The Chronicle has been aggressive about its issues with Uber for a while now, but I don't much share in those sentiments. I've used Uber both within this country and abroad. Mostly it has been a terrific experience, though the quality of the service is already noticeably deteriorating. Still, the recent controversy has been intriguing. Austin does not go easily into anything, which is probably not as terrible a situation as some would have you think.
The pushback against Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb as well as other collaborative civilian-based innovations where businesses are integrated into the community (renting rooms in houses we live in, chauffeuring passengers in our family car) has arisen from a number of sources – notably and most aggressively, from the established industries that are being threatened. The integrity of neighborhoods and progressive, pro-labor practices are rallying points in this changing economy. And of course there's been the predictable Luddite pushback against any change.
Certainly in our world in weekly print media, Craigslist took away much of our classified advertising, and a number of online alternatives gained the long-lucrative Personals business. The web also proved far more inexpensive and effective for what I like to refer to as the non-licensed massage therapist trade. I was party to both those disturbing developments, and by the time we noticed what was happening it was far too late to do anything. Maybe if we had been doing a better job or were more on top of evolving technology, we might have improvised and improved those areas. Although what we might have done differently I really can't suggest. Even if we had aggressively switched to new online models, it wouldn't have helped much because many of those services still generate no real revenue.
But my current dislike, nay revulsion, at the pro-Prop. 1 campaign is neither sour grapes nor a deeply held distrust of Uber and Lyft. Instead it is because the campaign is so completely dishonest. When someone is lying to you about something, it is usually best not to endorse and empower them.
Let's be clear: Political opinions different from one's own are not inherently lies, though in the current charged political atmosphere one often hears that accusation hurled. The lies here are blatant as they state, if you don't like Uber and want to mess with them, vote yes on Prop. 1. On social media and in traditional media there is a concerted effort to mislead and deceive as to the crafters' purpose and intent with the proposition. I don't even have that big an issue with a private company upset by public policy initiating a petition drive to get a proposition on the ballot. But a deliberate campaign of deception is self-condemning. If they just told the truth, are they concerned that voters might not approve Prop. 1? Instead they are all things to all people. You like and support Uber and Lyft, then vote yes. You don't like and don't support them, vote yes.
When theirs is a coordinated campaign lying to you, it is because they don't trust you, and they think you are easily manipulated. Why on Earth would anyone vote to endorse that view?
It has to be noted that there are many individuals in favor of Prop. 1 (and it is also tiresome when the anti-Prop. 1 people accuse anyone who holds a differing view of being a company shill or paid proponent) for a wide variety of reasons. A number believe that regulations are inherently destructive to a free market, ultimately costing beleaguered taxpayers even more. This is not just simplistic but demonstratively false. There are all kinds of regulations that do create more problems than they solve – some happening from misunderstanding a market dynamic, others from overly aggressive consumer groups, and many because ever-evolving businesses and services render once-reasonable restrictions meaningless or inappropriate or both. It's important to keep in mind that many regulations are driven by the very businesses they concern as a way to get the government to limit competition. But every day in every way there is a huge catalog of legislated regulations, requirements, and specifications that improve our and our communities' lives.
Some complain about almost all government. I suspect a majority of Americans feel overtaxed and underserved. The reality is most Americans don't pay enough taxes to cover the services they get from the government. Admittedly believers of all political stripes wish that government offered a serve-yourself buffet. Liberals feel too much of their taxes go to military spending, certain fiscal conservatives remain outraged at welfare and extensive social services, and others bitch about public education, including those that feel almost any government service would be better served by the private sector.
If we really believe in a functioning democratic (small d) republic, then the elected government inherently represents all of us. It is not supposed to express the will of every individual voter or even the rule of the majority. But ideally our elected leaders do what they think is best for our country and community.
Obviously, there seem to be several rather vast political movements that believe our current government at all levels is everything but functioning. Even the most die-hard supporters of representative government get up in arms when they don't like government actions. Lately this is very rarely attributed to differing opinions, misguided impulse, or legislators doing what they believe is best. Almost always, a legislator voting differently from a constituent's desires is regarded by that individual as corrupt and mendacious, with the most benign description being stupidity.
Rather than accepting our ownership of our government, it is explained that this government is no longer ours. Obviously there is great cause for concern over conscious, widespread voter suppression and disenfranchisement. These areas demand investigation.
But though we may not like the government, we vote for it. Incumbents are responsible for current governance. The electorate is unhappy with the government. But more often than not they return these incumbents to office (and term limits are anti-democratic exiles that will create far more problems than they solve). There is not some hidden alien force hidden away that emerges on election day to elect the least qualified.
Certainly, a pronounced pessimism over the current political scene is warranted. Cruz vs. Trump among the Republicans, and the vitriol between the Clinton and Sanders camps make politics seem more like the WWF, as my friend Fab Five Freddy observed, than any kind of campaign of ideas, dignity, and mutual respect.
I personally despair over Sanders and Clinton supporters saying they will sit this election out or vote for a third party candidate if it isn't their candidate – a recipe for disaster.
Here in Austin, the electoral situation is clearer. An enormous amount of money and media persuasion is in the mix, but ultimately rather than trusting the voters and just making their case, supporters are pretending that regardless of your specific concerns, voting for Prop. 1 will achieve them. Even if you support the argument in its favor, you have to be concerned about the dishonesty of the campaign.