Skip

Travis Shrugged
October 25, 2012 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Travis Shrugged: The creepy, dangerous ideology behind Silicon Valley’s "Cult of Disruption"
posted by AceRock (55 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
This essay is literally the worst thing. As an attack on Uber on public safety grounds, it's straight-up pathetic, since any sane person would feel safer in an Uber cab than in a "licensed" taxi. And the rest of it is just vague sinister "ooga booga Ayn Rand" insinuations based on a quote from the founder about how he enjoyed The Fountainhead.

I don't even understand his point about Uber shutting down its NYC taxi service -- isn't that what he wants?
posted by eugenen at 11:20 AM on October 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


LOLLibertarians!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:21 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


well, sure, but you're in fucking dreamland if you think the next wave of exploitative assholes aren't just going to adopt some more nominally collectivist author once Rand is fully brand-ruined/unfashionable/"creepy", take a "socialist" position, and use that to justify and commend their fuckery

viz. the "you guys maybe Stalin wasn't so bad" people
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:22 AM on October 25, 2012


There will be no peace until the Libertarians get their own country to destroy. I say Let Them Have Texas (™) to start.
posted by bongo_x at 11:23 AM on October 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


The what people?
posted by griphus at 11:23 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


As an attack on Uber on public safety grounds, it's straight-up pathetic, since any sane person would feel safer in an Uber cab than in a "licensed" taxi.
His point wasn't that Uber taxis are unsafe, but rather that disrupting the regulatory environment makes taxis as a whole more unsafe.
posted by Jehan at 11:23 AM on October 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


His point wasn't that Uber taxis are unsafe, but rather that disrupting the regulatory environment makes taxis as a whole more unsafe.

Please explain how Uber makes taxis as a whole more unsafe.
posted by eugenen at 11:27 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please explain how Uber makes taxis as a whole more unsafe.
Read the article, he explains his thoughts there.
posted by Jehan at 11:28 AM on October 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


This new disrupted world is going to be crazy and unpredictable! It's going to have unlicensed flying taxis! Drone squads delivering tacos with devastating precision! 140-character free-market manifestos published on demand in the form of customized t-shirts! Reality shows about crowd-sourced whistleblower clones! Everything is going to be connected across time and space in uncanny ways! Tweets unfolding into unconferences unfolding into screenplays unfolding into start-ups!

We can call it Cloud Atlas Shrugged!
posted by oulipian at 11:29 AM on October 25, 2012 [33 favorites]


you're in fucking dreamland if you think the next wave of exploitative assholes aren't just going to adopt some more nominally collectivist author
Is there a theory of conservation of assholes that I'm not aware of? The article is talking about a specific kind of asshole that is being (deliberately) bred like mad. It's very strange for you to bring up this other kind of hypothetical future assholes.
posted by cdward at 11:36 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


It drives me nuts when articles claim extraordinary statistics like "unlicensed drivers are responsible for a horrifying 80 percent of all stranger rapes" and fail to link the source. Googling that stat brings up lots of references on pro-safety and pro-licensed taxi sites (and stormfront.org), but I can't find the source. Anybody know?
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 11:37 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Read the article, he explains his thoughts there.

I did read it and it's stupid. What, a collective of rapists is now going to incorporate an internet start-up offering people taxi rides? If he's worried about creepers, he should be worried about Craigslist. Uber is not going to make taxis more dangerous.

His attack on Airbnb -- "14 hours"! -- is even weirder and dumber.
posted by eugenen at 11:37 AM on October 25, 2012


What, a collective of rapists is now going to incorporate an internet start-up offering people taxi rides?

No, but if the regulatory atmosphere changes to allow unlicensed taxis, then unlicensed taxis will proliferate outside of internet startups.
posted by KathrynT at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Anyone have statistics on the safety of people who are UNABLE TO FIND A FUCKING CAB?

I bet they're not good.
posted by bbuda at 11:45 AM on October 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Uber may be the best thing to happen to DC cabs, if for no other reason than pointing out how abjectly shitty most - not all - of the cabs in DC are. The cabbies are a whole 'nuther kettle o' fish.

Just sayin'.
posted by Thistledown at 11:51 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Read the article, he explains his thoughts there.

I made it two-thirds through before the straw men became too thick for me to push aside.

