Moral inversion over disabled taxi fares

Deputy mayor of Middlesbrough Dave Budd said companies ‘have a moral obligation to treat everybody the same’.

© Mars Infomage

© Mars Infomage

In this context treating everyone the same means giving them a larger, scarcer minibus instead of a smaller more common car. I seem to recall driving a minibus commercially also requires a special licence, meaning scarcer staff are also required. The disabled passenger is asking for a naturally much more expensive product for the same price.

In response to this unreasonable demand – and withdrawn subsidies from the Council – Boro Taxis withdrew from taking disabled customers, and have been roundly and comprehensively condemned for it.

This is a great example of a couple of things:

  • Rand’s observation that need is used as a “pass key” for the lives of others.  In standard altruistic ethics a needy man is entitled to the object of his needs regardless of the costs to others. Care for the needy is not weighed against the harm to others who are not needy, and who can be harmed arbitrarily to help the needy. Standard ethics also do not endorse an individual right to decide if their own needs allow for a generous donation to another, while Rand’s alternative ethics are based on the right to make those decisions. The Metro article is a great example of how society fails to endorse that right, and condemns those that exercise it.
  • Heidt‘s analogy between moral calculus and taste buds, wherein different people are sensitive to different kinds of moral question to varying degrees. A liberal, typically, is attuned to “care and harm”, and the liberal author at the Metro, and the deputy mayor quoted are clearly focused on that. Libertarians are uniquely attuned to “justice” and “liberty”, and will note the rights of the taxi operator and weight them evenly.

As a Randian libertarian, the both the initial ban on “discriminatory” pricing, the crack down and the public condemnation of Boro Taxis represent an inversion of morality on the “justice” and “liberty” criteria. I would also point out that expecting Boro Taxis to subsidise the disabled (as has now happened) is a harm to them, and it is a harm which is neither simple bad luck, nor justified by their conduct. In contrast the tragic bad luck of disabled passengers is a morally neutral happenstance (since it did not involve choice). Overall then, my sympathy is firmly behind Boro Taxis. This is not becuase I have no empathy with disabled travellers, I do, but because society seems to be choosing to take too much from Boro Taxis – and is not respecting their rights.

BBC Teeside are also carrying this story and have a longer quote from the taxi operator:

“The simple fact is if you order a car and four people jump in you are charged for a taxi. If you order an eight-seater minibus and eight people jump in you are charged for a minibus.

“If you order a minibus and there’s only one person you will still be charged for a minibus because that’s what you ordered.

“But because we are charging for a minibus we are breaking the law.”

The suspension was, ultimately, a case of unintended consequences. The law banned charging extra to disabled passengers so the operator refused to carry them at all. The chickens came home to roost for advocates of disabled privileges and only a twitter mob saved disabled travellers on Teeside from the unintended consequences of their ideas. This is also an interesting example of libertarian economic consequentialist thinking, but if is first and foremost a moral inversion.

 

 

Note:

The video of Aiden Gregg on speaking on psychology and moral taste buds of libertarians is delayed because, over the weekend, some prat reversed into my car and drove away. I spent much of the weekend working on forms and diagrams for the Police.