Lib Dems should welcome Uber with open arms; if we don’t, we are setting a terrible precedent for…
Mark Pack’s recently blogged asking what Lib Dem policy on Uber should be. What prompted it? Sal Brinton’s six concerns for Uber. I’m not going to answer the six points, because #libdempinter Pete has answered each point very effectively in the comments.
What really bothers me is the precedent this sets if we were to go down this route.
Uber represents the future. It represents technology and innovation and entrepreneurship coming to a head. It represents a genuine, dramatic leap in consumer choice, better than we’ve had for decades. This isn’t a Hailo that makes hailing a black cab slightly easier, this has completely changed how transport could work.
It represents what we should be hailing and welcoming from our younger generations: creating companies like this.
Uber is now valued at over $50bn. It’s reached this mark faster than Facebook did. Tech companies are the biggest example of where bleeding heart libertarianism demonstrates its worth. These are hugely capitalist companies, with investors likely to get richer and richer over the coming years, and yet the social value they’ve provided is immeasurable.
Minorities in New York can now get cabs for the first time. Women can travel around without fear of being on their own because they know who their driver is and know it’s properly tracked. People who need to earn some extra money inbetween jobs can sign up and start earning money. It connects people to people and removes a centralised need.
Simultanenous to that you get a service that is seemingly always at least 2x as cheap as the black cab alternatives. It’s cheaper than any alternative I’ve tested. And out of 150 odd Uber journeys, I’ve had two where I was overcharged — within 24 hours I had the full amount refunded. Parts of London where previously there were only unreliable mini cab services, are now serviced by a brilliant network of drivers.
From the consumer perspective, it’s a no brainer.
We should be encouraging people to create companies like this. The UK and Europe is slowly catching up with Silicon Valley and US counterparts in terms of technology companies, but it’s still got a long way to go.
What message does it send to teenage entrepreneurs in rural England, computer science majors at Cambridge, or kids growing up who now look at the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world as more aspirational role models than anyone else?
Is this what we want the Lib Dem message to be? One that says bringing about change that benefits consumers in a much better way is bad? One that helps break up old fashioned hierarchies of power as something that is inherently wrong and should be fought? One that just frankly looks out of touch?
As a libertarian in the Lib Dems, there were always going to be areas of disagreement. But as someone who is wholeheartedly optimistic about the future that technology can bring, this is something that worries me the most.