Feudalism and the “Algorithmic Economy”
Thaddeus Howze

Truly cringeworthy. At a global scale, wages are increasing at their fastest rate in history [1]. Wage growth for the middle class *has* stagnated in the US, but not nearly as much as some people (myself included, until recently) believe [2]. The primary cause of this slowdown in wage growth is slowing productivity growth [3], while the major secondary cause is growing income disparity. Growing income disparity can be traced [4] directly to *growth* in exactly the type of regulatory restrictions that you think are needed to prevent some dystopian neo-feudalistic future.

While you are fixated on Uber and the rest of the sharing economy, you miss the bigger picture, which is that an increasing number of occupations and business activities are being placed behind regulatory barriers to entry [5], to protect incumbents from competition, so that they may better extract economic rent.

Even the sharing economy is under threat from these incumbents, who are funding a sophisticated PR campaign [6] (which I suspect involves a significant dose of astroturfing) to make ordinary people advocate for policies that go against their own interests, and support prohibitions on their right to compete.

In your world, anticompetitive organizations like unions are good for wages. This is no different than the ideology created to justify the medieval guild system, which created a set of haves and have nots, while massively inhibiting economic/wage growth. The more things change, the more ideologies promulgated by self-proclaimed “visionaries”, to justify coercive control, remain the same.

Another thing that strikes me about these kinds of missives for prohibition of services like Uber is what a paternalistic attitude it has toward the drivers, who are choosing to drive for Uber because they perceive it as being the best option available to them.

You want people who currently drive for Uber to no longer have that option, for their own good.

You presume you have more perfect knowledge of a potential Uber driver’s best interests than they do. You and your judgements are just as imperfect as the drivers’, and more so on the matter of the drivers’ own best interest, as you don’t have the benefit of knowing the driver’s personal circumstances and options like they do.

[1] http://www.csmonitor.com/World/2016/0207/Progress-in-the-global-war-on-poverty

[2] https://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications/the-region/where-has-all-the-income-gone

[3] https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/sources-of-real-wage-stagnation/

[4] https://www.brookings.edu/research/make-elites-compete-why-the-1-earn-so-much-and-what-to-do-about-it/

[5] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2015/01/27/nearly-30-percent-of-workers-in-the-u-s-need-a-license-to-perform-their-job-it-is-time-to-examine-occupational-licensing-practices/

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/technology/inside-the-hotel-industrys-plan-to-combat-airbnb.html

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