Look, when we talk about Uber from now on can we just stipulate that we think Travis Kalanick is a fucking tool? We can throw in the fact that a lot of how Uber markets their product - travel like a european diplomat! - is just dopey.

Maybe then we can talk about when regulation is and isn't stupid and anti-consumer without it turning into hurf-durf-LOLbertarians! Because I'll tell you what Uber represents here in the DC area: a car service that will pick you up even if you're in a wheelchair and which will take you to Ward 6 - both things you often cannot get from a hailed cab.

Does Uber engage in some lobbying shenanigans and use their popularity to get what they want? Sure. Welcome to every business in the world today. For a while I was seeing advertisements on busses encouraging customers of some cable/satellite tv company or another to call someone and express how they want to be able to watch Breaking Bad. It was some royalties dispute between the channel and the carrier and one was enlisting customers against the other. So what?

The safety issue, at least when it comes to Uber in the DC area, is a macguffin. Here the cars must be licensed limo drivers, so whatever mythical (and I think largely imaginary) safety you get from a cab you get there.

What you're not getting, so far, despite the wishes of the DC Taxi Commission, is a higher price floor to help protect the business of regular cabbies. I'm all in favor of the consumer-focused mission of the cab commission. People hailing a cab should have some certainty of what they'll be asked to pay. They should have predictable and consistent fares. The vehicles should be safe to ride in.

Do I think that it should be the mission of the commssion to make sure cabbies make enough money? To the extent that it's a balancing act you are morally obligated to undertake when you mandate fares, absolutely. But that's not what Uber price regulation is about - it's about protecting cabs from a service that's already charging about twice what they do but which they still feel threatened by.

Kalanick is a bozo but every regulation I've seen them trying to fight off here in DC has done nothing to protect consumer safety and has had everything to do with serving cabbies. You don't need to be a whackadoodle glibertarian to question the point of protectionism that does nothing to help consumers.
posted by phearlez at 11:54 AM on October 25, 2012 [23 favorites]


I did read it and it's stupid. What, a collective of rapists is now going to incorporate an internet start-up offering people taxi rides? If he's worried about creepers, he should be worried about Craigslist. Uber is not going to make taxis more dangerous.
It may well be stupid, but you misunderstood what he was saying. The worry is not with Uber itself, but with the idea that disrupting a regulatory is always good. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but the disruption should not be fetishized as a goal. "Uber is not going to make taxis more dangerous" is a very glib thing to say.
posted by Jehan at 11:58 AM on October 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: this other kind of hypothetical future assholes
posted by McCoy Pauley at 12:00 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that "14 hours before AirBnB responded" thing was hilarious. Basically, lady notices her place is trashed, calls to complain at 7pm on a Monday, and doesn't receive a response until 9am on Tuesday. OH THE HUMANITY.
posted by nushustu at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Without the context it looks silly, but according to the linked Gawker article she called the "urgent" line (which on airbnb's site says things like "immediate assistance" and "We strive to answer phone calls within 90 seconds"), and "was only able to get a call back after contacting a friend who happens to freelance for Airbnb".
posted by cdward at 12:09 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ayn fucking Rand.

This is the only appropriate way to refer to her.
posted by jb at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I did read it and it's stupid. What, a collective of rapists is now going to incorporate an internet start-up offering people taxi rides?

Maybe you should try reading the article again. From the article: "Back home in London (where such statistics are available), 11 women a month are attacked in unlicensed cabs, and unlicensed drivers are responsible for a horrifying 80 percent of all stranger rapes."

Uber wants unlicensed cab drivers, and the Uber CEO refuses to acknowledge that there is a reason that cab drivers were licensed in the first place.

on a slightly wider point: anyone who is anti-regulation really should spend sometime studying 19th and early 20th century business practices. My first year in university, I was doing reading on food quality and safety: there is nothing that will convince you to love regulation as much as reading about adding chalk dust to milk to cover up the colour of spoilage and mold. Well, maybe getting E. coli poisoning due to poorly regulated meat production might be more convincing.
posted by jb at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


> We can call it Cloud Atlas Shrugged!

How about "Atlas Cloud Sourced"?

posted by mmrtnt at 12:28 PM on October 25, 2012


My problem with the article had to do with the (bizarre, to my ears) labeling of "disruptive" as "objectivism" and/or "generally behaving like an asshole." (Also, "disruptive" to me always meant to "disrupt" the existing status quo players in a market, not to disrupt regulatory bodies).

