There’s an old joke that a New Yorker learns to drive by raising an arm and hailing a taxi, but it’s quickly becoming ancient lore.
Like many cities around the world, New York’s taxi industry is facing a crippling blow from the surging popularity of Uber. The difference in this city was the fierce battle going on between Uber and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was fighting the app’s ever-accelerating growth in the Big Apple.
The de Blasio administration made a failed effort to put the brakes on the robust expansion by arguing that Uber's impact is actually a threat to the quality of life in New York City – as if the city hasn’t been congested for centuries.
Uber blamed de Blasio's efforts on the large donations he received from executives, lobbyists and other affiliates of the yellow taxi industry during his 2013 election campaign.
The de Blasio administrated surrendered to public pressure and finally agreed to drop the plan to place a cap on the number of vehicles operated by Uber in New York City. The struggle that had consumed City Hall for several days, and inundated parts of the city with advertisements, mailers and celebrity endorsements can be at ease.
City-goers can continue to ride with Uber at ease – for now.
Broader Political Dispute
The New York City feud is just one outbreak of a much larger political struggle on how to handle the rise of new "sharing economy" services and what they mean for the future of employment, working conditions and protection.
The political agenda is being flooded by the debate over what should be available in a digitally connected world, and Democrats are speaking up in favor of slowing and sometimes denying tech-innovation by building government road blocks.
Isn’t it ironic that the political party that terms itself “progressive” is increasingly defensive of the status quo? The presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton showed just how old-fashioned she is during her speech on why she fears the new sharing economy and how she doesn’t want technology to “determine our destiny.” It sounds like Hillary has been watching I, Robot.
Here’s an important question to consider: Should one person who hopes to pay another person to perform a legal service be restricted from doing so by the government? The fact that Democrats, like Clinton, answer that question with words like “crack down” and “classify” should send a red flag.
For those of us who support free and open markets, the arrival of Uber is genial, not frightening. This ingenious app means we can stop waiting in the rain for a state-approved taxis, and it creates a golden opportunity for those who wish to decide their own work schedule and make money without answering to a boss.
Clinton and DeBlasio need to accept the fact that the shared economy is here and growing. Protecting public safety is one thing, but hiding behind it is quite another.
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