Jewish World Review July 17, 2014 / 19 Tammuz, 5774
Try it, you'll like it, Or: Economics for beginners
By Paul Greenberg
JewishWorldReview.com | Do you like convenience, service, simplicity, competition, more jobs and all the other features of a free market that stays free and ever productive?
Then you'll love a service like Uber or Lyft, which use private drivers to give customers a, yes, lyft. No waiting forever, just door-to-door or even corner-to-corner service. Provided by friendly folks who use their own cars and stand to collect the lion's share of the fares, the worker being worthy of his hire. Who wouldn't like it? It's good for the customer, good for the driver, and good for the local economy.
Here's who wouldn't like it: the kind of vested interests, like cab companies, who long ago formed a cozy relationship with local government to keep any competition out by imposing a whole web of onerous rules and regulations that mainly benefit themselves.
That's how the economic powers that be, and that are determined to stay, substitute government-issue paralysis for capitalism's usual cycle of destruction and creation, which an Austrian (and later American) economist named Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) labeled Creative Destruction -- a process that continues to alarm those opposed to both the creativity and the necessary destruction that leads to it.
How stop that never-ending process? Simple. All the vested interests need do is ally themselves with the kind of compliant politicos who impose all those rules and regs. This unholy alliance has come to be known in our time as crony capitalism, which is a lot more crony than capitalism.
Naturally creative outfits like Uber and Lyft keep running into the same wall of vested interests in city after city -- like
The alderwoman can provide a limitless supply of doomsday visions. She foresees a horde of unqualified drivers, or worse, invading the public streets. Let free enterprise get a foot inside this door and the public safety will be at risk, unlicensed drivers will run rampant, and the sky will fall.
Anybody who's ever used a service like Uber or Lyft elsewhere, or just glanced at those operations' actual policies, knows better. As a spokesman for Uber points out, the company does extensive background checks before accepting drivers, provides liability coverage, and is careful to screen those offering drives.
To see how such operations really work, Alderwoman Adcock might try one -- like Lyft in
And here's one more factor for the alderwoman and
As usual when competition enters the picture, both old and new enterprises benefit by learning from each other, and the whole industry improves. Whether the stultifying monopoly is in public transportation or public education, the effect of such a stranglehold can be equally paralyzing, and its being broken can prove just as energizing.
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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