Taxi Drivers are Targeting Uber; they Should be Angry at the Government

I was 16 years old in a cab heading home late at night and when we arrived at my door the meter read 350 escudos (this was before the Euro). I gave the driver the only money I had: a 5,000 escudos bill (25 euros), at the time about two month’s worth of my allowance. It was 3 in the morning, the street was deserted, and the driver told me that although he didn’t have any change he was unusually good with faces and would give me back the change if we ever met again. 20 years have passed and I´m still waiting.

In Europe, Uber drivers are being targeted by taxi drivers. From full blown physical attacks, to slashing tires, to blocking their cars and calling the police, taxi drivers are showing their power, muscle and knives. Governments try to appease taxi drivers and in some countries have ruled Uber illegal, shielding themselves with interpretations of the law all the while avoiding a rational debate on the subject. Upon leaving the spotlight, late at night, in bed, wrapped in their blankets and thoughts, said government members recognise that when it comes to private mobility, Uber is a better business model. And wouldn´t it be just so much better if Uber didn´t exist? You see, it´s making them look bad.

Business disruption radically alters an existing business model to offer a better service, usually with a better price model for the customer. State disruption, as is Uber and Airbnb, is about going after the State´s free money. Taxi drivers are a win win for the state, the drivers pay a licence for the right to work, a revenue which costs the government basically nothing to earn, and they provide a service every city needs to function.

Most taxi drivers are good, decent people who just don´t understand that it´s the government and not Uber that´s lead them to the place where they are now — about to be eaten away by a new, smarter business model. They attack Uber drivers because they don´t pay the same taxes, when they should be mad at the government to whom they pay their taxes in exchange for nothing.

How do taxi drivers find an Uber driver to attack? Uber drivers are well dressed, clean shaven or with just the right amount of makeup, their cars are spotless, they sit upright, they don´t shout and curse at other cars or try to block them, and they mostly look like fancy chauffeurs, which they are. Most importantly, every time they provide a service they are rated by their customer, so the incentive for constant good service is always there.

As a European, the realisation that many of these american technology companies are basically getting away with murder when it comes to paying taxes is disconcerting, but instead of blaming Uber for providing a service people want to use, I´m mad the the government for making me use a service they never cared to improve. Most taxi drivers are not like the taxi driver with eidetic memory who drove me home 20 years ago and who is surely still holding onto my change after all these years. Many of them, though, have the skills, education and driving skills expected from someone who has been all but forgotten by the entities that are supposed to look out for them.

When it comes to urban mobility, the government to whom we hand over our taxes in the hope that they are looking after our interests is doing a worse job than Uber, an American company with apparent little concern and surely no obligation to the average European citizen.

Given this scenario, the fact that Uber drivers are somehow unfairly competing with taxi drivers is not so disconcerting. If Uber stops providing a good service then we are under no obligation to pay them — if we held our governments to the same standards the state of things would surely be different.

Taxi drivers should both be asking what they can do for their country, but also what their country has done for them.