Does Travis Kalanick sound like a bit of an asshole? Sure. But I think that there's a lot of truth in the thought that licensing boards are often created for the purposes of reducing competition.

As with so many things in life, the stupid comes from believing either extreme: "All regulation is for reasons of public safety" or "All regulations are stupid and need to be disrupted". Clearly both of these positions are wrong.
posted by gregvr at 12:33 PM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm unsure on what taxi regulations specifically do to protect the consumer. They don't seem to protect me against insane speeding drivers high on alcohol or meth (the first I have proof of because it was in his beverage holder, the second is just a guess). They don't result in competitive rates. They don't train drivers how to get around their own fucking neighborhood efficiently, or to communicate properly, or how to use their GPS. They're not efficient in terms of dispatch or routing.

To deliver mail we have USPS (regulated), UPS, and Fedex. We don't give our packages to guys in unmarked white vans to deliver, do we? Nor should we assume that unlicensed taxis can't be anything other than sex-crazed miscreants that can't drive.

I would also like to see a credible source for the sexual assault statistics. If I Google the phrase "11 women are attacked each month after taking an unlicensed minicab" it turns up a load of taxi classifieds and other SEO-type pages with this exact phrasing.

The mention of the AirBnb incident is also hilariously bad. In a way AirBnb is more regulated than their competitors since they broker the transaction. Other services like VRBO/HomeAway just provide listings, and it's up to the buyer and seller to work it out -- they definitely aren't liable for someone trashing your property.

“Just because there are people who want to rape, murder, or rob you shouldn’t prevent me from making another million dollars,” he’ll argue.

Seriously? A fictional quote? This article sucks.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:39 PM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, this may be a troll (or at very least sour grapes).
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:55 PM on October 25, 2012


"To proponents of Disruption, the free market is king, and regulation is always the enemy."

This is not what Silicon Valley means by disruption. It means, fairly literally, to disrupt existing business models (Amazon and books would be a good example, or Apple/iTunes and music). That _could_ include deregulation/changes in regulation, but it has nothing to do with it intrinsically.

(iTunes is one of the most obvious, widely used disruptive products and AFAIK involved no regulation changes of any kind)
posted by wildcrdj at 12:58 PM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Any discussion around Uber is going to be messy.

On one hand, the CEO is a dick who thinks that he's above the law (and happens to be very good at riling up public sentiment while getting an inordinate amount of attention and press coverage).

On the other, the guy kind of has a point -- in many places, the taxicab regulations exist to protect the existing players in the system, rather than to actually protect or serve consumers. DC's taxi system is a glaring example of this; the cars are old, terribly maintained, and the drivers are just terrible. It's a cartel that's in cahoots with its own regulatory body, and the "Uber debacle" has clearly exposed this.

Street-hailed cabs are heavily regulated, because consumers have no choice when it comes to hailing a cab. Consumers don't have the time (or practical ability) to comparison-shop for the cabs that have the best rates, comfort, or safety. Regulation exists to ensure a consistent and safe experience for all taxi riders.

This paradox of choice doesn't exist for phone-hailed "black cabs" like Uber (which have been around long before Uber started making noises). I don't think it's a stretch to say that there are a number of taxicab regulations that shouldn't need to apply to them. If Uber develops a reputation for poor service, people will stop calling them.

Even as a pro-government spend-happy liberal, I don't really agree with the extent to which the taxicab industry is regulated. Many of the regulations do nothing but protect the profits of the drivers. I don't quite suggest complete deregulation, but many of the regulations (especially the proposed price floor) are blatantly corrupt on their face. $2 to pop the trunk? Seriously? Worse still, they don't even abide by their own regulations; every day I see cabs doing blatantly illegal and unsafe traffic maneuvers, and have never seen a single one get ticketed.

