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Uber Alles
French Cabbies: No Égalité for Uber

The violent protests of French taxi drivers on Thursday, organized against the expanding presence of ride-sharing company Uber’s low-cost UberPop offering, exhibited again what has long been apparent: the country is not adapting easily to the new sharing economy. The AP:

French taxi drivers smashed up livery cars, set tires ablaze and blocked traffic across the country on Thursday in a nationwide strike aimed at Uber after weeks of rising, sometimes violent tensions over the U.S. ride-hailing company. […]

Despite repeated rulings against the low-cost UberPop service, its drivers continue to ply French roads and the American ride-hailing company is actively recruiting drivers and passengers alike. Uber claims to have a total of 400,000 customers a month in France.

A spokesman for Uber encapsulated the dispute in brief, saying “[t]here are people who are willing to do anything to stop any competition … [w]e are only the symptom of a badly organized market.” The over-regulation of the French economy, guided loosely by anti-market precepts, ultimately undermines the stability it aims to provide workers. That Uber provides an opportunity for the unemployed or underemployed to earn extra income—not to mention that it suits the preferences of 400,000 monthly riders—ought to be enough reason for the government to reexamine its stance (French unemployment currently stands around 10.5 percent).

The advent of the information economy will not be a cure-all for what ails the French economy, but clinging to regulations that preserve a system so clearly riddled with inefficiencies is no way to propel a society forward. Even France should understand that.

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  • f1b0nacc1

    Why should they understand this? After all, the advent of an information economy that sweeps away the inefficiencies will also cause great pain for those who shelter in the niches that they provide. It isn’t entirely reasonable to expect them to willingly give themselves up to the vicissitudes of the real world just so the rest of us can benefit. They will fight with every ounce of their strength to enrich themselves at our cost…the real question is how will we stop them?

    • Proud Skeptic

      In a healthy market economy the market will simply crush any effort to stop reform. Unless the French government steps to enforce the status quo then the French cabbies will just get pushed out. People will vote with their wallets. If they prefer Uber then they will use it to the exclusion of other options. If they feel strongly that the status quo is worth saving then Uber won’t gain a foothold.

      My sense is that France favors stasis. That being the case, the government will probably create work rules that will prop up the existing taxi system.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Actually, the French already HAVE work rules, which is why an opening for Uber exists in the first place. If you have ever tried to get a cab in Paris, you will know that they are slow, expensive, inefficient, and stupendously (even by the standards of other cabs) rude.
        Your broader point about how a market ‘fixes’ this is absolutely correct, but the French don’t have a proper market. Government intrusion has broken it rather badly, and I would wager that they don’t have the stomach or the desire to face down the cab drivers. As for the French people, they are voting with their wallets already…

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