New York City, under the stewardship of the more-progressive-than-thou Mayor Bill De Blasio and a city council dominated 48-3 by Democrats, recently became the first city in the nation to impose limits on ride-sharing cars. As I recently blogged, they purportedly did this to address increasing congestion in Manhattan. The reality, though, is that this congestion is as much or more the fault of car-hating politicians as it is that of market innovation. Fact is, the city has been working for years (decades?) to make Manhattan more inhospitable for vehicle traffic, even as it has allowed public transportation (i.e. the subways) to deteriorate. Were the latter properly managed, perhaps there’d be less demand for Uber and Lyft.

Far be it from a big government politician to admit failure, unfortunately, or to allow the free market to provide solutions to the problems they can’t manage to address, so instead we have imposed upon us forced mediocrity. Sure, there’ll be Uber and Lyft cars around, they’ll just become more expensive, since supply is now being restricted.

That’s great for those who are already driving, and for the lucky ones who managed to get their cars registered ahead of the deadline. It’ll also provide a new revenue stream to those willing to lease time in their cars to other drivers, since this ban will enhance that market segment.

But, for anyone who, due to whatever circumstance, decides to look into becoming a driver going forward? Tough luck. You’ve just had a viable job and income source taken away from you. The government has erected a substantial barrier to entry into the gig economy, and infringed on people’s right to earn a living.

This move parallels surprisingly well, practically speaking, with the progressives’ raging desire to increase the minimum wage. What happens when the minimum wage is increased? The lucky ones, those already working, with experience and skill that rank them higher in the pool of workers that fill minimum wage jobs, will get a raise. They do so at the greater harm done to new workers and those less skilled than they. As should be obvious, the real minimum wage is zero, and when the minimum wage is set above the equilibrium market wage, jobs are lost (as has been demonstrated in Seattle and San Francisco, to name just two examples). Who suffers most? The poorest, the least-experienced, and the least-skilled.

Such moves are best described as economic fascism, and further put the lie to the notion that fascism is a right-wing ideology.

They also serve the progressives very well. They keep those in the lower economic classes from improving their economic lot in life. They remove the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, making the first steps that much more difficult They keep the poor poor, making it more likely that they seek public assistance. And, once they have, once they’ve been drawn onto the dole, they’re more likely to stay there.

That suits the big government politicians just fine. They want people dependent on government. They use that dependence to scare the poor into voting for them. They convince the poor that the free-marketeers, and even the only-slightly-less-statist politicians in the other party, hate them, want to abandon them, and will leave them destitute. They do their best to scrub away the very idea that there’s a way up the economic ladder that isn’t provided by the government.

Yet again, I find myself recalling C.S. Lewis’s wise words about tyranny:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.

We can accept the fact that Uber and Lyft aren’t panaceas or utopian solutions.

Freedom is sloppy. But since tyranny’s the only guaranteed byproduct of those who insist on a perfect world, freedom will have to do. – Bill Willingham

And, we can accept that some amount of government serves a useful purpose. City streets are a public good and a shared space, and benefit from being managed. Lane markers and barriers, traffic lights and turn signals, stop signs, speed limits, turning and other restrictions, truck restrictions, weight restrictions, parking regulations, and even street layouts themselves are all forms of management, as are driver’s licenses that validate the skill and knowledge needed to use that public good. The goal of traffic management should be the accommodation and facilitation of people’s preferences in conjunction with best use of the shared space. It should not be social engineering, but, unfortunately, progressive politicians and urban planners can’t seem to help themselves in conflating the two. As is always the case, give politicians a tool, and someone will eventually misuse it.

So, to cover their own failures, to cover their own car-hating predilections, and to keep their voter base intact and scared, they strive to take away a new pathway to economic freedom, created by the innovation of the free market. Who do they hurt? Certainly not the wealthiest, who will pay the higher Uber prices, and certainly not the “ins,” who’ve got their cars registered already. As is so often the case, they hurt the poor. It’s so common, a cynic might think it’s deliberate.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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