Fighting Uber's Death Star with a Rebel Alliance of co-op platforms

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there is a planet killer spaceship in the book “The lost destroyer” which is far more realistic than the power needed to actually make a planet explode.

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Cue draconian and poorly focused pro-trust laws in 3… 2… 1…

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Seeing Uber described as “rent-seeking” damned near broke my router and monitor. When you look up rent-seeking in most any dictionary, you’ll find a picture of a taxicab medallion.


This kinda sorta makes sense if you think the endgame, or at least long-term future, of taxis involves a meat sack in a driver’s seat. On the other hand, if you think it involves a robot, it seems a lot more likely that it’ll be a capital-intensive business. Not that you can’t disrupt capital-intensive businesses too, a la AirBNB (oh wait, do we hate them too? I forgot) vs. hotel chains.

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Taxis aside, I work for a company that only serves one city, and “local” is a big big selling point. I can tell people our customer service department is down the hall from my office, and we don’t have a call center in India. There’s a lot to like about local business.


We pretty much hate anybody whose employment model postdates the 1960s, I think. That’s why we’re called “progressives”.

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I like the basic philosophy behind this plan, basically that a decentralized network is better than a centralized one. It certainly is true almost everywhere you look: the internet would never have worked if it hadn’t been designed this way, and, on the flip side, the American Food Industry is definitely NOT working because it has become a gigantic, centralized nightmare that breeds shit food, monoculture farms, and terrible food security (one little virus can wipe out a big percentage of a crop or animal breed.) We should know this by know, but we don’t care- or, rather, big business doesn’t care, and we don’t care enough to make them care.

As for Uber, I like them in theory, just like “free market” sounds great, in theory- but the reality is, when the needs of a community (i.e. New York City) are in direct competition with the needs of a business (i.e. Uber’s price hiking in times of high demand) this hole “free market disrupting” thing falls flat. Uber kind of sucks, in practice. Or, like in airbnb’s case- you’d think that this thing would create lots of cheap vacation sports for people visiting NYC, but it hasn’t, because homeowners’ space is in such high demand, they can still charge a lot of money per night and get it. The theory here is that someone else will charge a little less, and get the business, and then someone else will charge even less, and so on until we strike a fair balance between renter and rentee… but, again, that’s not the way it’s working right now in an overpriced city full of visitors with apparent money to burn.

I don’t like regulations in theory, but…

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You’ll never get a fair balance between renter and rentee as long as there are imposed limits on the amount of new housing stock that can be built.

You’ll never get a fair balance between “taxi” operators and their customers as long as there are imposed limits on the number of operators that can enter the market.

But if those limits are not imposed by man, they’re imposed by nature. And, unfortunately, by the time nature gets around to telling us we’ve gone too far, we’ve gone way too far. Like I said, I don’t like laws and regulations in principle, but people are just too damn shortsighted to rationally stop themselves from building too much, adding too many cars to the road, and breeding, pouring into cities, asking for (and paying) ridiculous real estate prices, etc. And just like people are free to do what they want, societies are free to do what they want as a collective, too. So if we, collectively, say “enough!” That’s pretty much exactly the same as creating regulations for our city. Which leads me to the conclusion that Uber should exist, but it should be regulated- fairly, which is the tricky part.

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While you are right, it’s interesting to note that the flavor of the week in Internet circles right now is so-called software-defined networking (SDN), which follows a centralized paradigm.

There is no new thing under the sun, and what comes around goes around. I probably missed a few clichés, you can add your own.

“Ridiculous real estate prices” are generally the result of not “building too much”.

Artificially keeping supply down in order to increase prices is a favorite strategy of many of those who stand to profit by higher prices.

Totally agree. Wrote a short piece on exactly this some months ago

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Taxi services are rent seekers therefore their competitors are not rent seekers.

That is the form of your argument. Be ashamed.

But it’s also a side-effect of trying to reign in indiscriminate development. The strategy of those who stand to profit is also to lobby against rent and price controls that become necessary when “artificial” scarcity becomes necessary…

“Rent seeking” can be defined in the modern context as the use of political/regulatory influence to guarantee market share and/or to restrict the entry into the market of competitors.

If Uber does that, then yes they are guilty of rent seeking. I await the evidence.

It’s funny how artificial scarcity is a terrible thing when applied to luxury goods like digital music and movies, but a good idea when applied to necessities like housing and “taxi” transportation. Cognitive dissonance??

Not really, The former exist in practically limitless space, while the latter exist in very limited space (at least in the cases where regulatory limiting would be appropriate)

Well, the point I was really trying to make is that if you artificially restrict the housing stock in a particular area (regardless of the purity of motive) you create a political constituency of all the housing owners in that area.

That constituency loooooves ever-increasing housing prices, and will fight tooth and nail against any attempt to make housing more affordable.

It’s a self-feeding cycle, and a classic example of the law of unintended consequences, the law that trumps anything any legislature will ever enact.

I definitely agree. You make a lot of compelling arguments in a lot of threads about the law of unintended consequences when it comes to government actions (e.g government backed mortgages/education loans leading to abusive and speculative lending) that don’t get many likes (because they’re depressing as hell*) but also don’t get many “but here’s a clear-cut reason why you’re wrong” either. Greed flows toward these (hopefully) unintended opportunities for greed to flourish because of leaky laws. I would argue though, that we haven’t seen much existing regulation that is strong enough to escape either the regulatory capture that creates intentional loopholes, or tenacious enough to self-improve when truly unintended loopholes appear. Basically, corrupt and weak legislature can’t withstand the force of greed, but not any legislature ever.

* And their tone doesn’t address the moral deficiency of the greedy themselves, but rather gives them a “The devil government made me do it!” excuse…