Monday, June 23, 2014

5 Traits Allegra Kirkland's Arguments Share With Exploitive Interventionists

Allegra Kirkland, AlterNet's associate managing editor, is afraid of Lyft, Uber and Sidecar.* She mostly bashes Uber, but she wants you to hate Lyft and Sidecar as well. Kirkland's written thoughts are at times confounded and at other times boldly abhorrent. She outlines 5 ways she thinks Uber is acting as an "exploitive old school capitalist company". I shall plainly show any reader that Kirkland's claim is wrong on each point, and that she describes ride sharing companies best when she says
A key part to Uber's egalitarian, modern image is the idea that it is grassroots-supported, providing a data driven, useful service to thousands of hip young urban professionals who need an easy way to get around town.
1) "Regulation Free"
This first brief claim of hers is evidently confounded. She conflates "regulation" with regulation by the United States' government. There is no doubt that ride sharing companies are regulated - the normative debate should be about who is doing the regulating not whether or not they are regulated. There are several levels of regulation for us to select from when making this decision. Ride sharing companies can be regulated by the coercive federal government, the coercive state government, the coercive municipal government or the consensual choices of consumers. Clearly, I prefer the consensual model. Kirkland notes that the taxi industry is called a protectionist scheme, but refuses to refute the claim. A protectionist prioritizes the job security of low performing producers above consumer benefits, and petitions goons with guns to make this status quo prevail. This is the taxi industry. Why don't we let the freed market eat the rich, via consumers regulating transportation with their choices of whom to give money to and whom not to?

2) "Avoiding Accountability"
This is neither for me, nor for Kirkland to have much of a say in. If a ride sharing employee has done harm to a passenger, the passenger should submit a case to dispute resolvers. When choosing dispute resolvers there are again myriad selections. Two disputants can select consensual negotiation, consensual mediation, consensual arbitration or the coercive courts. The two disputing parties should make this decision, not I. I humbly suggest consensual mediation, and if that fails consensual arbitration.

3) "The Perils of Surge Pricing"
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I try to keep an open mind as often as possible, but it is difficult when people are arguing for flat earth theories and against Euclid's Elements of Geometry. The question of prices is simple. Who decides? That is what matters. If passengers want to be whisked away at a moment's notice, at 4 ante meridian, then the cost of that consensual arrangement should be determined by those passengers and the providers of that whisking service. No one outside of them should dare determine for them what is a "just" or "fair" price, because that does not exist. Prices are wholly subjective. For more on this, see the Austrian School of Economics.** Anyone who argues against the subjective (labor) theory of value is claiming to have objective knowledge of what prices should be. This puts the arguer in the same corner as the Soviet and Maoist economists who suggested collectivizing farms - thinking they could determine the price of bread. The results? Tens of millions of deaths of Eurasians and Asians, at the hands of brutal atheist 20th century rulers.***

4) "Labor Exploitation"
Do I care about the well being of ride sharing employees? I should hope so, as you would find out if you read my full disclosure at the bottom of this piece, I am a provider of transportation services who is willing to charge for it. Is it more likely that Allegra Kirkland wants to exploit my labor, or that I would like to exploit my labor? Lofty goals for employees are nice, but not so when it comes at the barrel of a gun. I have sovereignty over my labor, and should be able to make money from my labor without Kirkland requesting goons with guns to prevent me from doing so. When the coercive government, at whatever level, selects the standards they deem appropriate for my labor there are seen and unseen negative consequences. The seen, are all the people employed by Uber, Lyft and Sidecar that would be fired if the bureaucrats and their cheer leaders in the 4th Estate got their way.  The unseen, are the lost opportunities to benefit society through the increasing of consensual arrangements, the increased cost of living to these fired people and every act they do to get money once they are desperate for income. The State is not the daddy of ride sharers, so paternalistic ideas about what our jobs should look like are not welcome.

Alternatives to poor conditions offered by ride sharing companies:
We ride sharers can form consensual unions if we feel we are being exploited. Empowerment comes from the bottom-up not the top-down. Learn words like guerrilla and stigmergy. Or even better, give us better employment, healthcare and car insurance on your dime Ms. Kirkland.

5) "Blinded by Boosterism"
150 is a blatantly arbitrary number that is defeated by the same arguments made in section 3 above. If ride sharing companies have to launch PR campaigns, it is because they face mainstream opposition from Sovietized economic intelligentsia and commentariat blurting out daily arguments that amount to no more than nonsense on stilts.

Post Scriptum:

If you made it this far and are confused as to what I was responding to, it is because you did not click on the first hyperlink that sends you to Ms. Kirkland's piece on AlterNet. Remedy that.

Full Disclosure - I have friends and family in both the taxi industry and the ride sharing industry. The distinction betwixt the two so-called industries is solely euphemistic, and exists to thwart bureaucratic meddlers/interveners/invaders with a taste of their own misdirection. Better said, I have friends and family who provide transportation services for a fee. At the time of this writing, I joined them.

*Alyssa Figueroa, AlterNet's associate editor, has a conversation with Nell Bernstein, author of Burning Down The House: The End of Juvenile Prison, that you would be remiss in missing. Bernstein plainly speaks of her nonviolent verbal dismemberment of the prison-industrial-complex. She who has ears to hear, let her hear.
** There are scores of free books. articles and journals there on to read from
*** Atheism does not dictate brutality. The Austrian School of Economics is filled with atheists - though it is value free, its highly correlated normative system of thought, libertarianism, is also filled with atheists.


  1. When you compare price fixing to the holocausts that happened in Maoist China or even Leninist Ethiopia you are so over-simplifying the analysis so as to completely nullify your point. In the US, we had hundreds of years without any price-fixing to speak, the end result, economic instability and an economic depression every ten years like clockwork. Since price-fixing became part of the mix we've only had two Depressions in 70 years meanwhile enjoyed two periods of the most explosive economic growth in world history (the 1950s and the 1990s) ;)

  2. the holocausts you speak of were a result of the price fixing, so there is no hyperbole here. In the US, there has been tons of price fixing, and the economic instability has always been a result of the State's constant intervention from the very beginning Kevin Carson traces the history of the State's interventions on behalf of corporations like no one I have read before. The 50's boom you speak of is right after WWII when many industries were forcibly nationalized, their denationalization led to the boom, and the fact that European nations owed the U.S. boat loads of cash. The 90's and early 2000's were periods of artificial growth that led to the dot com burst, and the housing burst.