Uber Debacle in Austin Shows Why We Need Free Markets

HotAir.com reports: A couple of months ago we talked about the failed effort in Austin, Texas to regulate ride sharing in a way which would allow consumers more choices in local transportation. The cab companies and their union lobbied heavily to make it nearly impossible for any competition in the market and they eventually won the day. In response, Uber closed down in Austin and Lyft opted not to operate there. The result was bad news for customers and the growth of a different sort of market which should have been entirely predictable. There is now a growing “black market” for ride sharing taking hold in the city.

The Federalist.com reports: Tens of thousands of riders and drivers are now connecting through Facebook and Craigslist, sidestepping onerous city regulations passed late last year aimed at traditional ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft that required drivers to be fingerprinted, among other things.

When a ballot proposal that would have replaced the city ordinance failed, Uber and Lyft left town as promised. Since May 9, there have been no ride-sharing services available in this city of almost a million people. Getting around town has become almost impossible unless you own a car. [Emphasis added; thank you, government busybodies!]

Arcade City, the “Uber killer” ride-sharing company, as it’s known, says it’s developing a peer-to-peer ride-sharing app that will connect people who need a ride with people who have a car, and eliminate “concern about red tape or corporate BS—just people providing people a needed service.”

HotAir.com comments: The free market abhors a vacuum and always moves rapidly to fill it. That seems to be the rule in play here and Arcade City is simply a symptom rather than a cause. This Facebook community has become the vehicle for former Uber drivers and other ride sharing enthusiasts to eliminate the middle man and go on providing rides outside of any sort of formal regulation. Customers log in and post their location and destination and wind up getting a ride much the same as they did before.

Government, whether in Austin or Washington DC, never creates anything of value. Government, by definition, can only subvert and destroy.

This is not a case for anarchism. When it comes to violent offenders and frauds, we want a strong and just government to subvert and destroy. But when it comes to choices in the marketplace, whether for rides, health care, or anything else, we want government the hell out of the way.

Obviously, a majority do not agree with me. If they did, we would not have two terms of President Obama and the prospect of a President Hillary. These individuals stand for virtually unlimited government control over everything. A majority apparently agrees, in Austin, as well. That’s why they keep winning these battles.

It’s too bad. When government screws things up, it never has to defend itself. It’s simply assumed: “That’s the way it is. What can you do?” Or, “Who is John Galt?” as people sighed in the fictional (now non-fictional) version of America’s decline, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

Government officials in Austin got in the way of Uber. To some, that’s a good thing, because big companies like Uber, in their minds, have no business usurping the well-being and livelihood of “the little guy.” It seems that the little guy, the cab drivers and others whose businesses were harmed by Uber’s competition, are somehow entitled to have the same income forever, even if that’s not what thousands of Austin-area consumers wanted.

Imagine if the attitudes of Austin regulators had dominated America a century ago. Horse and buggy lobbyists would have expressed outrage, and used political pull, to thwart the development and expansion of the automobile. While that would probably make a lot of rabid environmentalists happy today, it does not change the facts: Progress will never occur outside of a free market.

Education stinks. Health care is a mess. Does anyone propose a free market in these areas? It’s heresy, and that’s a shame. A free market does not guarantee anything, not by itself. People have to think. Without clever and ingenious thought on someone’s part, there never would have been an Uber. When we “regulate”—nothing more than a magic word for destroy—that kind of innovation, we denigrate rational human thought, in the process. And then we wonder why America is becoming such a dysfunctional, irrational and unpredictable place.

The really sad part? At least when government destroys Uber in Austin, we can see it. We can compare and contrast with other parts of America where Uber flourishes. What about all the things that government—particularly the federal government—prevents from coming into existence because of all the things it does (intentionally or not) to thwart, hamper and undermine innovation and competition?

Free markets, free minds and free societies: There is no other answer. There never has been, and there never will be. America in general—and Austin, Texas, in particular—continue to blow it, again and again.

If and when people ever learn, you cannot imagine the level of innovation and progress we will once again see. The best within all of us remains forever possible, even in these ridiculous times.

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