Except we don’t live in a free market (I’m in the UK, there’s absolutely not one here, and I don’t…
Richard Simpson
11

I’d have the information I need about the situation

That is just it: you don’t information you need. You don’t have a millionth the information you need.

You know what the ride is worth to you. You know if the appointment can be rescheduled, or simply missed, and what the costs are.

What you don’t know is what the ride would be worth to the million other people who might want that ride instead. And you don’t know what the thousands of Uber drivers or potential Uber drivers would have to give up to give you that ride.

Even if you could talk to all the competing riders, you have no other vocabulary for expressing importance. You have a job interview, he wants to go meet the potential love of his life, she needs to see her ailing mother. Who “needs” the car more?

And you have no way to incentivize the driver. You may really, really need that job, and the other guy may be really, really horny, and the mother may be really, really sick, but none of that will get the Uber driver off his couch. He wants — needs! — cold hard cash.

You have an inchoate sense that a poor man who cannot pay $10 for an ride to a job interview “needs” it “more” than a rich man who insouciantly forks over $20 for the ride to an assignation. A noble sentiment perhaps, but one that is wholly untranslatable into action. How do you capture that sense of need, how to you translate it into a decision, even on an individual basis, let alone in an economy where a billion such decisions must be made every day?

It is impossible. All you are proposing is to intervene in one particular way — eliminating surge pricing — a way that you believe, on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, will improve things, by a standard you cannot articulate. No standard, no system, no way of observing or measuring the result, just a random change and a vague hope, like a monkey trying to repair an car by pounding on it with a coconut.

Well, we have a system, the free market. It may not produce a result you personally like in every single circumstance, but it has produced prosperity for billions of people.

No market is perfectly free, not even in the US, but ours is closer than most countries’, and that is reflected in our relative prosperity. European systems tend to rely on what you are pleased to call “personal responsibility” but in reality that translates to heavy regulation, which is why if England improbably decided to leave Great Britain and join these United State, despite being culturally and socially extremely similar, it would become the poorest of the states.

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