Do Millennials Really Want Socialism to Kill Uber?

August 28, 2018

by Rob Roper

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new, young poster-face of the Socialist movement in the United States, hates Uber, the ride sharing service. In a recent statement she blamed Uber for suicides by traditional cab drivers and called for heavy regulation of the ride-share company that would, if implemented, pretty much destroy the platform.

Although most of the coverage of Ocasio-Cortez vs. Uber has focused on her hypocrisy (her campaign racked up over $4000 in Uber fees, and otherwise did not use traditional cab services for transportation), this is really an opportunity to compare the socialism Ocasio-Cortez says she supports and the capitalism that she actually supports and why.

The Yellow Cab, taxi-medallion model of ride service is socialist in nature. The government controls the number of cabs allowed on the road. If you can afford to pay the government to get a medallion, which could cost several hundred thousand dollars, the government then uses its monopoly on “legitimate force” to block your fellow citizens from competing with you. Only the wealthy can participate, and the system allows for lousy, overpriced service with little incentive to improve.

Uber is a capitalist in nature. There are few barriers to entry for citizens to work with Uber (certainly not a $700,000 medallion fee!). Anyone with a decent car and a clean driving record can participate. It is a highly efficient use of resources in that one’s personal car can provide double duty as a public resource and is so convenient and cost efficient that it makes it easier for folks not to need to own a car – another efficiency. The mutual rating system for drivers and customers alike promotes mutual respect and understanding between citizens, which leads to better service and a more polite society overall.

Ocasio-Cortez is not alone on the Left in her anti-sharing-economy, anti-capitalist, pro-socialist policy preferences. Several liberal-led cities, such as New York and San Francisco, are waging campaigns to snuff out businesses like Uber, Airbnb and their sharing-economy brothers and sisters.

This raises the question, why do millennials, who live their economic and social lives on their phones and participate more in the free market internet economy than anybody else, increasingly support socialists who would end or limit the opportunities that do so much to improve their lives? Maybe, like Ocasio-Cortez, they really don’t understand the difference between what they want and what the policies they support will deliver.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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