On the other hand, other regulations definitely do need to apply. The government absolutely has a legitimate interest to tell Uber that its drivers and vehicles need to be held to a higher degree of safety, and require the service to operate at all hours, for all people, in all parts of the city (because discrimination is still a huge issue when it comes to cabs). If Uber thinks that it can run profitably inside of those few, but well-defined boundaries, they should be able to participate in the system. [Putting limits on the number of cabs that can operate in a given area (ie a medallion system) is a separate issue, and also one that's seemingly riddled with corruption and entrenched interests]

DC's system, by the way, is completely and totally bonkers, and represents one of the most profound failures to execute coordinated planning on a regional level (I will never, for the life of me, figure out how everybody agreed to build the Metro without succumbing to parochial interests). If you want to take a cab across state or county lines, it's actually pretty complicated to figure out what kind of cab is allowed to take you there, and which kind (if any) can take you back. Because the cab is unlikely to be allowed to pick up a return fare on the way back, it can actually be very difficult to even find a cab that wants to take you across the border. Worse still, that means that there are lots of unnecessarily empty cabs on the roads, which is bad for the environment and bad for traffic. There are separate taxi systems and regulations for DC, Arlington Co., Alexandria, Fairfax Co., Montgomery Co., and Prince George's Co. -- all of which are within "cabbable" distance of each other, and an entirely different system for cabs to Dulles Airport, where Washington Flyer inexplicably has a monopoly on all pickups and dropoffs. It makes no goddamn sense, and everybody hates it.

Also, I think we're being trolled. Is this article for real?
posted by schmod at 1:04 PM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


wildcrdj: "(iTunes is one of the most obvious, widely used disruptive products and AFAIK involved no regulation changes of any kind)"

True, but it did require a very big company to strongarm a number of other very big companies. It didn't require any governmental changes, but Apple basically did need to demand the cooperation of a gigantic industry cartel (the RIAA).

There's no way that a small player would have been able to convince the record labels to allow a new distribution model that they didn't directly control themselves. The iTunes Store wasn't an original idea -- Apple were just the first ones with enough clout (and a consumer-focused strategy) to make it successful.

Apple might have been hurting badly from the mid-90s to early-2000s, but their comeback is no small-business success story. They've always had billions in cash in the bank.

Basically, the comparison is irrelevant.
posted by schmod at 1:10 PM on October 25, 2012


Of course once the Amsterdam taxi cabs were deregulated and went free market we got the taxi wars, where rival taxi firms tried to kill each other and ended up with the same semi monopoly that had existed before....
posted by MartinWisse at 1:35 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't doubt that there are downsides with the new systems-- I'm just not clear on how a system where cab drivers have to pay over $100 a day for the privilege of being allowed to work is a better system.
posted by alexei at 1:50 PM on October 25, 2012


Basically, the comparison is irrelevant.

Er, it wasn't a comparison? The criticism is that the article is wildly misusing a common Silicon Valley term. The vast majority of "disruptive" companies have nothing to do with regulation. iTunes was an easy example everyone knows, but there are very few companies who fall into this bizarre definition.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:53 PM on October 25, 2012


(Disruptive also has nothing to do with business size, it's about strategy/markets)
posted by wildcrdj at 1:54 PM on October 25, 2012


The criticism is that the article is wildly misusing a common Silicon Valley term.

Shedding a tear over that, because Silicon Valley never misuses or redefines common terms...maybe the author of the article was just trying to be disruptive?
posted by Jimbob at 2:02 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


But he's also essentially attributing his new definition to Silicon Valley. It would be like someone saying something like "The term 'plate of beans' is a well known Metafilter phrase for an important component of a healthy dinner."
posted by TwoWordReview at 3:02 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The article is quite clear in distinguishing between "Disruptive" (big D) and "truly disruptive (small ‘d’)":
The original Silicon Valley meaning of a disruptive company was one that used its small size to shake up a bigger industry or bloated competitor. Increasingly, though...
He's not conflating the two (or saying that anyone else is) he's using it as a rhetorical device to illustrate his point.
posted by cdward at 3:11 PM on October 25, 2012


Maybe you should try reading the article again. From the article: "Back home in London (where such statistics are available), 11 women a month are attacked in unlicensed cabs, and unlicensed drivers are responsible for a horrifying 80 percent of all stranger rapes."

I always scan the comments first, and this time I'm not reading the article specifically because of that. In London, thousands of women are attacked outside of licensed cabs every month. If unlicensed cab drivers are attacking people, it seems implausible to me that they're doing it specifically because they're unlicensed cab drivers. And it's probably also accurate to say that "young men" are responsible for some horrifyingly large percentage of rape, but that doesn't mean we should make efforts to eliminate their existence.

