaced by something else, thatís fine. Let the market sort out winners and losers. If workers find better options, they will gravitate toward them.
But so far, it looks like all the gravitational pull is in the other direction, toward industries that devolve ownership rights and choices to workers and away from the center and around government barriers. The market is already speaking, yelling, screaming: letís try a different way. What the Times is actually agitating for are laws that crush these innovating companies. If they were to succeed, that would be deeply tragic.
Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.
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