Sunday, 26 March 2017

Dear Taxi Driver Who Hates Uber

This letter is intended to a particular upset bald Glaswegian in his 50s, but applies equally well to most taxi drivers I have had the great misfortune to meet:

I am writing to you regarding the trip I took Sunday night, which I only took because Uber was price surging 1.6x and I was feeling cheap. I had forgotten that when deciding to save some money and go with the regular, non-price surging taxis such as yourself, I also seriously trade down in quality.

As you could tell from my luggage and exhausted expression, I was very tired and wanted nothing more than to go home after 10 hours or so of travelling. But late-night ranting about reckless drivers, mis-parked cars, unscrupulous bankers and how horrible Uber is obviously takes precedence, for why would you care about your clients? If you had – like Uber drivers always do – you would have realised that I was carrying a bag praising the sharing economy, and a “Mises Knows” t-shirt. In all honesty, I do not expect you to know who Ludwig von Mises was; and I do not expect you to understand the tremendous value of the sharing economy. You are, after all, an upset Taxi driver in your 50s. And if the extent of my cognitive abilities stretched no longer than anger for how people park their cars, perhaps I too would be upset. 

And I understand your anger and longing for the time when your father was young. Society was different then: women knew their place, these filthy immigrants weren’t everywhere, nobody took your job even if they were much better at it than you were, there were fewer people and buses in the cities, and perhaps more importantly, the police focused on real crimes, like cars parked in the wrong direction. There was a different kind of security, of respect, of social rigidity. Britain for Brits and local industry and great music and government ran everything. And today you have to suffer through iPhones, food and products from every corner of the world and a much higher standard of living in every measurable sense. That must be hard for you.

In fact, you’re as bad as the bankers you apparently despite. You too earn incomes from governmental protection, you too rely on governmental privilege for your income. The truth is, I believe, that deep down you understand that you could not compete in a free market – a level playing field – and that you therefore do everything in your power to maintain your privileged rent-seeking position, using shame and protection from local authorities to hinder Uber as much as possible. 

I am glad that your profession is becoming obsolete. And I am glad that before it happens, your entire business will be gradually outcompeted by much better and more competent replacements: the vast amount of Uber drivers that repeatedly make my life better. See, what they do is creating value for me – making me happy, efficiently and smoothly taking me to places I need to go, solving my problems, politely chatting with me when I’m in the mood, silently driving when I’m not – whereas what you did was destroying value. By driving excessively slowly, making quite a few wrong turns despite me explicitly telling you which way to go and extending my trip unnecessarily, you were annoying me rather than contributing to my well-being.

I understand that you are angry at the world, and that you take this out on Uber drivers, since they are the ones out-competing you. They represent the future, and you long for the past. I hope that one day, before it is too late, you will see that.

An annoyed customer. 

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