Shutting down Uber has become somewhat of a badge of honour among lawmakers, like attempting to rein in the unruly citizens of the internet or legalising gay marriage ten years too late. When was the last time you opened a news site and weren’t presented with some version of the following?
Lawmakers everywhere seem intent on stamping this rapidly expanding service, which gets a million ride requests a week, into the ground. Their reasoning? Uber breaks the law.
This reasoning is misguided.
The people who make and enforce these laws are focusing on the wrong thing. Here’s what they should be considering when deciding what to do about Uber:
1. Uber is a good thing
There are some technology services that, through a total disregard for the law, are great for users but screw over someone else involved in the transaction they enable. Napster was one of these services. Users loved it, but it screwed over musicians. Half of the people involved in the transaction were being stolen from.
Uber is not one of these services.
There is no one in an Uber transaction who is screwed over. The driver is happy because they’re making money off customers they wouldn’t otherwise have found. The customer is happy because they’re getting a cheap ride with a couple of taps on their phone. The only people who are screwed over are taxi drivers, and the reason they are screwed over is that Uber’s service is a hundred times better than theirs. But this is irrelevant — they’re no longer involved in this transaction. Banning Uber based on the shouts of protesting taxi drivers is like banning the internet because it puts newspaper editors out of work.
Yes, there are regulations in place that make Uber illegal. But Uber’s is a victimless crime. Uber is a good thing. So it’s the regulations that need changing, not Uber.
2. The law is out of date
The law was written in an age before we could even dream of services like Uber coming along and making our lives infinitely better. So, like the Founding Fathers and that awkward ‘right to bear arms’ cock-up, the people writing the taxi regulations included some rules they probably wouldn’t have included if they could see what was coming. That’s fine. They did the best they could with the information they had. We can’t blame them.
What we can do, though, is correct their mistakes. We can look at the rules they drew up, spot the places where they were perhaps a little short-sighted, and reach for the eraser.
But that’s not what lawmakers are doing.
Lawmakers, instead of saying, ‘Hey, this Uber thing is pretty neat, let’s update our laws sharpish,’ are saying, ‘No! Stop! Don’t do that! That’s against the law!’
Of course Uber is against the law. The law is out of date.
Uber is a good thing. It’s a great thing. In the closed system of getting people from A to B in cars, it makes literally everyone better off — the drivers and the passengers. Sure, it fumbles around with a few laws. But this shouldn’t mean our lawmakers feel the need to slow its progress at every turn. They should be working round the clock to bring their antiquated laws up to speed with services like Uber that are making everyone’s lives better.