Uber v. Taxis: A Metaphor

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On one side you have entrepreneurs, smart phones, and the trendy, on the other: unions, regulations and institutions.

What’s a progressive to do? I support unions and reasonable regulation, and being an older dude, certain institutions. But the times they are a changin’. Is it a bad thing that someone with a decent rig and time on their hands shouldn’t make some extra cash? Plus, consumers get more availability and options.

Then again, there are the union cab drivers trying to make a living, municipal incomes from licensing and fees, and the ethically-challenged Uber management style.

Not to mention a safety issue: bad driving, assaults, and sexual harassment at the hands of amateur, poorly-regulated Uber drivers. (On the flip side, one of the scariest rides of my life was from a San Fransisco cabbie who thought he was Steve McQueen from the movie Bullitt.)

Uber has been in the Montana news lately and it could be a metaphor for an economy in transition and, perhaps, our political landscape. This is unchartered territory. The old business models are out the window.

I’ve been following the debate over at a 4&20 post critical of Uber (and of some Democrats advancing Uber-style apps). It’s the free marketeers and new economy v. regulation and worker protection.

But this extends beyond Uber. There are Airbnb and VRBO, challenging the hospitality industry; all the LBS (Location Based Services) threatening retail, marketing, advertising and billing businesses. Medicine, law and education all have their apps.

From the Gaurdian:

But as Silicon Valley looks ever more closely at “disrupting” the real world economy, and the legislation that binds it, the culture wars look set to intensify.

How progressives weigh in on the economics, politics and culture of this brave, new world could be paramount to our future.  If possible, instead of playing catch up, we need to stay ahead of this.

 

 

 

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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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njdgrooveTravis Kavullalizard19Pete Talbotmick Recent comment authors
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James Conner
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Uber has a history of doing business in a town before it has permission to do so, then begging forgiveness for its sins. “People were just so happy to find my ride I just had to help them.” And unlike a local contractor who builds a house before applying for the building permit, Uber gets away with it. Ask Portland, OR. Furthermore, these are not jobs with union protection. Uber drivers are independent contractors (an issue under litigation in California), a situation that would please Alan Greenspan, the Kochies, and Ayn Rand. Blessing Uber’s party crashing business model is understandable… Read more »

mick
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mick

Uber fails the 4 point test,used in Montana, to determine employment status, as is can end its'”partnership”, with its’ drivers, at anytime .Jim Messina,Mat McKenna, and Kate Downen all work for Uber now. These 3 were spokespeople, for the Montana Democratic party for more than the last decade. Working for Tester, Baucus, Bullock and the Montana Democratic Party as a whole. They also more recently, worked at a national level for Clinton’s as well as Obama and David Cameron? All three likely enjoy greater basic worker rights than those of Ubers’ drivers. There is the rub, the race to the… Read more »

mick
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mick

On your left!

Travis Kavulla
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Travis Kavulla

This same type of debate was playing out about 20 years ago, between the monopoly landline system owned by Ma Bell and its start-up competitors. The argument in favor of the former was that it paid high wages, that it was regulated by state utility commissions, that it performed a social-welfare function (using its lucrative urban monopoly to offer subsidies to rural or low-income consumers). Nonetheless, government stood aside (in some ways) and the following 20 years have seen the flourishing of competitive long-distance services, mobile telephony, VoIP over dedicated systems, over-the-top phone services like Skype, etc. There is still… Read more »

lizard19
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lizard19

there are already reports of Uber drivers operating in Missoula, Travis. if that’s true, what are you going to do about? if they didn’t get a license, and are operating illegally, what mechanisms do you have to stop them?

Travis Kavulla
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Travis Kavulla

If someone calls us with specifics about a complaint we will investigate. We are at 444-6199.

A couple Fridays and Saturdays ago I turned on the Uber app to see if drivers were on the road in Missoula. There weren’t any. (Uber allows you to see all operating cars through their app)

njdgroove
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Thats another BS story too. The PSC has no Enforcement Mechanisms in Place for A,B or E class drivers. The Taxi industry has filed numerous complaints against people who do fly by night taxi Biz for years. they are still operating today. The PSC has done nothing and continues to do nothing

njdgroove
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Travis, everything you just wrote here was a lie, and what you told legislators to get SB396 passed was a lie. No Monopolies exist with these 70 little spits of Business. They hardly have business conversations, or share any type of information to be a Monopoly. Lets face it you don’t give a damn for Home Grown Montana Business, because they didn’t wave a Campaign donation in your Face like Uber did Do you know what a monopoly even is Travis??? Maybe I should talk simply so you get the Jist of its definition. Amtrak is a monopoly! Much the… Read more »

njdgroove
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Oh and you grizz fans, get ready to start paying twice as much with UBER for Grizz Games transportation, Twice as much when it snows or we have bad weather of any kind which Montana is famous for and twice as much on Holidays than a regular taxi pricing, twice as much when the Bars close. all because you couldn’t wait on a regular taxi. You didn’t plan ahead, or you dont know how to dial a number but you can push a button on an APP?????? Thats how UBER gets out their drivers to drive. Its a greed factor.… Read more »

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