Over the weekend John Paul Brammer took to the pages of The Guardian’s “Comment is Free” section to lament the supposed hypocrisy displayed by young progressives participating in the sharing economy, who he thinks have demonstrated a preference for convenience over ethics. Brammer admits that he’s among the hypocrites. In fact, he wrote the article just before heading off to an apartment in Puerto Rico he found via Airbnb. I hope that Brammer won’t allow his self-diagnosed hypocrisy to ruin his vacation and that progressives don’t feel guilty when they take part in the sharing economy. If you’re concerned about exploitation and human well being you should embrace markets and competition with glee, not guilt.
The progressive hypocrisy Brammer identifies can apparently be found lurking in the findings of a recent Pew survey, which found that almost 60 percent of rideshare users who are aware of the rideshare vs. taxi regulation debate think companies such as Uber and Lyft shouldn’t be governed by the same regulations that affect taxis. The same survey also found that rideshare users are roughly twice as likely to be Democrats than Republicans and that 28 percent of 18-28 year olds in the U.S. have used a rideshare app. As won’t come as a surprise, it also turns out that most rideshare users live in urban areas.
Pew’s findings were written up in another Guardian article titled, “Left-leaning users veer right on regulating Uber and Airbnb, study finds,” a headline that reminded me of Robert Conquest’s First Law of Politics: “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.”
If you’re concerned about exploitation and human well being you should embrace markets and competition with glee, not guilt.
According to Brammer, the young, liberal, urbanites identified by Pew are taking part in a “new economy, where convenience is king.” But convenience has always played a major role in economies. Sure, Uber and Airbnb make travel and accommodation easier, but so did the Internet and the telephone, two technologies that hardly turned us into ethical monsters. Convenience might not be front-and-center of consumers’ minds all the time, but readers should ask themselves if they have ever deliberately chosen a less convenient product over a more convenient one. When I find a cafe offering to sell me a coffee for a price I find agreeable I don’t walk past in search of another cafe offering me the same product. Also, cafes compete with one another to make themselves more convenient for me and other coffee drinkers.
It’s not a surprise that many people choose to use a convenient app rather than gesticulate wildly on the side of the street like a lunatic. Unsurprisingly, consumers like to see reductions in transaction costs. Without Uber and Airbnb it’s extremely time consuming to find a person in a strange city who has a seat in their car or a spare bedroom.
Does this convenience come at the expense of exploitation? After all rideshare drivers, who are considered independent contractors, are not governed by minimum wage legislation and don’t enjoy the same protections offered to traditional full-time employees.
However, it’s important to remember that the flexibility rideshare companies offer drivers is one of their main attractions. A survey announced by Uber last year found that the majority of Uber drivers use the service to supplement income, and that 91 percent of Uber drivers were “satisfied with ability to balance their work with Uber and the rest of their life.”
Princeton Economist Alan Krueger, who took a look at Uber driver data, found that in October, 2014 51 percent of UberX and UberBlack drivers in some some of America’s most populous cities worked fewer than 15 hours per week. Krueger’s paper did not include data on miles driven, which is significant given that UberX drivers have to pay for gas and vehicle maintenance. Also, you might understandably be suspect of a survey announced on Uber’s website.
Yet an informal 2016 poll of rideshare drivers who read The Rideshare Guy blog found that more than half (55.8 percent) of drivers list flexibility as “the most important thing to you as an on demand worker.” The same poll showed that almost half of Uber drivers somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement “Overall, I am satisfied with my experience driving for Uber,” compared to 38 percent of respondents who somewhat or strongly disagreed.
These unsatisfied rideshare drivers are hardly in the same category as the sweatshop workers Brammer mentions later in his article. As unpleasant as sweatshops are, they oftentimes offer wages that are hundreds of percent higher than the average national income of the country where they’re located.
Brammer writes that if progressivism demanded ideological purity he would “abscond to a yurt in nature, grow my own crops, make my own clothes, and never list that yurt on Airbnb as a romantic getaway in the woods.” It’s a good thing Brammer isn’t doing that. If widely adopted such a move wouldn’t help sweatshop workers, some of whom would be laid off thanks to the fall in demand for their goods. Many of these unemployed workers would have to turn to one of the many common and undesirable alternatives to sweatshops such as begging, subsistence farming, and prostitution.
You’re not, despite what Brammer writes, a “monster” if you use a convenient app like Uber. Rather, you’re taking part in a voluntary transaction made possible by technological feats that exist thanks to the kind of innovation promoted by markets. Ridesharing drivers who feel exploited are welcome to leave ridesharing platforms. Yet, many rideshare drivers value their flexibility, which would be limited if they were considered traditional employees. I hope Brammer enjoys his vacation in Puerto Rico. If he wants to check out what life in a yurt would feel like he can easily find one, thanks to Airbnb.Matthew Feeney is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute.
Michael F. Cannon
Even though I left the GOP 20 years ago — let’s just say I learned Republicans are less committed to individual liberty than they claim to be — I have continued to work for or with Republicans on health care reform. Now that some of the friends I have made along the way are endorsing Donald Trump, I’m learning even more.
