Protecting the Public From Lawmakers

In a previous post, I noted that the city had come to an agreement with Uber to loosen regulations. City Council approved the changes today, but not without dissent. According to the Chronicle:

“We are here today because one company has said if you don’t do these regulatory changes right now we’re going to leave,” District J Councilman Mike Laster said. “Can you imagine Centerpoint saying if you don’t pass legislation for us we’re not going to provide electricity for the Super Bowl?”

I can’t imagine Centerpoint taking Uber’s stance, but it would be great it if did. It would be even greater if every company that is subject to city regulations took such a stance.

The city has implicitly admitted that many of its regulations pertaining to taxis and ride sharing companies are useless. In truth, those regulations are nothing more than cronyism–they erect barriers to new competitors and protect established companies from competition. But that is an argument based on economics, and the fundamental argument against regulations is moral.

Each individual has a moral right to act on his own judgment, so long as he respects the rights of others to do the same. Uber has a moral right to offer a ride sharing service. Consumers have a moral right to use that service. Private, consensual activities are not a proper concern of government. Indeed, government’s only proper purpose is the protection of our right to engage in such activities.

Every regulation violates the rights of individuals to act according to their own judgment. For example, previous city regulations would force Uber to conduct drug testing and physicals on its drivers. In Uber’s judgment, such requirements are an unnecessary burden, and the screening process that it uses is adequate. Absent city regulations, consumers are free to judge for themselves whether Uber’s screening process is adequate or not.

Like all innovators, Uber is challenging the status quo. They are challenging the entrenched cronyism in city after city. Lawmakers around the world have tried to stop Uber, arguing that the company must be regulated in order to protect the public. Yet millions of individuals–the public–have embraced Uber. They have acted on their own judgment.

Lawmakers like to talk about protecting the public. Fortunately, at least one company has the moral courage to protect the public from lawmakers.

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