Places where they don't make any effort at all to regulate taxi services do have their problems, but this kind of abuse of statistics isn't a convincing way to defend the extremely restrictive way it's generally done in America.
posted by sfenders at 3:19 PM on October 25, 2012


Please explain how Uber makes taxis as a whole more unsafe.

Taxi regulation exists in part because without it taxi services can be very sketchy and there are a lot of abuses. And it's not just a safety issue (although he does point out that there are significant safety issues as well) . If you are black it's a lot harder to get a ride. If you are going to a place taxi drivers don't think is worth it they will tell you no. People get ripped off, have drivers insist on them paying more than is legal, etc etc. This is especially bad in any urban environment where taxis are a necessity because there just isn't space for everyone to drive and generally public transportation isn't good enough or 24 hour enough to make up for it.

If uber can ignore those regulations ANYONE can ignore those regulations. You don't get to say "hey, this company is good, they can break these laws" which means you have to get rid of them. So if you want to get rid of taxi regulation, get rid of it whole sale, but at least admit you hate regulation, not just think that uber should get to ignore it.
posted by aspo at 3:27 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


(I will never, for the life of me, figure out how everybody agreed to build the Metro without succumbing to parochial interests).

Schmod, if you've been watching the Silver Line kerfuffle, I think it's pretty clear that those days are over.

Especially once you get Loudon County involved. "Loudon" is a French word that means "parochial interests."
posted by Naberius at 3:41 PM on October 25, 2012


in all the years i've been going to DC i've never had a problem with cabbies. never. some of the most interesting political discussions i've had have been with DC cabbies because a lot of them are african and caribbean immgrants with lots of worldy knowledge. and that may be the impulse for a Uber? that these are mostly black and in most cases african men?

it seems to me that every time a glibertarian targets a "regulated industry", what with american libertarianism being dockers-wearing white power, i can't but be suspect at the need to "disrupt" (aka colonize) an industry that happens to be mostly comprised by black and brown workers.
posted by liza at 4:01 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


In all the years i've been going to DC i've never had a problem with cabbies. never. some of the most interesting political discussions i've had have been with DC cabbies because a lot of them are african and caribbean immgrants with lots of worldy knowledge. and that may be the impulse for a Uber? that these are mostly black and in most cases african men?

I've been a regular Uber user in DC since they showed up and this is ridiculous. All the Uber drivers I have ever had have also been African-American or African immigrants. And as a visitor to DC you may not have fully experienced the racism that aggressively defines the taxi commission. Beyond the longstanding and inexcusable problem that it's hard for black people to hail cabs on the street, cabs often refuse to drop passengers off in black neighborhoods, let alone pick people up there. I've never lived in a city where this was worse than DC.

Uber has been a force that alleviates these problems for some. They're way better on sexual assault too. DC cab drivers get arrested every month for sexual assault but never lose their licenses and taxi companies are notoriously bad at self-policing. It sucks that we live in a world of broken systems and Uber won't fix inexcusable behavior by cabbies. But I'm not willing to tell people to wait for utopia while they suffer discrimination today. And it sucks that people have to pay a premium to not get fucked over by racist sexist cabbies. I'd be fine taxing cabbies higher to cross-subsidize Uber passengers.

This has nothing to do with the larger themes of the article.
posted by allen.spaulding at 4:24 PM on October 25, 2012


Jehan: "His point wasn't that Uber taxis are unsafe, but rather that disrupting the regulatory environment makes taxis as a whole more unsafe."

Granting that the west-coast fetishization of "disruption" is weird, these things never go the way you think they do. Regulatory regimes may very well create the unsafe conditions that they seek to fix. In DC where the regulatory regime is entirely owned by the taxi operators, does that mean safer cabs with functioning seatbelts, or cabs with really old fleet ages (not that I care about how old the taxi I'm in is, but the existence of regulations should mean that I should be getting into super-safe Mercedes with airbags, right?).

Addressing the strange culture of cab rape that happens in the UK, let me propose that the regulatory regime may act to combine with economic conditions to worsen outcomes.

Imagine : regulations placed by cabbie insiders create above average wages (as compared to what they would be without regulations) that reduce the supply of taxis late at night (say the average cabbie has made enough during the day that he doesn't need to work at night, so they all go home); so there are no cabs during last call when demand would be really high.

