Bill Mitchell had a discussion Tuesday on why progressives (damn, that is starting to sound to me like a dirty word) should not be swanning over the likes of Uber, explaining the ways in which that business model resembles sharecropping. He goes on at some length about the evils of sharecropping, and of Uber.
He does not, at least, refer to “the sharing economy,” a term which seems to have lost momentum lately. Thank God. That term was always nonsense. If you’re charging money for it, you’re not “sharing” it. Anyway…
I have noticed lately that Uber is running television commercials for drivers. They ran them for riders for a long time, but then there was nothing for a while and now it’s for drivers. I’ve been wondering what that means, but now I read that Uber also does car financing and I think I know. Ugh. That’s not a pretty picture.
I agree with much of what Mitchell has to say, although I’m less sympathetic than he with the taxi industry. I have a little different slant than he does on the history of the taxi industry persuading (bribing) local governments to limit the number of licenses. He sees that as opportunity for impoverished taxi drivers to realize capital gains on taxi licenses, while I see it as a method of enriching taxi owners through the limitation of competition. Either way, seeing them suffer from competition now because their bribes were overtaken by events doesn’t really bother me much.
Way down in the comments section someone mentions that sharecropping is not intrinsically evil; that it provides entry into farming without the need for capital to purchase land, for instance. Which raises an interesting point. Most systems, either in government or business, are intrinsically neither good or bad. What matters is the manner in which that system is implemented.
The modern generation of “progressives” are ranting on the evils of capitalism, and notably not offering to say what should replace it, but capitalism is what produced the boom times and almost utopian living standard of the 1960's and 70's. What changed about the way our systems have been implemented between then and now is for another discussion, certainly Uber is part of the change and part of the problem, but the problem is not the system itself.