It’s the protectionism that just won’t quit: first regulators banned Uber in Berlin, and now a German court has banned it for the entire country. Because Uber’s drivers aren’t licensed like official taxi drivers are, the trade association Taxi Deutschland was able to bring a suit against the service for violating German regulations. A Frankfurt court has now ruled in favor of the association, and Uber could be penalized as much as $328,225 for every trip one of its cars takes in violation of the ban. But the issues involved here are much wider than a dispute over a few discrete taxi regulations, as the FT points out:
Neelie Kroes, the EU commissioner for the Digital Agenda, tweeted: “The digital revolution presents us with choices: will we seize new opportunities, or shut them down? Whether Turkey, Uber, whatever.”Ms Kroes told the FT that consumers want convenience as well as protection.“My position is no new Berlin Walls: we cannot simply block new business models and opportunities in Europe,” the commissioner said.“This is not about one company. This debate is about whether Europe will dare to be open to the opportunities of technology.”
Countries that do well in the world economy don’t necessarily always have the best natural resources or the most talented people. Rather, the winners are frequently those who have been more willing to seize new possibilities, and quicker to place themselves in the position to benefit from them. Often that has been America. Even though we have our own Uber troubles here, we seem better placed to seize the opportunities Ms. Kroes is referring to than countries with a more defensive approach to the accelerating pace of technological change. But for Germany as for the U.S., the way forward in the new economic world that technology is creating is to embrace it, risks and all—not huddle in a protectionist stance while other countries pass you by.