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Below is an excerpt from Kevin Glass's November cover story, "Uber Republicans."
One of the hottest issues for the national Republican Party in the fall of a midterm election year is... taxi regulation?
It sounds odd, but it’s true. The Republican National Committee has been trying to make a national issue out of Uber, the pseudo-taxi service smartphone app that has experienced explosive growth and many local regulatory fights.
It hasn’t always been about Uber, specifically, but rather the larger issue of disruptive upstart companies undermining the legitimacy of the existing regulatory state. A growing number of Republicans believe this battle can be used to make serious inroads with a younger demographic, which currently skews heavily Democratic.
The Peer-To-Peer Economy
The phrase that pays with venture capitalists and Silicon Valley investors nowadays is “the peer-to-peer economy.” Much has been written about this emerging business model but it can be boiled down to this: Entrepreneurs are using the Internet to connect people directly to each other to exchange goods and services. Think about how eBay lets users sell directly to each other, or how StubHub connects live event fans to re-sell tickets.
What the peer-to-peer economy does, among other things, is circumvent the government. Re-sold products don’t have to pass safety inspections. Craigslist transactions often pass under the nose of the IRS. But it’s not clear that any of these services are more unsafe than, say, pawnshops or garage sales. Peer-to- peer apps just make these things easier and more available on a wider scale. The Internet makes a yard sale available to the entire country.
Nearly every industry has a “sharing” aspect to it now. EatWith is an app for non-professional chefs to welcome guests into their home. 1000 Tools allows those with home projects to borrow tools from each other rather than renting or buying from a big-box store. TaskRabbit can help you find amateur contractors and other home services. Airbnb lets hosts rent out rooms or their entire homes on a short-term basis to visitors. But the granddaddy of them all—the biggest company and the biggest lightning rod in the industry—is Uber.
Uber is a private car service that competes with traditional taxicabs but with the convenience of a smartphone. You sign up for an account, enter credit card information, and the service will use your phone’s location to find a nearby car. Often, in less than ten minutes, a car will be at your door.
There are a few different levels of service with Uber. The Black Car service is similar to a private limo service—high- end vehicles, privacy, trained drivers. But Uber’s political opponents object most to its UberX service—something closer to ridesharing in which anyone could use their own car to become an Uber driver. ...