For one thing, my Republican friends are telling me they don’t much value the idea of treating everyone with equal dignity. Trump’s divisive and degrading behavior toward women, Muslims, Mexicans, the handicapped, and others should disqualify someone from power. How hard is it to disavow the Klan?
My Trumpkin friends are also telling me they don’t much care for free speech. Trump makes no secret of his desire to use the power of presidency to silence his critics, a power that his Democratic successors would also wield. (Assuming he allows successors.)
Yes, Hillary Clinton would restrict speech by making it harder for her opponents to organize to engage in politics. But Trump wants to change libel laws in a way that would expose everyone — even his supporters — to lawsuits for criticizing him or anyone else.
These Republicans are telling me they don’t much care about civility or American lives. Trump relishes and encourages people to use violence against his critics. His enthusiasm for torture and for murdering women and children would lead our enemies to respond in turn.
I don’t know if Trump will bring fascism to the United States. I do know he is what a fascist looks like at this stage of the process.
The man advocated murdering women and children. Some of my Republican friends are telling me they can vote for a man like that.
They are also signaling they will vote for someone who doesn’t have much regard for American soldiers. Trump thinks U.S. soldiers would carry out his orders to torture and murder. (No, he hasn’t repudiated those claims.)
I had no idea some Republicans care so little about keeping their homes. Trump enthusiastically supports allowing the government to take people’s houses to give the land to private developers. Like Donald Trump.
I knew that Republicans didn’t care a whole lot about health care reform. But I’m surprised they’re willing to support someone who says “I like the mandate” that ObamaCare imposed, that socialized medicine works just swell, that he wants government to “take care of everybody,” and that he would keep other central provisions of ObamaCare.
Good ol’ partisanship would stop Hillary Clinton from expanding ObamaCare even a little. A faux opponent like Trump could co-opt congressional Republicans to expand it a lot.
These erstwhile conservatives are telling me they don’t care about the unborn nearly as much as they pretend they do. Trump was pro-choice until about five minutes ago. Pro-lifers may be many things, but since when are they this gullible?
And they can’t claim they doing it for the judges, either. Some swooned when Trump released a list of judges he might use to guide his nomination decisions. They seem to forget this is a man who prizes deals, and judicial nominations may be the biggest bargaining chip he’s got.
Give the man his due. Trump is so good at deals, his judges list bought the allegiance of lots of Republicans without committing Trump to anything.
The Trumpkins are also telling me they don’t know what a fascist looks like, or if they do, they don’t fear fascism as much as I do. I don’t know if Trump will bring fascism to the United States. I do know he is what a fascist looks like at this stage of the process.
Most stunning is how many conservatives don’t even appear to care about conservative principles or policy. This man runs as fast as he can from any policy discussion. Oh, but he’s a conservative. Trust him.
Or even the Republican party. Trump is dismantling the coalition that every Republican president since Ronald Reagan rode to the White House. The GOP would be in a better place after four years of motivated resistance to Hillary Clinton (the press would be fairly critical of her administration) than it would 20 years after Trump turned the GOP into a nativist, nationalist party — particularly if a third-party candidate increases turnout among conservatives who will vote Republican in congressional races.
I get why Republicans are telling themselves they can steer a man who believes himself to beinfallible. It is painful to think your cause is about to suffer a huge setback, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But the die is cast. You know conservatives have lost — badly — when Hillary Clinton is actually the more conservative candidate in the race. Yet Trumpkins are rolling the dice on the devil they don’t know, in the hope that he will sprout a halo.
Two more things Republicans recently taught me.
First, some Republican officeholders — the #NeverTrump crowd — care more about freedom and equal dignity for all than they care about holding onto power. I find that inspiring.
Second, in my experience, conservatives who work in think tanks or journalism are more likely to disavow Trump than equally conservative congressional staffers or political operatives. This suggests to me many staffers and operatives are afraid to break with or embarrass their weak-kneed bosses, clients, or family members who have already endorsed Trump. In other words, some conservative politicians have the courage of their convictions, and some staffers don’t.
Here’s hoping Trump will only teach me happy lessons from this point.Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute and coeditor of Replacing ObamaCare.
**Written by Doug Powers
The Obama administration has had it with long lines and mismanagement at the TSA, and the decision has been made that it’s time for a different person to mismanage the long lines:
However, addressing the wait times at the VA still doesn’t seem to be a high priority:
Welcome to the Magic Kingdom, veterans:
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said Monday that the VA should not use wait times as a measure of success, comparing waits for VA health care to the hours people wait for rides at Disney theme parks.
“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” McDonald said during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”
McDonald took office in July 2014 after his predecessor was forced out amid a scandal over chronically long wait times at VA health care sites and reports that as many as 40 patients died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital. Similar problems were discovered at VA health sites nationwide, along with a widespread practice among VA employees of creating secret lists to cover up the long wait times and receive VA bonuses.
Imagine the entire U.S. health care system run by these people, as Bernie Sanders and others would love to see happen. Fittingly, Disney can supply the unicorns.
**Written by Doug Powers