So what do do strict regulations licensing official "non-rapey" cabs mean in this situation? There are either not enough cabs, the rates for licensed cabs are expensive, or both. So who would go out at night to offer rides at below regulation prices? Normal unlicensed drivers, or the skeezy guy who knows that there aren't enough cabs at last call, and desperate / blacked out drunk people with no other options? The unintended consequence of regulations is worse outcomes, with cabbies now having a political argument for regulations (we're safe! of course that's only if you remember the cab number....)
posted by stratastar at 4:36 PM on October 25, 2012


Also...




We need a disruptive alternative to Bear Patrol.
posted by stratastar at 4:48 PM on October 25, 2012


Off topic, taxi-wise, but somewhat relevant: Adam Curtis' All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace
posted by doublesix at 4:59 PM on October 25, 2012


The author is more of an idiot than Rand. She could be abrasive and dogmatic, but at least she wasn't making love to the government. A quarter million bucks for a taxi license? God bless Über, and I hope they drive the yellow cabs out of business. If an uber driver raped a passenger, they would be caught immediately. Can't say the same for a Yellow cab...
posted by dickfitz2 at 5:12 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The mention of the AirBnb incident is also hilariously bad. In a way AirBnb is more regulated than their competitors since they broker the transaction. Other services like VRBO/HomeAway just provide listings, and it's up to the buyer and seller to work it out -- they definitely aren't liable for someone trashing your property.

This is kind of a straw-man argument. Yeah, if you're comparing Airbnb to rental-listings services, then yes, with Airbnb you're getting a more "regulated" experience, in some sense, than you would with a rental-listings service. But I think the author is looking at Airbnb more in comparison to, say, hotels, which are at the other end of the spectrum of options for its would-be clientele, and which are heavily regulated in a governmental sense.

Your argument and the writer's argument both have a vocab problem; there are multiple meanings of "regulated" being thrown around, and multiple definitions of what Airbnb's particular industry actually is, and there's also an implied equation of regulated = magically more safe, or vice versa, and I don't think that necessarily holds.

This may not be the best-written article I've ever read, but I do think that the writer is correct in noting that there are some issues with the way both Uber and Airbnb do business, as well as with some of the totally non-business-related notions that underpin their business models. Obviously there are some issues with their competitors' business models as well, but it's interesting to draw a line between some of these "disruptive" business models and note the underlying trend. Having gone through an Ayn Rand phase around the time I was dating my now-Googler ex in college, I found a lot of notions in this article rang true, even if the writer was a bit hyperbolic in elucidating them.
posted by limeonaire at 6:19 PM on October 25, 2012


I liked the article for talking about unintended consequences but then I also greatly enjoyed the New Yorker profile of Peter Thiel.

Now back to Uber:

But what’s really interesting is why Uber’s pushing to get to market so quickly. After all, it already has two services in New York. Can’t a third wait, just a little while?

No, says Betabeat in a great blow-by-blow breakdown of the situation, which points out that there may be something else prompting Uber’s speedy approach: the competition.


Let's check back in this time next year to see if this was a good guy vs. bad guy story or simply a good competitor versus better competitor story – where "better" is both how it serves consumers but also how it interacts with its suppliers, regulators, etc.
posted by noway at 7:04 PM on October 25, 2012


Please explain how Uber makes taxis as a whole more unsafe.


That's not quite the issue. The article's point is that the regulations we have on taxis and hotels were not put there just for shits-and-giggles because all those non-libertarians there are regulation fetishists, and that on the other hand, the Silly Valley dot com types really have made "disruption" into a fetish, and wrapped it up with a good deal of greed.

Ergo, Travis is an asshole. And the author of this article is also an asshole for not noticing that, well, sometimes libertarians are right, and the taxi industry is a good example. Whatever the intentions behind our cab laws, they don't do shit.

They don't keep passengers very safe. Passengers still get mugged, assaulted, etc. They don't keep the rest of the city safe. Cabbies are the worst drivers. And they don't do much for the cabbies, who make shit wages, get mugged, and have to deal with nasty passengers all the time. The only people benefitting from the status quo are medallion owners, and that set deserves a good dose of Silly Valley Disruption (TM), a la Uber.

Libertarians and their bashers in the NSFWCORP/Exiled crowd deserve each other ever so richly.
posted by ocschwar at 7:08 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's not conflating the two (or saying that anyone else is) he's using it as a rhetorical device to illustrate his point.

