The Atlantic takes us to an interesting place this morning, asking us to consider whether we put more instinctive faith in the rich than in the poor and, if so, whether we’re mistaken. Here’s a thought experiment to go with your morning joe:
You’re standing on a corner in downtown San Francisco. It’s a four-way stop, meaning cars are supposed to pause before entering the intersection. As you’re sipping your latte, you look to your left before stepping off the curb. The car approaching is a shiny BMW. Do you cross? How about if it’s a Ford Fusion? The model of trust I’ve been describing suggests you might want to pause if it’s the BMW.
So, do you place more trust in the driver of a Bimmer or that of some midrange American car? What if there’s a third car, a real junkbucket, in the mix? Who’s more likely to hit you? Tell us, science!
Ester: Hello Judah! Would you like to introduce yourself for the Billfold readership?
Judah: Hi Billfold, my name is Judah Bloom and I am a new car shopper and, hopefully, owner.
Ester: And you are related to me!
Judah: That, too. I am your youngest brother.
Ester: That makes it sound like I have 15 younger brothers, each cuter and more princely than the last! But I only have you. Luckily, you’re great!
Judah: Well thank you. I am just trying to avoid the “little” brother routine that typically arises.
Ester: Yes, we middle children are notoriously insensitive to the feelings of our younger siblings. ANYWAY. You are not little; you are in fact almost 30, are you not?
Judah Yes I am. I am turning 30 in August and have been working a steady job for the past, almost three years.
Ester: Let the record show: You are a millennial with a strong work ethic. You’re virtually a unicorn! What other markers of traditional adulthood can you offer? Can you cook yourself dinner?
Judah: If ordering online or turning on the microwave count, then yes, absolutely. However, I have been a success at living by myself and going to work everyday, which is an achievement.
Ester: In this day and age, that basically warrants you a Nobel prize. Or, as it happens, A NEW CAR! So tell me about your decision to purchase an automobile!
Judah Well, the car I am currently driving is an 11-year-old Acura RSX (two door hatchback) that I got from my parents. It has taken me cross country 3-4 times and been with me for as long as I have been able to drive. However, it is reaching old age and becoming untenable/not financially viable to maintain.
Ester: You mean it’s time to put it in a home?
Judah: I was actually going to try to find it a nice farm up north to let it run around with other old cars.
Salon.com has a darkly portentous article titled “Why Uber Must Be Stopped,” and in case there’s any doubt about how unscrupulous and even criminal they think the ride-sharing app is, they’ve illustrated it with a picture of Jordan Belfort and Gordon Gekko. Guys, come on. No Mr. Burns?
Defenders of no-holds-barred free-market competition see nothing to be alarmed or concerned about. Riders can only benefit from fierce competition for their services, and the number of cancellations is trivial compared to Lyft’s total volume of rides, explains Timothy Lee at Vox. On the other hand, if you are inclined to see Uber as the acme of ruthless and amoral profit-seeking, then the latest news on Uber’s “deceptive tactics” is just one more confirmation of how the company will do anything to win. Uber’s ambitions are limitless and it has the bankroll to do what it wants.
Indeed, there is some irony to the fact that Uber has so much cash in the bank that it need not comply with the most basic premise of capitalism — the notion that survival is predicated on making more money than you spend. With access to an astonishing $1.5 billion in capital, Uber can simultaneously wage regulatory battles in multiple cities, engage in recruitment wars in which smartphones are distributed like candy, subsidize drivers at below cost, and employ whomever is necessary to achieve long-term goals. The real question we should be asking ourselves is this: What happens when a company with the DNA of Uber ends up winning it all? What happens when the local taxi companies are destroyed and Lyft is crushed? When Uber has dominant market position in every major city on the globe? “UberEverywhere” isn’t a joke. It’s a mantra, a call to arms, a holy ideology.
I have trouble with Salon in its incarnation as a red-faced, bearded, overly earnest dude who gesticulates a lot. It’s hard to nod when you’re getting flecked with his impassioned spittle.