If you live in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, or any of eleven other fortunate cities in the world, you can hire rides from Uber. Here’s how it works: After you register your credit card information with the company, you can use your mobile device to schedule a ride with a driver. After the driver delivers you to your destination, the company bills you according to its standard rates, “and the tip is included.”
Great, capitalist idea, right? That’s precisely why some local politicians oppose it, as it disrupts their local taxi cartels.
Thankfully, when politicians in Washington, D.C. sought to shackle Uber in that city, the company fought back—and won, at least for now.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Uber's success in Washington, as in other cities, has disrupted the local regulated taxi industry by offering consumers easier access to nicer rides at reasonable prices. . . . [T]he taxi lobby is still powerful. . . . Democratic Councilwoman Mary Cheh introduced an amendment that would have set the minimum fare for an Uber ride five times higher than that of taxis.
Then Uber fought back. . . . CEO Travis Kalanick posted on the company's website that it was "hard for us to believe that an elected body would choose to keep prices of a transportation service artificially high," adding that Uber was "seriously concerned about punitive government intervention in a well functioning marketplace." He asked customers to sign a petition and contact city council members. . . .
Within hours, inboxes were flooded with thousands of email complaints. . . . So the city . . . struck the Uber amendment from a larger taxi regulation bill and agreed to let the company continue to operate in Washington through December 31 without imposing new regulations.
So Uber has won only a temporary reprieve, not a final victory. Still, the company took a principled stand for its right to compete in an open market, and it achieved a victory against the Little Dictators in, of all places, D.C. This is worthy of praise, emulation, and support.
Cheers to Kalanick and the whole team at Uber—may other businessmen be emboldened by their example—and may Americans patronize these capitalists and enjoy the fruits of principles in practice.
Image: Wikimedia Commons