Watching what can only be described as liberal media is a sort of hobby of mine. Back in July I wrote an article concerning a simply hilarious piece by Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones wherein regulation is defended as deregulation. When a publication produces something as good or as bad as that was, depending on your view on such matters, it deserves a spotlight. Today, I am happy to say we have a contender, from PandoDaily’s, Paul Carr.
Anyone who has read even the first part of Atlas Shrugged will be aware of the basic premise of the story. Although I would argue it fails to do the book justice, Wikipedia has a more then helpful plot summary that will be more then sufficient for responding to Carr’s article. (Yes, it’s that bad.) Here’s the short excerpt we’ll be needing.
As the novel opens, protagonist Dagny Taggart, the Operating Vice President of Taggart Transcontinental, a giant railroad company originally pioneered by her grandfather, attempts to keep the company alive during difficult economic times marked by collectivism and statism. While Dagny runs the company from behind the scenes, her brother, James Taggart, the railroad’s President, is peripherally aware of the company’s troubles, but will not make any difficult choices, preferring to avoid responsibility for any actions while watching his company go under. He seems to make irrational decisions, such as preferring to buy steel from Orren Boyle’s Associated Steel, rather than Hank Rearden’s Rearden Steel, despite the former continually delaying delivery of vital rail. In this as in other decisions, Dagny simply goes ahead with her own policy and challenges him to repeal it.
Hank Rearden, a self-made steel magnate of great integrity, has recently developed a metal alloy called Rearden Metal, now the strongest and most reliable metal in the world. Hank chooses to keep the instructions to its creation a secret, sparking jealousy and uproar among competitors. False claims are made about the danger of the alloy and are backed by government agencies.
In Atlas Shrugged, Dagny is clearly written as the protagonist and the hero who builds the John Galt Line despite the government regulators and her brother getting in her way. In Atlas Shrugged according to Paul Carr, Ayn Rand wrote James Taggart as the hero for not challenging the regulators. Why? Because this is the only way he can, even as poorly as he has done, tie together a frankly ridiculous narrative wherein Objectivism is responsible for Travis Kalanick’s having given up on trying to work with New York regulators to get his taxi hire service, Uber, on New York streets. But first, a little back story.
Uber is a service which allows you to order a cab from anywhere in the city, at any time and any place. The service is designed to be exceptionally easy to use and in such a way as to act as your own private driver. Needless to say, the service has been forced to go up against the ridiculous barrier of regulations that keep taxi cab fairs high and drown out competition. According to Carr’s own article, Kalanick has had success in fighting these regulations in Washington and Boston, but decided to give up on New York. Why? Again, Carr includes it in his article.
For one thing, the TLC is bound by contracts with existing vendors not to allow any other credit card processing in NY cabs until next February.
Maybe Carr has forgotten the definition of monopoly. Maybe he never actually learnt what it meant to begin with, but frankly, this is something to be legitimately outraged by. If you ever needed a definition of monopoly, this is it. But hey, according to Carr, going up against a very real monopoly isn’t a reason to get mad.
And there’s the rub. Given their Randian origins, we kid ourselves if we think most Disruptive businesses are fighting government bureaucracy to bring us a better deal. A Disruptive company might very well succeed in exposing government crooks lining their pockets exploiting outdated laws, but that’s only so the Disruptor can line his own pockets through the absence of those same laws. A Disruptive company may give you free candy in your 50-dollar cab but, again, that’s only because doing so is good business.
And I see absolutely nothing wrong with this and in fact celebrate such things both as a consumer and as a producer. The whole point of trade is profit. If either party thought it was getting a worse deal, neither would engage in it! Carr would seemingly rather the farms be run by the state and everyone starve then farmers run them for profit and produce food that actually feeds people. He would not be the first.
If poisoning that same candy suddenly becomes better business (like encouraging New York cab drivers to be distracted by their phones, or putting vulnerable people at risk of attack is better business)… well maybe that’s an option worth exploring too. After all, food safety legislation is just another attempt by the government to drive Disruptive businesses off the road.
Hey, are you having an emotional response yet? No? Why not!?
Laws don’t exist merely to frustrate the business ambitions of coastal hipsters: They also exist to protect the more vulnerable members of society. 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. If Uber doesn’t have to follow licensing laws, then neither does any Tom, Dick, or Harry who chooses to paint the word “TAXI” on the side of his car, and start offering rides via the Internet.
Where’s that emotional response?
In Atlas Shrugged, Taggart’s competitor in Colorado, the Phoenix Durango line, is shut down by the regulator at James Taggart’s behest when it passes the ‘Anti-dog-eat-dog’ rule. Dagny immediately rushes to contact the owner, Dan Conway and apologize for her brothers actions. She also states, she would rather have competed honestly and fairly then have performed such an under hand tactic.
It’s unclear whether Carr thinks Objectivists would ever actually support violating someones rights for profit. Hint, they wouldn’t. John Allison, a major contributor to the Ayn Rand Institute, regularly speaks on both the principles and pragmatic case for business in a free market not to harm their consumers.
But, since we live in a world with regulation, let’s assume that these statistics which oddly enough are given no source are true. Carr does not once stop in this article to ask why it is that people would ever consider using unlicensed cabs when there are ridiculously heavily regulated ones that theoretically are safe.
It’s a compelling message but also one with dire potential consequences for public safety, particularly for those who can’t afford to take a $50 cab ride to Whole Foods.
Oh, that’s right! The cost of a cab is too damn high, so those unable to afford a state regulated cab must use illegal ones for which market regulation has as a result all been but completely stripped out. But hey, the TLC has an agreement. Who cares if women unable to access Uber have to be raped…
Nowhere in this article does Carr address once why Objectivism is responsible for Kalanick’s abandonment of New York but perseverance in other cities. If anything, had Kalanick proceeded regardless of the regulators, the connection would actually have made sense. Instead he has simply dropped names and apparently and unsurprisingly, that’s sufficient for liberal chow time.