But he is making up a new usage that simply isn't actually there, and claiming it's an "underlying ideology" of Silicon Valley. I guess he can say whatever he wants, but I do not hear others in SV (which I am pretty connected to) use the term in this way. Nor is it true that most tech people in SV are libertarians, there are far more liberals (in the U.S. sense anyways) than anti-government types. Rand is more mocked than worshipped in the Valley (at least in my 13 years of experience in the SV world).
posted by wildcrdj at 8:10 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The same situation is being played out in London, where private cab company Addison Lee now has more cabs than the official London black taxis.

Although both are licenced, only official taxis are allowed to use bus lanes, but AL has threatened to defy this law. The AL CEO is an attention seeking free market dick, naturally. Official taxis also have a strongly unionised group of workers driving them (although in another twist, they're all bitterly right-wing racists. Must be the talk radio they listen to).

However, the problem is compounded by the fact that the official cabs are very expensive and often will not drive to bad areas, pick up black people, all the usual stuff - and never, ever help you put luggage in the back. AL cabs are lovely and helpful and the guys are non-union immigrants. AL has also embraced technology and their cabs will send you SMS messages as they approach, you can see them on a map, repeat journeys are easy, etc etc

Basically it's a classic coming together of technology, regulation, workers' rights, consumer desires, transport, and capitalism into a bundle of contradictions. As Marx points out somewhere, often the status quo in a market will welcome *more* regulation, as they are better able to absorb the cost of compliance than the new guys.
posted by colie at 12:01 AM on October 26, 2012


Nor is it true that most tech people in SV are libertarians, there are far more liberals (in the U.S. sense anyways) than anti-government types. Rand is more mocked than worshipped in the Valley (at least in my 13 years of experience in the SV world).
Have you read any Hacker News politics threads recently?
posted by cdward at 10:24 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unlicensed cabs in London are very different from the iconic black taxis. There are dozens of local minicab offices throughout the city; I'm not sure what the regulations are, but they often don't have meters and you can get a wide variety of drivers, including non-seatbelt-wearing overcaffeinated (or worse) scary guys who seem to have arrived in the city the week before from somewhere that drives on the other side of the road and didn't have stop signs or traffic cops.

These cabs don't have For Hire signs on top -- they're just regular cars. I don't know if they have to carry driver ID on the dashboard. I don't think the drivers have to take the Knowledge, either; I've had to help more than one driver with navigation, even when I'm going somewhere that should be a large landmark.

Also, they can't pick you up in the street, even though I've come out of clubs and gigs many times and heard guys call "Minicab?" hopefully at the crowds. I would never, ever get in one of those cars.
posted by vickyverky at 12:00 PM on October 26, 2012


in all the years i've been going to DC i've never had a problem with cabbies.

Ever called one from east of the Anacostia or asked one to take you there? Or even ask them to take you to Trinidad? If you're just cabbing within 2 miles of the Capitol you're not experiencing the problem.

If you don't want to go to those places just to experience it, go join the cabstand line at Union Station late on a weekend night. The taxi commission, who could find time to 'sting' an Uber driver, seems uninterested in coming out and watching the customer abuse/rule violation that happens then.
posted by phearlez at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2012


phearlez: "Ever called one from east of the Anacostia or asked one to take you there? Or even ask them to take you to Trinidad? If you're just cabbing within 2 miles of the Capitol you're not experiencing the problem."

Trinidad's actually within 2 miles of the Capitol, but yeah – to get home, I usually have to board the cab on the wrong side of the street, tell the driver an address in a nice neighborhood, and wait for the cab to pull away before telling the cabbie my real address.... and I don't even live in a particularly bad neighborhood.

I've ended up walking on numerous occasions because I was simply unable to find a cab that would drive to Northeast.
posted by schmod at 10:21 PM on October 26, 2012


Naberius: "Especially once you get Loudon County involved. "Loudon" is a French word that means "parochial interests.""

Leesburg is the town from Weeds. Once you make that connection, it's impossible to get it out of your head.

If you want a glimpse into the insanity, look at Romney's campaign strategy for winning Loudoun.

And, yes. I was pretty happy to see both MWAA and WMATA finally throw their hands up and say "Fine, we're going to build this thing with or without you. Just don't expect your residents to be able to use it if they don't pay their share."
posted by schmod at 12:35 PM on November 2, 2012


« Older We are for the dark   |   if only that crime fell within... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post