Bob Barr

Police officials in the beautiful and historic South Carolina city of Charleston have identified a major new public safety menace requiring their immediate attention. This latest threat -- being met by the authorities with an aggressive public awareness campaign and “sting” operations coupled with hefty fines in excess of $1,000 -- is not drugs, gangs, or illegal immigration. The threat posed the good citizens of Charleston is: Uber!

Uber is a fast-growing, popular digital app for smart phones that provides consumers in Charleston and many cities across the country and around the world with an alternative to traditional taxi services. It is just one of many new digitally-based innovations having a major impact in the marketplace -- entrepreneurial-based businesses creating new options for consumers in everything from online commerce (Bitcoin), to how you get around (Lyft), to where to stay on vacation (Airbnb). Even food trucks, a mobile spin on the concept of street food, have exploded with the formation of digital communities and communications.

So why is Uber seen as a public-safety threat rather than a benefit to consumers and businesses? Simple. Uber challenges the establishment; it is a threat to the status quo; it must be . . . regulated and controlled. And what better way to do this than through police power; in this particular case, the police power of the City of Charleston.

Welcome to the brave, new world that the Land once of the Free has become. Products and services like Uber are revolutionizing markets and marketing; shifting power long-dominated by large and powerful corporations and cartels, to individual entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. They are challenging the most powerful force in the universe – the force of the status quo.

Consumers are embracing these new technologies with open arms and open wallets; ready and willing to pay for new products and services that offer what they want, when they need it. But, in the same way that automobile manufacturers and dealers are fighting to keep upstart Tesla from competing against them on a level marketing playing field, government-empowered regulators whose mission is to protect the taxi industry from competition, are fighting Uber, and enlisting the support of the police to aid them.

Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.